Fresh Vegetable and Herb Juices Can Clear Stagnant Energy and Revitalize All the Systems of the Body
If you work, breathe, eat and drink, you will most likely benefit from cleansing, detoxification fasts, and supportive juicing. Cleansing diets and health fasting may seem new to North American society, but they have a long history in human culture and are often part of centuries old religious rituals.
As a time of transition, awakening and activity, spring is the ideal time of year to step into the natural rhythms around us and make positive changes in our health. In Chinese medicine, the liver is associated with springtime because of its link with qi (or energy) throughout the body. And Ayurvedic practitioners identify “Kapha” season as the time from March through June when we tend to be blocked, sluggish and congested. Not surprisingly, liver and kidney cleansing and support are recommended during Kapha season and it is not a coincidence that the Christian ritual of Lent evolved from a long period of fasting.
The concept of fasting is simple. It is the abstinence from solid food for a designated period of time. During fasting, the body is supported by pure water, some fruit, vegetable and herb juices, and herb teas. One to three day fasts allow the digestive organs to rest. Perhaps the easiest and most healthful technique is to include one day of fasting as part of a weekly whole foods diet program. Longer periods of fasting; 7, 21, or 40 days, can be helpful in addressing some health ailments but should be undertaken with the help of a health professional.
Juice fasts, when used in combination with cleansing and detoxifying herbs, will allow the gall bladder, liver, kidneys and other organs in the digestive tract the opportunity to relax and renew. Removal of toxins (detoxification), re-setting the body’s metabolic rate, healing disorders and the clearing of emotions are all well known benefits of an extended and disciplined fast period.
According to James E. Marti, author of The Alternative Health Medicine Encyclopedia, since the mid 1950s, more than 100,000 potentially toxic chemicals have been released into the environment. Detoxification is a process of eliminating toxic substances from the cells of the body. Toxins include oxidized fats, metals (such as mercury, aluminum, lead), pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, fumigants, additives and other chemicals in the air, water and soil. Stress and negative emotions are also a source of toxic waste in the body.
Detoxifying fasts give the body a hand up in its fight to rid itself of damaging chemicals because if the immune system on its own is constantly pitting energy and nutrients against toxins, it can’t repair cells and fight off virus, bacteria and disease. In his book, The Complete Encyclopedia of Natural Healing, Gary Null outlines the symptoms of toxic overload, some of which include headaches, colon problems, digestive problems, sleep disorders, inability to concentrate, anxiety, memory loss, depression, panic attacks, and heart irregularities. Your body may be telling you to detoxify if you suffer mood changes, constipation, sinus congestion, ulcers, psoriasis, acne, exhaustion, and general malaise.
Cleansing assists the process of detoxification by flushing water or healing nutrients through the cells. Because they are rich in cleansing vitamins A, B12, C and E, calcium, copper, zinc and magnesium, as well as free radical scavenging antitoxins, raw organic vegetable, fruit and herb juices are some of the best tools for fasting, detoxifying and cleansing at the cellular level. Furthermore, those nutrients are not bound up in pulp, which means that they can be taken into the cells of the body within 15 minutes (as compared to the hour or more it takes for nutrients to be assimilated from drinks with the pulp intact).
Natural sugars are higher in fruits than in vegetables. That and the fact that vegetable juices promote the desired alkalinity of body fluids (vital for proper immune and metabolic function), have experts divided as to whether only vegetable juices should be used or if fruit juices may also be included in a fast. If using both, take fruit juices in the morning and at lunch, then take only vegetable juices from mid-afternoon onward.
JUICE MACHINES – A PRIMER
If the benefits of fresh raw juice from a juicer are to become part of a daily routine, the juice machine must be easy to use and easy to clean. The difference between a juicer and a blender is that in a juicer, the juice is separated from the pulp. Complex carbohydrate, pectins, cellulose and starch are left behind in the pulp and only the clear juice with most of its nutrients remains.
Centrifugal juicers are the most popular type on the market today. As opposed to masticating juicers that squeeze fruit and vegetables through gears, centrifugal juicers use a spinning basket that shreds the fruit and vegetables and forces the juice through a fine stainless steel strainer by centrifugal force. My first choice in mid-priced centrifugal juicers is the Juice Fountain by Breville, because of its superior features and design. A bonus with the Juice Fountain is the fact that it comes complete with jug, lid, froth separator and cleaning brush, all items that must be purchased separately with other juicers and add to their cost.
Here are some specific tips when buying a centrifugal juicer:
• A heavy duty motor – 500 to 600 watts — will deliver superior performance and has the capacity necessary to juice harder root vegetables such as beets, carrots, turnip and fresh herb roots like burdock and astragulus.
• A fast spinning, stainless steel micro mesh filter. The faster the basket spins, the faster the juice is extracted (and the less nutrients are lost) and the easier it is to clean. The smaller the screen, the more juice is extracted from the pulp.
• Look for a wide mouth receptacle. Most juicers have a small opening and the fruits and vegetables must be cut up and exposed to air before juicing. This results in extra work and a loss of vitamins and antioxidants.
• Look for juicers that expel the pulp (rather than allow it to collect in the basket) because it is a necessity for continuous juicing. The larger the pulp container, the more fruit and vegetables can be processed in one operation. Be sure the lid of the juicer fits tightly over the pulp receptacle to prevent spraying of pulp.
JUICE FAST RECIPES
Whether fasting for one day or for an extended period, herbs can assist with the process of detoxification, nutrient supplementation and tissue healing. See list of Cleansing Herbs to add to the following recipes (adapted with permission from The Juicing Bible by Pat Crocker, Robert Rose publisher).
Fasting is always approached with a cleansing diet for a minimum of two days preceding and following the actual fasting period. Vegetable soups, raw fresh salads, whole grains and other high fibre foods such as legumes and pulses, limited fruit juices, water, vegetable and herb juices, blended drinks (made from fresh juice and fruits or vegetables with fibre and pulp intact), and herbal teas form the basis of a cleansing diet. Fats, condiments, fried foods, red meats, and milk products, alcohol, soft drinks, caffeine, refined foods, white flour products and sugar are to be strictly eliminated during the pre- and post-fast period.
During the day(s) of actual fasting, be sure to consume a minimum of 2 litres of pure water. Plan to include at least one fresh cleansing herb from the list that follows. Use a 4” to 6” fresh root or 2 to 3 fresh leaves, but if only dried herbs are available, whisk one teaspoon dried powdered herb into every 6 to 8 ounce glass of fresh juice. Begin the day with either of the fruit juices below (or use your own favourite combinations) then switch to vegetable juices from mid-day onward.
It is best to only make enough juice to consume immediately. But if
that is not possible during your fast, prepare juice and store in a jar with minimal air space and a tight-fitting lid.
Drink as many juices with the detoxifying herbs as you wish during the fast period. Do not engage in strenuous exercise and allow plenty of time for quiet, contemplative activities. Enjoy a long, warm bath with 2 cups baking soda and one cup freshly squeezed lemon juice stirred into the water. This will facilitate toxin elimination.
The following herbs are easy to obtain and use in cleansing juices. Pregnant and nursing mothers should always check with their health care provider before using herbs.
• Astragalus (Astragalus membranacus). A tonic and immune-enhancing herb; available in powder that can be whisked into juices.
• Burdock (Arctium lappa). A skin and blood cleanser, burdock stimulates urine flow and promotes sweating (to help remove toxins) and supports the liver, lymphatic glands and digestive system. Use fresh root or leaves in juices or vegetable soups.
• Cayenne (Capsicum). Stimulates blood circulation, purifies the blood, expels mucus and promotes fluid elimination and sweat. Juice fresh chile peppers with other cleansing fruits, vegetables and herbs.
• Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). Cleans the liver and blood, filters toxins, acts as a mild laxative, and increases the flow of urine. Juice the fresh root or leaves.
• Elderberry (Sambucus nigra). Supports detoxification by promoting bowel movements, urination, sweating, and secretion of mucus. Available dried in health stores.
• Ginger (Zingeber officinalis). Ginger helps elimination of toxins by stimulating circulation and sweating. Widely available, it is peeled and juiced along with fruits or vegetables.
• Milk Thistle (Silybum marianus) Contains some of the most potent liver cleansing and protecting compounds. Whisk up to 1 tablespoon into fruit or vegetable juices.
• Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) flushes the kidneys and promotes the flow of urine. Do not use parsley if pregnant or if kidneys are inflamed.