According to Chinese Medicine, springtime is associated with the liver and its multiple functions. Your liver is one of the most important organs for renewing, cleaning, and energizing the body, and if it's sluggish or burdened, then your whole state of vitality can be affected! When your liver is running smoothly, the emotional and physical energies are able to flow with ease.
The liver is our main detoxification organ, processing everything we put into our bodies.
The liver has to deal with pesticides, metals, hormones, hexane, phthalates, alcohol, and medications, and convert them to a less harmful form so they can be eliminated safely by the other organs of elimination. We put a heavy burden of work on this organ day in and out! If we take Tylenol often, drink a lot of alcohol, use plastic water bottles, eat non-organic food, smoke, or live in a polluted area, our livers are likely over-burdened. Even drinking too much fruit juice burdens the liver, as does eating too many processed refined carbohydrates and easily-oxidized oils (omega 6 veggie/seed oils like we find in chips, salad dressings and pretty much all restaurant food!), which end up causing fatty deposits in the liver and triggering the liver to overproduce cholesterol. And our livers are not just needed for detoxification; they are also constantly manufacturing things like proteins and vitamins for immunity and bile for digestion and cholesterol clearance; they also store sugar (as glycogen) for future use. The liver is a serious metabolic manufacturing site, and it really needs our regular support!
We can assist our hard-working livers, first and foremost, by decreasing our daily body burden. Choosing organic food, filtering water, using chemical-free make-up and cleaning supplies, and avoiding preservatives, alcohol, fake sugars, and smelly chemicals will all make for a much happier liver. When the liver isn’t over-taxed, and has the right nutrients for detoxification, it can do its job smoothly. Sluggish, unhappy livers make for sallow skin, acne, fatigue, nausea, headaches, migraines, weird poop (sometimes sticky or greasy), worse PMS and menopause symptoms (especially anger and irritability), and worse hangovers.
Regularly eating foods and herbs that the liver loves will push those detoxification pathways into high gear. Enjoy the following foods and herbs to keep the liver running on all cylinders: carrots, parsley, beets, dandelion greens, artichokes, sunchokes, garlic, milk thistle, burdock, turmeric, and fennel (great as a tea!). Drinking fresh green vegetable juice a few times a week will potently nourish the liver and gallbladder.
Are Castor Oil Packs Your Liver’s New Best Friend?
Castor oil rubbed onto the liver-area and abdomen, followed by a hot pack, can facilitate liver and other digestive organ action, which is especially helpful with constipation and PMS. While rubbing your castor oil on, send that liver lots of love, because it has been shouldering the job of detoxification for your whole body every day for your entire life! Used over time, it promotes a lot of healing for all the digestive and pelvic organs. Castor oil has long been used in folk medicine, dating back to ancient Egypt. I love learning about what our ancestors did to soothe everyday ailments, and when I researched castor oil, I learned that it was used for just about everything you can imagine.
I like to think of castor oil, which is pressed from the castor bean, as an activating oil. It stimulates and draws attention to wherever you put it. When placed on the abdomen, it will increase lymphatic, immune, and circulatory activity in all of the digestive organs. This will result in better detoxification and more activity in the bowels. When placed on the lower belly, it can relieve menstrual cramping and discomfort. (Note: don’t apply heat to your belly if you are actively having a heavy menstrual flow, as it can cause heavier bleeding.) When castor oil is placed on the skin, it can often calm inflammation and pain, and it softens scars and hard bruises. Basically, wherever you put castor oil, healing ensues.
DON’T INGEST CASTOR OIL unless you want to immediately vomit (which I don’t recommend). And castor oil is sticky and stains everything, so be cautious of sheets, clothing, etc. You can have a dedicated castor oil shirt that you put on before you get started. You will need soap to get it off of your hands.
Instructions to use a modified castor oil pack:
Traditionally, the pack calls for a saturated flannel cloth that is used over and over, but I don’t like the idea of old oil sitting around being reused, plus I think it smells gross over time.
Cold pressed organic castor oil in a glass bottle
Small towel (like a hand towel)
Heat pad (microwavable pack or electric pad)
Optional essential oils (peppermint, fennel, cardamom for belly upset; rosemary and grapefruit for liver detox; clary sage for menstrual cramps)
Smear castor oil around abdomen from bottom of breast bone to pubic bone (I like to say “bra line to panty line”). If adding essential oils, add just a few drops to the castor oil while applying.
Lay on back and cover belly with towel.
Place heating pad on belly, on top of towel. Start with 10 minutes and work up to at least 30 (you can go to bed like this!).
Wipe off oil with your towel at the end or allow it to soak in.
Parting words on detoxification:
It’s not a matter of if we are carrying a toxic burden, but rather how big that burden is and how much our unique, genetically-variant bodies can handle. The more you do on a daily basis to reduce that load, the better off you will be. Every effort you make to facilitate your body’s pathways for clearing toxins , the better off you will be. Every salad, glass of water, exercise class, and Epsom salt bath counts. Taking some time to focus more intently on supporting the detoxification pathways and liver function can give you a fresh-start this spring!
For more whole-body spring cleaning, check out my oldie-but-goodie post from 2015: Interested in Spring Cleansing or Detox? Keep it Going All Year Round!
Excited to continue learning how to care for your body and mind, as if I were sitting in your kitchen giving you tips on the daily? This blog post is an excerpt from my upcoming book set, Holistic Health Wisdom and Wholesome Everyday Recipes From the Nourish Me Kitchen. I want this book to touch 10,000 hands (including yours!) in order to shift the balance of health in our society—and this starts with you. Watch this newsletter or my website for news; you'll get a first look at goodies and packages when they're available!