5 Lifestyle Hacks for Sound Sleep

5 Lifestyle Hacks for Sound Sleep | Herbal Academy | Wake up more rested, alert, beautiful, and ready to take on the day with these 5 lifestyle hacks for sound sleep. Beauty rest is more than a turn of phrase!

Beauty rest is more than a turn of phrase. Anyone who has suffered from chronic insomnia or disturbed sleep is well aware of the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep not only compromises your outward appearance. It wreaks havoc on your metabolism, mental alertness, emotional balance, and even memory (Albrecht & Ripperger, 2018). Sound sleep is vital for whole body health. Both modern science and ancient wellness systems, such as Ayurveda, underscore this truth.

The ancient ayurvedic sages placed sound sleep at such a high premium that it was deemed an essential pillar of health, along with good digestion and effective energy management. In fact, the Charaka Samhita, one of Ayurveda’s pivotal classical texts, states that by upholding these three pillars, the strength of body and good complexion are preserved even until the very end of one’s lifespan (Dash, 2014).

Although you may intuitively know this, stress, schedules, and a number of other factors may interfere with getting the rest you need. This article will explore lifestyle hacks for sound sleep so that you can wake up more rested, alert, beautiful, and ready to take on the day.

The Science of Sleep

In addition to the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda, there is mounting scientific evidence to support the value of sound sleep. In fact, not so long ago, an entirely new bodily system that plays a key role in sleep was discovered. It is known as the glymphatic system, and it functions as a waste clearance mechanism, removing metabolic and protein wastes from the brain while you sleep. This curious system may also be involved in distributing nutrients, such as amino acids, lipids, and glucose to brain cells (Jessen et al., 2015). The interesting thing about the glymphatic system is that it only functions while we sleep. Sleep that is regular, ample in quantity, and timed with the natural rhythms of dark and light, keeps this waste clearance system functioning as it should. The result? Sleep that feels restful, as well as clear thinking and a healthier nervous system. When the glymphatic process is disturbed, the consequences may be as serious as exacerbated neurological disease (Albrecht & Ripperger, 2018).

5 Lifestyle Hacks for Sound Sleep

Of course, getting sleep of adequate quantity and quality is easier said than done. If you find that your sleep is less than stellar, these five lifestyle hacks will help put you back on track.

5 Lifestyle Hacks for Sound Sleep | Herbal Academy | Wake up more rested, alert, beautiful, and ready to take on the day with these 5 lifestyle hacks for sound sleep. Beauty rest is more than a turn of phrase!

1. Be Consistent

One trick to attaining sound sleep is regularity. In Ayurveda, restless sleep and insomnia are often linked to an imbalance in vata dosha, which is associated with the wind element, as well as movement (Frawley, 2000). Vata dosha is easily imbalanced by changes in routine. Irregular lifestyle patterns such as frequent travel and irregular work schedules tend to throw vata dosha out of balance, resulting in sleep troubles. Regular sleeping times and good sleep hygiene (such as the sound sleep hacks describes in this article) help soothe the nervous system and keep vata dosha pacified and less likely to wreak havoc on sleep patterns.

The ayurvedic teachings around the importance of sleep routines correspond with the concept of circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are the natural rhythms of the body and correlate to the cycles of day and night. It is natural to sleep at night and to awaken with the light of day. When circadian rhythms are thrown out of whack, a number of health issues may ensue, such as being at a higher risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and certain types of cancer (Palanisamy, 2015).

According to Ayurveda, not everyone needs the same exact amount of sleep. You may have noticed this for yourself anecdotally. Vata types tend to need the most sleep, kaphas the least, and pitta types fall somewhere in the middle. Kapha types may also benefit from getting up a bit earlier; too much sleep exacerbates their naturally slower constitutions, causing sluggishness and lethargy. On the other hand, the more delicate nervous systems of vata types require maximum rest and rejuvenation. It is especially important that ravenous pittas are not up in the middle of the night, as they are particularly prone to late night eating, which only leads to an imbalance in their digestion, liver, and sleep patterns. Ayurveda teaches that “early to bed and early to rise” is best for everyone. This means that getting up around sunrise is ideal for all, with slight variations depending on one’s constitutional type (Svoboda, 2010).

5 Lifestyle Hacks for Sound Sleep | Herbal Academy | Wake up more rested, alert, beautiful, and ready to take on the day with these 5 lifestyle hacks for sound sleep. Beauty rest is more than a turn of phrase!

2. Unplug

This lifestyle hack for sound sleep is a game changer. It’s important to give your nervous system time to unwind before bedtime. Just like stopping a fast moving car, it’s not easy to slam on the brakes when you are traveling 100 miles per hour. The same is true for your nervous system. Easing, rather than crashing, into to sleep is generally far more effective.

Why? Melatonin is the reason. Melatonin is important for immune function and sleep quality. Melatonin is released by the pineal gland, and it plays a major role in signaling your nervous system to calm down. Interestingly enough, light exposure, particularly the blue light emitted by screens, prevents the release of melatonin. Therefore, the more time you can spend in dark or dim lighting before bed, the better your chances of falling gently into a sound sleep. Using lamps and area lights in the evening, rather than bright overhead lights is helpful. Also, light bulbs with an orange or red hue are preferable to white or bluish light. Apps, such as f.lux, that adjust your computer screen light throughout the day are useful as well. Ideally, turning away from computer screens and phones in the late evening, and instead of picking up a book, taking a hot bath, or doing other relaxing screen-free activities will help send your nervous system the message to calm down and prepare for sleep (Palanisamy, 2015).

5 Lifestyle Hacks for Sound Sleep | Herbal Academy | Wake up more rested, alert, beautiful, and ready to take on the day with these 5 lifestyle hacks for sound sleep. Beauty rest is more than a turn of phrase!

3. Eat Better to Sleep Better

Refraining from late night snacking will not only assist with weight management, but this healthy habit also helps you sleep better. Even your fat cells have a circadian rhythm. Research shows that eating less at night can assist in weight loss (Garaulet et al., 2013). This is consistent with the ayurvedic recommendation to have your largest meal at lunchtime, which is attributed to the ayurvedic teaching that one’s agni, or digestive fire, is strongest at midday. Also, by eating lightly at night, you give your body the chance to focus on detoxification and restoration during the night, rather than digestion. Furthermore, by normalizing your metabolic circadian rhythms, you have a better chance at bringing all of your circadian rhythms into balance, lining up patterns of eating, sleeping, and waking (Palanisamy, 2015).

4. Keep cool

Though hot summer days may leave you sleepy, our best sleep is attained in a slightly cool environment. The ideal recommended room temperature ranges from 60 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit with pajamas and in the mid-80’s without pajamas and just a sheet as covering (Onin, Bailey & Parquet, 1994). Furthermore, keeping a cool head may especially help with sound sleep. This is a rather amusing sound sleep hack. One study showed that sleep quality was significantly improved in 16 males who were subjected to head and neck cooling in a hot environment (Lan et al., 2018). If you have the option to regulate your bedroom’s temperature, keeping it on the cool side may help you rest more thoroughly. If not, consider a cool shower or applying a cool washcloth to the head and neck before bed for a soothing, soporific effect.  

5. Consider Herbal Support

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

There are a plethora of herbs that can assist in getting a good night’s rest. Ashwagandha, with its nourishing, tonifying capacities is a great place to start. This starchy root is an ayurvedic classic for all types of nervous system disturbances. Ashwagandha is soothing for a range of imbalances including insomnia, fatigue, general debility, tissue deficiency, poor eyesight, and anxiety. Ashwagandha may not correct sleep immediately, but due to its nourishing and stabilizing effects on the nervous system, it will help normalize sleep cycles over time. One great thing about ashwagandha is that it is safe to take in rather large doses—anywhere from 1-9 grams per day (Dass, 2013). To maximize the root’s strengthening and soothing effects, it is helpful to consume in powdered form. For ease of consumption, you can mix powdered ashwagandha into hot water, hot milk, or a hearty warm grain cereal.

5 Lifestyle Hacks for Sound Sleep | Herbal Academy | Wake up more rested, alert, beautiful, and ready to take on the day with these 5 lifestyle hacks for sound sleep. Beauty rest is more than a turn of phrase!

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

If you are looking for an herb with potent sedative effects, valerian may be for you. Valerian is a powerful sleep aid and also has the ability to soothe anxiety and relax tense muscles. Since valerian can cause drowsiness, it is best to take only in the evenings, about 30 to 60 minutes before bed. This strong smelling root can be taken as a liquid extract or in dried powdered form (generally best swallowed in capsules). The suggested dosage is 3-9 grams of dried whole root and 2-6 mL of liquid extract (Mills & Bone, 2000). Some ayurvedic practitioners caution against long-term use of valerian, as it can exacerbate depression, melancholy, and mental lethargy (Dass, 2013). Also, oddly enough, some people find that valerian has a heating and stimulating effect rather than a sedative effect. This is a simple testament to the ayurvedic tenant that nothing is right for everyone. Always listen to your body and be willing to adapt your herbal supports based on your own felt experience.

Skullcap (Scutellaria)

Whereas ashwagandha and valerian are both warm and somewhat heavy herbs, skullcap is light, bitter, and cool. However, it is also a great nervous system soother. Skullcap is classically used as support for a host of imbalances including nervous tension, stress, anxiety, premenstrual syndrome, tremors, and addiction. For vata types who require deep nervous system nourishment, it can be combined with heaver herbs such as ashwagandha or valerian. Though skullcap is helpful as a sound sleep hack, it can also be taken during the day to calm a stressed mind or jittery nervous system. As a tincture, you can take 30-60 drops up to three times per day or 1-9 grams of the dried aerial portion (Dass, 2013).

If getting your zzz’s is a challenge, with the help of these sound sleep hacks, we hope you will find your way back to restful and rejuvenating sleep.

5 Lifestyle Hacks for Sound Sleep | Herbal Academy | Wake up more rested, alert, beautiful, and ready to take on the day with these 5 lifestyle hacks for sound sleep. Beauty rest is more than a turn of phrase!

REFERENCES

Albrecht, U., & Ripperger, J.A. (2018). Circadian clocks and sleep: Impact of rhythmic metabolism and waste clearance on the brain. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30274603

Dash, B., & Sharma, R.K. (2014). Caraka Samhita (Vol. 1). Varanasi, India: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office.

Dass, V. (2013). Ayurvedic herbology: East and west. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.

Frawley, D. (2000). Ayurvedic healing. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.

Garaulet, M., Gomez-Abellan, P., Alburquerque-Bejar, J.J., Lee, Y.C., Ordovas, J.M., & Scheer, F.A. (2013). Timing of food intake predicts weight loss effectiveness. International Journal of Obesity, 37(4):604-11. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2012.229.

Jessen, N.A., Munk, S.A., Lundgaard, I., & Nedergaard, M. (2015). The glymphatic system: A beginners guide. Neurochemisty Research, 40(12):2583-99. doi: 10.1007/s11064-015-1581-6.

Lan, L., Qian, X.L., Lian, Z.W., & Lin, Y.B. (2018). Local body cooling to improve sleep quality and thermal comfort in a hot environment. Indoor Air, 28(1):135-145. doi: 10.1111/ina.12428.

Mills, S., & Bone, K. (2000). Principles and practice of phytotherapy: Modern herbal medicine. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone.

Nedeltcheva, A.V., & Scheer, F.A. (2014). Metabolic effects of sleep disruption, links to obesity and diabetes. Current Opinion Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity. 21(4):293-8. doi: 10.1097/MED.0000000000000082.

Onen, S.H., Onen, F., Bailly, D., & Parquet, P. (1994). Prevention and treatment of sleep disorders through regulation of sleeping habits. La Presse Médicale,  23(10):485-9. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8022726

Palanisamy, A. (2015). The paleovedic diet. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing.

Svoboda, R. (1999). Prakriti: Your ayurvedic constitution. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.

Ayurvedic Tips For Spring Wellness

Ayurvedic Tips For Spring Wellness | Herbal Academy | Do you know that by observing seasonal changes we can attain optimal wellness? Enjoy maximal spring wellness by observing these Ayurvedic tips!

Ayurveda recognizes the cyclic nature of life. In order to achieve wellness, it is important to be tuned in to our environment as well as to be cognizant of our inherent constitution, called prakruti in Ayurveda. This article will elucidate Ayurvedic tips for spring wellness.

Though our prakruti (inherent constitution) is fixed, our present nature, known as vikruti, is influenced by a number of factors. These factors include, but are not limited to: diet, lifestyle, sleep patterns, energy expenditure, time of life, time of day, and seasonal changes.

Each season is dominated by one of the three doshas: vata, pitta, or kapha. By observing seasonal changes and how our bodies and minds are affected by those fluctuations, we have a better chance at attaining optimal wellness and balance in every season.

Spring is characterized by a predominance of kapha dosha. Therefore, Ayurvedic tips for spring wellness are centered around managing kapha dosha. Of course, if you have a particular health concern, or are strongly vata or pitta imbalanced, it is always helpful to consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner, as Ayurveda is highly individualized.

Doshas and Seasons

Ayurvedic Tips For Spring Wellness | Herbal Academy | Do you know that by observing seasonal changes we can attain optimal wellness? Enjoy maximal spring wellness by observing these Ayurvedic tips!

In order to understand what is meant by a dosha predominating in a season, it may be helpful to back up and recall the defining qualities of each dosha, as discussed previously in What’s My Dosha?.

Vata is characterized as light, cool, dry, mobile, and subtle. Therefore, the autumn season is the season in which vata dosha is most influential and when vata imbalances are more likely to occur. This is because autumn tends to be a fairly dry season. The winds pick up, leaves dry up and fall off the trees, and temperatures become cool. Vata is also associated with the end of the life cycle, and autumn marks a turning toward the end of the year. For these reasons, fall through mid-winter is considered to be the vata time of year.

Pitta is characterized as hot, sharp, intense, and oily, and late spring and summer is the pitta time of year. “The pitta season is the summer, a time of great heat. The sun stimulates the metabolism of life” (Halpern, 2012, p. 133). As the weather gets warm and moist, pitta moves into its ruling position. This is the time of year when our bodies and our agni (digestive power) is strongest. It is, of course, easy to become overheated during this season. Consuming cooling foods such as cucumber, coconut, rosewater, and watermelon is helpful, as well as being careful not to overexert physically, and to be cautious of excessive sun and heat exposure.

Most pertinent to this article is the kapha dosha. The qualities of kapha dosha are cool, moist, heavy, and dense. The kapha season is considered to be late winter through spring, when cold, moist weather with snow, rain, and darker days prevail. Furthermore, when temperatures begin to warm, and we move into spring, kapha is actually considered to be aggravated, meaning that kapha imbalances are likely to manifest.

Kapha type imbalances are most likely to occur in the kapha time of year. This is true regardless of one’s natural constitution. However, those with a strong kapha dosha should be especially wary. Signs of kapha excess include weight gain, lethargy, water retention, and excess mucus. Winter and early spring is the typical cold and flu season. Interestingly enough, colds and flus usually cause kapha symptoms, such as excess mucus, nausea, and lethargy.

It is easy for our energy to sink and our bodies to become sedentary in the dark, cold months. With shorter days and uninviting weather, it is natural to be less physically active. The desire to sleep extra and turn inward is a perfectly natural physical response, and to a certain extent, this is healthy. It is useful to have periods of time in which we are more restful and inwardly focused. However, it is wise to not let those tendencies drive you too far into darkness, particularly if you are someone who is prone to seasonal depression, lethargy, weight gain, and seasonal allergies.

Balancing Kapha: Tips For Spring Wellness

Ayurvedic Tips For Spring Wellness | Herbal Academy | Do you know that by observing seasonal changes we can attain optimal wellness? Enjoy maximal spring wellness by observing these Ayurvedic tips!

Symptoms of kapha excess may be familiar to you, but you may be wondering how to avoid the common pitfalls of kapha season. It’s really quite simple in theory: simply do the opposite! Since kapha is cool, moist, heavy, dense, and cloudy, the kapha reducing protocol involves foods, herbs, and practices that are hot, dry, light, and mobile. While a bit of holiday hibernation may be cozy, as we turn from mid to late winter, it is time to get moving and to nip kapha excesses in the bud before they blossom in spring!  

It’s important to keep in mind that staying healthy in the spring actually begins by taking appropriate care in the winter. Kapha dosha accumulates in the fall and middle winter and is aggravated in late winter and spring, so kapha imbalances in the spring typically took root the season before. However, if you think you have a kapha imbalance, and it’s already spring, all hope is not lost! Here are some practices for keeping kapha at bay so that you can enjoy maximal spring wellness.

1. Eat Foods That Are Light, Warm, And Well-Spiced

Since kapha is cold, dense, and heavy, eating foods that are light and warm will help keep bodies and minds feeling easy and free during kapha season. Once the decadence of the holidays pass, it is the perfect time to emphasize foods with more cleansing and reducing qualities.

Examples of kapha-pacifying foods are hot spices such as cayenne, black pepper, mustard, and dry ginger. Clearing aromatic teas and spices such as tulsi tea, rosemary, thyme, and oregano are helpful. Thin, broth-based soups are also recommended, as are steamed or dry roasted vegetables. Leafy greens, such as kale, collards, mustard, and dandelion greens are ideal. Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli are also very good.

Heavier foods, such as meats, nuts, and dairy should be used sparingly. Legumes and whole grains that are light and dry, such as buckwheat and rye, are indicated. Sprouted grains are also beneficial, as the sprouting process increases lightness and prana.

Ayurvedic Tips For Spring Wellness | Herbal Academy | Do you know that by observing seasonal changes we can attain optimal wellness? Enjoy maximal spring wellness by observing these Ayurvedic tips!

2. Get Physically Active

One of the best remedies for excess kapha is rigorous physical activity. Whereas vata dosha requires stillness for balance, kapha thrives on ample movement and stimulation. Examples of physical activity that are beneficial for kapha dosha are jogging, dancing, skiing, active yoga asana, and cycling. Of course, if you live in a climate where weather conditions limit outdoor activities, you may have to be especially savvy in choosing your winter and early spring sports. However, taking the time to make an exercise plan that will last you through snowstorms and hail will be well worth your while.

3. Mix It Up

Spring is the perfect time to clean out your closet, give your home an extra scrub, and get inspired about new activities and adventures. Kapha loves routine. Healthful routines have immense benefits. Yet, it’s important not to get stuck in the kapha doldrums by succumbing to monotony. Challenging as it may be, remember that good kapha-reducing habits actually begin in the winter. Therefore, don’t wait until the sun is shining to be active and even a little spontaneous. The kapha time of year is perfect for pushing ourselves to sweat and move!

4. Stay Connected

And I don’t mean to your smartphone! It’s easy for our spirits to sag when we feel isolated. Depression and lethargy are two markers of a kapha imbalance. Though getting out and socializing may take an extra push during dark and sleepy days, making the effort to spend time with friends and family will help keep your mind and heart nourished and engaged. As winter turns to spring, this tends to become a lot easier. However, again, don’t wait until the daffodils bloom to meet up with a friend or call your family.

Ayurvedic Tips For Spring Wellness | Herbal Academy | Do you know that by observing seasonal changes we can attain optimal wellness? Enjoy maximal spring wellness by observing these Ayurvedic tips!

5. Consider A Cleanse

As spring approaches, you may want to consider an Ayurvedic cleanse. While cleansing has become trendy, Ayurveda has a very sound and time-tested approach to cleansing. First of all, Ayurveda teaches that cleansing isn’t right for everyone, and that there are certain times of year in which cleansing is safer and more beneficial than others. For instance, deep winter is not a good time to cleanse, as our bodies are inherently weaker at this time and in need of strengthening and nourishment. However, as the temperature starts to warm and the snow melts, there is often a natural tendency to do a little spring cleaning — both inside and out.

Even in the spring, cleansing is contraindicated for the elderly, as well as pregnant women, very young children, and those who are weak and debilitated. Although an Ayurvedic kitchari cleanse is less extreme than a lot of cleansing regimes that have become popular, it still has a lightning and reducing effect on the body. Therefore, it is important to have enough strength to withstand this practice.

If you are of strong body and mind, you can try out doing a simple kitchari cleanse in the spring. These are some basic guidelines:

  • Eat kitchari. As a first time trial cleanse, you may want to try this for just one to three days. Kitchari is a simple Ayurvedic dish made of basmati rice, split mung dahl, ghee, and spices catered to one’s dosha. Vegetables are sometimes cooked in with kitchari. A kitchari cleanse classically means that you eat only kitchari for every meal. However, cleanses can be altered slightly based on the needs of the individual. Sometimes steamed vegetables, seeds, or fruits may be included in the cleanse. For great kitchari recipes, I recommend Dr. Vasant Lad’s book, Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing. You can choose a kitchari recipe that is specific to vata, pitta, or kapha dosha.  
  • Sip on CCF Tea. You may also want to have the classic Cumin Coriander Fennel (CCF) Tea with your cleanse. This is a simple tea that can be sipped between meals. It helps to gently stimulate your agni, a word for digestive fire in Ayurveda, and to cleanse your body of ama, or toxins. This is how I like to make my CCF tea:

Classic CCF TEA Recipe

[recipe_ingredients]

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 cups purified water

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • Bring water to a boil in a medium size saucepan.
  • Add the spices and turn heat to medium. Leaving the lid off, keep the liquid at a rolling boil until you have approximately 3 cups of liquid left.
  • Strain liquid through a wire mesh strainer and sip warm or at room temperature.

[/recipe_directions]

If you feel your digestion needs a little more stimulation, you can add a little fresh ginger root to your CCF tea. Add the grated ginger in with the CCF seeds and prepare as directed above. If you suffer from dry skin or dry hair, you can add 1 teaspoon of whole licorice root to the tea blend and boil it along with the cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds. Although this is a small amount of licorice, pregnant women, those with high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, electrolyte imbalances, or renal impairment are best to avoid licorice (Pole, 2013).

CCF tea can be consumed liberally, really any time of year. If you are taking it as part of a cleanse, you can sip on a cup between each meal, so you end up having about three cups per day.

It’s Not All or Nothing

It’s important to remember that Ayurveda isn’t an all or nothing endeavor. A cleanse may be helpful for you in the spring. However, you can also make a big impact on your level of wellness simply by incorporating some of the basic principles I have outlined in this article. Remember that late winter and spring is the kapha time of year, so stay active, stay warm, keep it clean, and lighten up! The more that you can begin to enjoy these kapha balancing practices in the winter, the better you will feel in the spring!

Ayurvedic Tips For Spring Wellness | Herbal Academy | Do you know that by observing seasonal changes we can attain optimal wellness? Enjoy maximal spring wellness by observing these Ayurvedic tips!

REFERENCES

Halpern, M. (2012). Principles of Ayurvedic medicine. Nevada City, CA: CA College of Ayurveda.

Pole, S. (2013). Ayurvedic Medicine: the Principles of Traditional Practice. Philadelphia: Singing Dragon.

6 Steps To Revitalize Your Health With Herbs This Spring

6 Steps To Revitalize Your Health With Herbs This Spring | Herbal Academy | Spring is an ideal season to start a new routine, and we have 6 steps to help you revitalize your health with herbs this spring season!

With new plant life beginning to stir in the ground from their winter slumber, poking their heads up from the earth, so it is with our energy and inner vitality. As the earth’s energy is rising, naturally, so does our own. Or so it should. For some of us, emerging from our winter hibernation and patterns of eating heavy food can be more challenging than easy.

Although we may feel the pull to do an inner “spring cleaning,” the process can feel daunting and we might feel uncertain about  where to begin. Luckily for us, we have an abundance of helpful herbs on our side, many of which conveniently pop up first thing in spring! Read on to discover 6 easy steps (you can start today) to revitalize your health with herbs this spring.

6 Steps To Revitalize Your Health With Herbs This Spring

6 Steps To Revitalize Your Health With Herbs This Spring | Herbal Academy | Spring is an ideal season to start a new routine, and we have 6 steps to help you revitalize your health with herbs this spring season!

1. Eat Spring Greens

This first step is easy, fun, and delicious! One of the best ways to revitalize your health with herbs this spring is to simply forage and eat wild edibles, herbs in your garden, or fresh greens cropping up at your local farmer’s market. Stay creative and try to eat a variety of different spring greens in various ways every day.

Spring greens tend to be bitter in flavor. This bitter flavor stimulates our digestive juices to get moving again after a long, sluggish winter (Masé, 2013). Many spring greens stimulate the lymphatic system, promoting waste elimination through the skin, kidneys, liver, and lungs (Hoffmann, 2003). In general, spring greens are nutrient-dense and eating them daily can help cleanse and lighten the system after a winter fare focused on heavier foods (L’esperance, 1998). 

Depending on your area, the different types of edible spring herbs growing will vary. Here are a few common ones to look for: violet flowers (Viola spp.), nettle (Urtica dioica), chickweed (Stellaria media), cleavers (Galium aparine), dandelion leaves and flowers (Taraxacum officinale), lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album), watercress (Nasturtium officinale), wild spinach (Chenopodium spp.), and creasy greens (Barbarea verna). Check out our post on how to forage and feast on spring nettle here.

There are a couple points to consider if you are foraging your own herbs. First, be sure that you have properly identified the herb before harvesting. Many plants can appear similar at first glance so it’s critical to have a positive ID before harvesting any plant. Next, be mindful of land use before picking any herbs. Lawns and parks may be sprayed with pesticides or have dogs frequently pee on the plants there. Agricultural land may be sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. Roadside plants may be impacted by road salt and runoff as well as herbicides. Vacant properties may be impacted by historical contamination. And finally, be sure to have landowner permission before harvesting from land that is not your own.

While you can easily just eat spring greens right in a salad or toss them in your smoothie, one of my favorite ways to get them in the diet is by making an herbal pesto. Here is a simple and tasty recipe to try:

Nettle Dandelion Pesto

Adapted from: Holly Bellebuono (Bellebuono, 2016).

[recipe_ingredients]

2 cups chopped, packed fresh nettle leaves
2 cups chopped, packed fresh, succulent dandelion leaves (don’t use old or wiry leaves)
1 cup chopped, packed basil leaves (optional)
2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
½ cup nuts or seeds (such as pine nuts, walnuts, or sunflower seeds)
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  1. Blanch the nettles, dandelions, and basil (if using) in water for about 15-30 seconds before blending. Strain and rinse with cold water. (This helps keep the pesto from turning brown!)
  2. Blend the blanched greens in a blender or food processor. Scrape the sides as you go if needed.
  3. Slowly pour in the olive oil while the machine is still running.
  4. Add the nuts and garlic. Blend until you reach your ideal consistency.
  5. Mix in salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Pour the pesto into an airtight container. Add a thin the layer of olive oil on top to prevent oxidation and mold from occuring.
  7. The pesto will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

[/recipe_directions]

6 Steps To Revitalize Your Health With Herbs This Spring | Herbal Academy | Spring is an ideal season to start a new routine, and we have 6 steps to help you revitalize your health with herbs this spring season!

2. Drink a Daily Nutritive Tea

Wintertime is traditionally a season of sparseness. In times past, cellars would be stocked with root vegetables, grains, cans, and jars of food to get families through the “hunger months.” Given this natural dietary shift, many people didn’t receive the same range of nutrients from their food (Prentice, 2006).

Thankfully, in this modern day and age, we have the luxury of eating bananas in the snow and drinking green juices every day if we want to. However, many of us still tend to eat warming and comforting foods in winter, which promotes a similar diet as our ancestors.

An excellent way to revitalize your health with herbs this spring is to drink a daily nutritive tea. Most nutritive herbs tend to be neutral in flavor so creating a tea formula is easier to balance in taste. Some nutritive herbs you can draw from include: alfalfa (Medicago sativa), oatstraw or oat tops (Avena sativa), red clover (Trifolium pratense), nettle, violet, raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus), dandelion leaf, horsetail (Equisetum arvense), and rose hips (Rosa spp.). For a dash of flavor and other health supporting benefits, consider adding: spearmint (Mentha spicata), licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra), or cinnamon chips (Cinnamomum spp.).

The ideal method for preparing a daily nutritive tea is to make an overnight infusion. This way, if you want to add nettles or any roots, you are able to extract more of the constituents inside. If possible, strive to drink a quart of nutritive herbal tea each day this spring. If this feels like too much to take on at once, challenge yourself to do this for one week or 21 days to start.

6 Steps To Revitalize Your Health With Herbs This Spring | Herbal Academy | Spring is an ideal season to start a new routine, and we have 6 steps to help you revitalize your health with herbs this spring season!

3. Get Your Circulation Going!

A great way to revitalize your health with herbs this spring is to get your blood and lymph circulation moving again! There is a general tendency in winter to be more sedentary, especially since we have to bundle up each time we want to go outside. Although rest is definitely crucial, now that daylight hours are longer and the air is warmer, it’s time to get things moving again.

A simple step you can take today is to start dry brushing and using an herbal-infused oil for self-massage. Dry brushing is a revitalizing way to exfoliate the skin and promote lymphatic circulation (Caldecott, 2006). Remember to always brush in upward strokes going towards the heart and avoid brushing on areas where you have sensitive skin (including the face). Since your dry brush is sloughing off so many dead skin cells and detoxifying the skin, make sure that you rinse your brush off after every use and wash or sanitize your brush every week if used daily.

An herbal-infused oil self-massage is one of the most luxurious and nourishing, yet simple, steps you can take to revitalize your health this spring. In Ayurveda, this practice is called Abhyanga and has been utilized since ancient times for a variety of health benefits. According to Sutrasthana in the Charaka Samhita (an ancient Ayurvedic text suggested to have been written around 400-200 BCE): “The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much, even if subjected to accidental injuries or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts, and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age” (Banyan Botanicals, n.d.).

You can incorporate both of these practices easily into your daily routine by brushing right before you shower, then doing a quick self-massage with herbal-infused oil afterward.

6 Steps To Revitalize Your Health With Herbs This Spring | Herbal Academy | Spring is an ideal season to start a new routine, and we have 6 steps to help you revitalize your health with herbs this spring season!

4. Daily Herbal Bitters

A good practice to embody this spring is taking herbal bitters daily. For those that have not hopped on the bitters trend yet (or if you only enjoy them in cocktails or other beverages), try taking them on their own before or after meals. Just like eating bitter spring greens can help stimulate and regulate your digestion, so can taking herbal bitters as a tincture. Since you may not have access to eating fresh spring greens daily throughout the season, taking herbal bitters is an excellent additional step for revitalizing your health.

Herbal bitters are a classic remedy for indigestion and to help normalize stomach acid levels around digestion time (when they are needed most). This means that using herbal bitters before meals can assist in our body’s ability to assimilate nutrients and properly digest food from start to finish (Hoffmann, 2003).

As many herbalists already know, there are an abundance of bitter herbs out there! This means that you can get creative when making your own bitters formula at home. Here are a few popular herbs to add in a bitters tincture blend: fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare), gentian (Gentiana spp.), juniper berries (Juniperus spp.), dandelion root and leaf, angelica root (Angelica spp.), yellow dock root (Rumex crispus), chamomile, orange or lemon peel (Citrus spp.), and burdock root (Arctium lappa).

Simply sprinkle a few drops (approximately 5-15) over different areas of the tongue 20-30 minutes before or after meals. We have taste receptors located all over our tongues so hitting as many as possible will help effectively revitalize digestion (Masé, 2013) . Since tasting the bitter action of the herbs is key to get those digestive juices going, make sure you take bitters on their own and not diluted in water or another beverage. Although they can be tasty this way (and make a great herbal mocktail!), you do not receive the same digestive focus in action as you would taking them directly on the tongue.

Keep a bottle of bitters in your bag, kitchen, or office to remind yourself to take them periodically throughout the day. Using herbal bitters daily in this way is a powerful step toward revitalizing your health this spring.

5. Herbal Incense for Your Abode

Spring cleaning happens both inside and out! Burning herbal incense in your house is a great way to clear stagnant energy from winter (especially since our doors and windows tend to be shut tight during that time).

On an energetic level, “leftover” or stagnant energy in a space can affect our mental state, clarity of thoughts, and overall vitality. On a physiologic level, smudging with herbs can actually help purify the quality of air in our houses, reducing the number of bacteria, viruses, and airborne pathogens (Nautiyal et al., 2007). This is especially helpful as we emerge from a rampant cold and flu season this year! Burning herbal incense is a simple and clarifying way to revitalize your health this spring.

Using herbal incense is a somewhat intuitive practice, so allow yourself to get creative with the herbs you choose. Here are a few to draw from that are known to have beneficial effects in clearing energy and purifying the air quality overall: juniper, cedar (Cedrus spp.), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), lavender (Lavandula officinalis), copal (Protium copal), mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), and yarrow (Achillea millefolium).

When using herbal incense in your abode, remember to open the windows and/or doors temporarily to help effectively clear out stagnant energy and stale air. Doing this also helps to bring in new, fresh air and energy from outside. Walk around the entirety of your space with your herb bundle and be sure to get in all of the corners and closets.

6 Steps To Revitalize Your Health With Herbs This Spring | Herbal Academy | Spring is an ideal season to start a new routine, and we have 6 steps to help you revitalize your health with herbs this spring season!

6. Get Out In Nature

Stepping back outside into nature after a long, cold winter is incredibly revitalizing for your overall health. A great way to reconnect with the changing seasons is to spend time outside and see what plant life is starting to emerge and what herbs are springing to life around you.

While most of us have heard how much fresh air can do us good, there is actually a therapeutic practice, with many supporting clinical studies, that has been developed around the health-boosting properties of nature! “Nature Cure” was developed by Henry Lindlahr over 100 years ago which facilities and practitioners around the world still recommend, draw from, and practice today. The main focus of the Nature Cure system is to bring the entire body, mind, and spirit of a person into balance and harmony with nature in its entirety (Lindlahr, 1914). One of the core practices in this therapy is simply returning to nature by spending periods of time outside and experiencing the elements and plant life around you.

Seize a warmer day (or two) this spring and make an excursion into nature, either for a hike, stroll, or simply to find a place to go sit, meditate, and enjoy being in the outdoors. Observe any new plant life around you and witness the changes in the environment. Try sitting with an herb that you find and ask it questions or simply observe it in its natural habitat. Allow yourself to get to know it on a different level, without the intention of harvesting or physically using it for anything. This practice can be highly revitalizing for your health and work as an herbalist.

Spring Into Health

While it’s never the wrong season to revitalize your health with herbs, spring is an ideal season to start a new routine, invigorate your bodily systems and natural energy forces again, and sync with the rising energy of nature. Why not seize the season and spring back into health today?

Ready to start revitalizing your health with herbs this spring? Learn more about springtime herbs through reading our posts on 6 Spring Herbs You Can Forage Now, 3 Ways to Use Cleavers for Spring Cleansing, and Sweet Violets of Spring.

6 Steps To Revitalize Your Health With Herbs This Spring | Herbal Academy | Spring is an ideal season to start a new routine, and we have 6 steps to help you revitalize your health with herbs this spring season!

REFERENCES

Banyan Botanicals. (n.d.). Ayurvedic self-massage. Retrieved from: https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/lifestyle/self-oil-massage/.

Bellebuono, H. (2016). The healing kitchen. Boulder, CO: Roost Books.

Caldecott, T. (2006). Ayurveda: The divine science of life. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

L’esperance, C. (1998). The seasonal detox diet: Remedies from the ancient cookfire. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Lindlahr, H. (1914). Nature cure. Chicago, IL: Nature Cure Publishing.

Masé, G. (2013). The wild medicine solution: Healing with aromatic, bitter, and tonic plants. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Nautiyal, C.S., Chauhan, P.S., & Nene, Y.L. (2007). Medicinal smoke reduces airborne bacteria. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 114(3), 446-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2007.08.038.

Prentice, J. (2006). Full moon feast: Food and the hunger for connection. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.