We’re all for modern medicine, but herbalism is one of the earliest systems of medicine known to man. Learning to incorporate herbs into an integrative approach to self-care has become a more and more popular approach to personalized care — and we’re all for it. In fact, we think that herbalism is one of the most important tools we’ve got for managing the balance of daily life and avoiding an over-reliance on prescription drugs.
Adriana Ayales is an herbalist and the founder of Anima Mundi. We turn to Ayales often for insights on herbs that support us for all kinds of needs, from energy and mood, to drinks like these that nourish us and woo us away from their sugary counterparts.
Learn with us about the importance of supporting the organs that help you detoxify with gentle herbs…
Often promoted for weight loss only, naturally supporting your liver and other key organs with detoxifying herbs can revitalize the entire body in remarkable ways.
Your body’s second largest organ, the liver performs an estimated 500 astonishingly critical functions (more on that later). Among the benefits of supporting the liver through detoxification are increased energy, mental clarity, decreased pain and muscle aches, and reduced cravings for less healthy foods.
Dr. Saleh Alqatani, director of clinical liver research for Johns Hopkins Medicine, writes: “The liver removes all toxins, clears medication from your body, and metabolizes [breaks down] all your food.” Can you see why it’s an organ worth paying attention to and caring for?
Three of the key organs that assist the body in ongoing detoxification processes are:
THE LIVER | A healthy liver takes toxic substances that enter the body, typically contained in foods, and then filters them. This stops toxins from passing into your bloodstream.
THE COLON | Keeping the colon flowing is also key to getting rid of toxic chemicals before they can wreak havoc on the body. Check out these 5 digestive herbs used since Ancient times to keep the healthy bacteria in, and the unhealthy chemicals out.
THE KIDNEYS | In a never-ending and truly magical cycle, the kidneys’ purpose is to rid the body of toxins via urination. In this way, your kidneys are like a filter for your blood.
Adjusting your cholesterol levels, regulating sugar levels, building proteins, making bile (to help absorb fats), and storing sugar for when it’s most needed are some of the liver’s other quintessential jobs.
On the daily, we may find ourselves taking our liver and other key organs for granted, not giving ourselves sufficient rest or nutrition. Every so often, taking the time to treat our hard-working organs of detoxification with a little extra support can feel great.
Liver Health + Your Mood
According to Dr. Irina Matveikova in her book, Digestive Intelligence: A Holistic View of Your Second Brain,
“There are many references in both ancient and modern medical literature to the influence of the liver on our mood, emotions, and intellectual state and instructions for how to cleanse the organ as well.
“According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), for example, the liver holds “the soul”; it is associated with the wood element and it is considered (almost) more important than the heart, an organ full of energy and powers, making it extremely important to cleanse the liver regularly.
“The liver manages everything, including moderating mental activity. In TCM, it is thought that if Qi (our vital energy) is unable to flow along the liver meridian, it ends up concentrating in the organ and showing up as irritability, insomnia, depression, anguish, melancholy, and doubt. The phlegm gets stuck, and the mind clouds over. The gallbladder, its counterpart, governs decision making, courage, and cowardice. If a patient’s gallbladder doesn’t function well and accumulates bile, he will have a fearful attitude to life. For this reason, in TCM, liver flushing is the treatment of choice for the maintenance of health.”
A Happy Belly + Body Positivity
Of course, having what most of us call ‘a belly’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing — but did you know that a reduced ability to burn “bad” fats can damage the liver, causing a major strain on our overall system?
For the Anima Mundi herbalists, body positivity means embracing a holistic approach to our overall health, beyond cultural ideas about image. Believe it or not, regardless of your shape, almost all of us need a fat belly cleanse!
We don’t talk about dieting just for vanity or the purpose of losing weight; supporting the way your body processes foods, especially fats, is an important part of holistic health. All this said, we felt the need to bring in a new formula inspired by our Fat Belly tonic, now available as a superpowder: Happy Belly.
Both the Tonic and the Powder contain herbs such as turmeric, hibiscus, mangosteen and garcinia, all known to have what we call in herbalism a ‘cooling’ effect on the liver, helping release stagnation by purging what is known in Chinese medicine as “hot” bile from the gallbladder.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, ‘heat’ often means inflammation. Cooling then can lead to a smoother flow of digestive juices, blood flow, and may prevent inflammatory symptoms like excess gas and high blood pressure.
On Processed Fats + Your Belly
Many of the packaged or prepared foods we encounter these days are loaded with rancid oils, saturated fats and sodium — even products branded as “healthy”.
Monitoring the amount and quality of oil and sodium we intake is key for the health of the organs above.
An over-accumulation of toxic fat is a breeding ground for inflammation and ‘dis-ease’ of all kinds. The herbs in our Happy Belly Powder are known to boost metabolic function, assist with uprooting stagnation and potential toxicity. In this process, we gently love on our livers and also tackle other systems such as the microbiome, gallbladder, gut, etc.
The 7 Herbs In Happy Belly
GARCINIA CAMBOGIA (Garcinia cambogia) | Known for its weight loss action claims, Garcinia cambogia may not only prevent obesity, lower cholesterol, and triglycerides, this fruit’s extracts also boost the immune system and help prevent ulcers. Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) and lactone, the plant’s main components, give it the potential to reduce appetite, weight, and fat accumulation.
TURMERIC (Curcuma longa) | A pigment found in turmeric known as Curcumin gives it a richly bright hue. It also has a range of health benefits, including effects ranging from antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory to antioxidant properties. Curcumin helps prevent damage from free radicals, which also helps manage heart disease. Studies show it lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, improves blood pressure, has anti-cancer effects, and boosts brain health and mood.
CHA DE BUGRE (Cordia salicifolia) | This tree produces a red fruit resembling a coffee bean. Often roasted and brewed as a tea, Cha de Bugre can also serve as a coffee substitute, hence its “cafe do mato” or “coffee of the woods” nickname.
In Brazil, many diet pills and other weight loss aids employ Cha de Bugre because it is said to support cellulite reduction and fluid retention. Also used to support everyday blood circulation, this herb can be found in Argentina and Paraguay’s tropical forests.
MANGOSTEEN (Garcinia mangostana) | Said to outperform some of the best natural antioxidants, this small purple tree fruit grown in Southeast Asia has proven in preliminary studies to support healthful weight management. Other nutritional benefits include overall skin health, anti-inflammatory compounds, and assistance in controlling blood sugar levels.
GINGER (Zingiber officinale) | With active compounds like gingerols that may calm nausea, soothe aching muscles, and ease inflammation. Additionally, ginger may help to alleviate menstrual cramps and soothe indigestion.
HIBISCUS (Hibiscus sabdariffa) | Beloved worldwide, the hibiscus flower is valued in herbalism for its ability to support healthy blood pressure. A diuretic, hibiscus’ main uses include aiding healthy circulation and support our natural defense against common age-related chronic issues.
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In Africa, hibiscus is often traditionally used to lower body temperature; whereas in Brazil, people lean on hibiscus for everything from urinary infections to colic. Europeans use hibiscus to support healthy weight loss, and elsewhere in the world, it has been employed to calm common stomach upset and infections.
CRANBERRY (Hibiscus sabdariffa) | Cranberries help eliminate toxins from the body by supporting the cleansing of the liver. The liver, the largest internal organ in your body, works to support digestion and break down foods that enter your body.
According to nutrition specialist Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., author of The Fast Track Detox Diet, healthy liver function is essential to flushing toxins from the body, as the liver must distinguish between nutrients that need to be absorbed in the body and toxins that must be eliminated from the blood. The high antioxidant levels of cranberries assist the liver in its detoxification processes.
7 More Tips For A Happier Belly
01. learn about good and BAD FATS. | Bad fats include: saturated oils, hydrogenated oils, and rancid oils that are often sold in most grocery stores. How many times have you absent-mindedly clicked “add to cart” during this quaran-crazy time without checking for these ingredients? It’s important to note here: good fats lead to self-detoxification, the body’s natural processes we were discussing earlier. This prevents the liver from being over-taxed by having to metabolize toxic fats found in the general marketplace.
02. REDUCE THE REALLY BAD STUFF FROM YOUR DIET. | Truly harmful ingredients we suggest avoiding include: refined carbs, trans fats and refined sugar foods. Instead, look to prebiotics, soluble fiber, high protein foods, and probiotics.
Many cultures around the world consume pre and probiotics regularly (hello, kimchi!) as a natural part of their diet. Ready to make your own? Take a look at some DIY probiotics here. Prebiotic foods we love include garlic, pumpkin, lucuma, dandelion greens, cacao, and many more!
03. CHECK YOUR SALT INTAKE. | Excess sodium can greatly affect your body’s filtration system, particularly the kidneys, as well as it leading to water retention, which can lead to bloating. It is also key to use good quality salt, that’s not chemically derived, to be sure it doesn’t contain harmful added ingredients.
04. eat ANTI-INFLAMMATORY HERBS + FOODS | We love the ones mentioned above and those found in our Happy Belly and Liver Vitality. There are many more you can integrate like dandelion, burdock, chlorella, and spirulina that can stimulate the body’s digestive enzymes and alleviate gas.
05. learn about FOOD COMBINING | There are whole books on this subject matter which we highly recommend you are a look at. Improper food combining can be hard for your body to digest — easily the top reason most folks get heavily bloated.
06. learn about FOOD INTOLERANCES | Learn to be more aware of how your body responds after eating certain foods. Even if its foods that you think are healthy, it’s possible you could have an intolerance or sensitivity. Everyone is different. Pay attention to how you physically and energetically feel after foods you commonly eat. Eating food that you are intolerant to can lead to excess bloating and gas production.
07. Change the oils you eat | Knowing your oils is everything when it comes to gut health and detox.
Oils are vital to our health. Healthy oils can not only provide essential nutrients to our gut and body, they help with proper hormonal and brain function. Scientists and nutrition experts have long debated the “best” and “worst” cooking oils, but perhaps one of the more important considerations is: What is your oil being used for?
In lieu of a one-oil-fits-all approach to cooking, let’s consider the following:
Oils For Raw Foods: Salads, Dressings, Garnishes, Toppings
WALNUT OIL: Has a low smoke point, so don’t cook with it, but do use it to drizzle your favorite breakfast staples like fruit, banana bread, or pancakes. Anti-inflammatory.
FLAXSEED OIL: High in omega-3s, but very low smoke point, so don’t cook with it!
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (EVOO): The “extra virgin” part is important because it signals it’s not refined/overly processed. That’s hard to confirm in the US, where sometimes EVOO isn’t what it claims to be. EVOO is a quality kitchen staple, but it has a lower smoke point, so don’t use it for high temp cooking (low-medium heat is OK).
SACHA INCHI: One of the very best oils out there, contains Omega 3-6-9, an excellent one to use raw on your salads and foods, and an extra plus for topical and oral care.
Oils For Cooked Foods: Grill, Sauté, Stir-fry
AVOCADO OIL: Experts agree this is one of the best choices for all your cooking needs because of its unrefined + high smoke point + vitamin E nutrition points.
SESAME OIL: while it may not have the highest smoke point ever (350 to 410 degrees Fahrenheit), it’s a good flavorful, unrefined option that’s high in protein.
GRAPESEED OIL: Low in saturated fat + high smoke point + also yummy over salads and vegetables (both raw and cooked).
COCONUT OIL: Can be a controversial topic due to its high saturated fat content (more than butter at 90%), but our bodies do need saturated fats. This is one source to consume in moderation. Along with debates over how “good” or “bad” saturated fat is for us, there are conflicting views on the relative nutritional value of coconut oil in comparison with other solid fats like butter or lard. Some research suggests it has less detrimental effects on cholesterol and would be a good replacement for those things. Extra virgin coconut oil is excellent to consume raw, yet for frying foods, we recommend using it in moderation. Still, many cultures worldwide have used coconut oil for cooking and frying at very high temperatures for thousands of years. Bonus: in lieu of cooking with coconut oil (or as a plus), use the raw oil for optimal oral, skin, and hair health.
SUNFLOWER OIL: Also high in vitamin E (28% of your daily recommended intake can be found in a single tablespoon!) + high smoke point, the downside of this oil is that it has omega-6 fatty acids (good for you, but can be pro-inflammatory without omega-3s to balance). As with all cooking oils, use in moderation.
GHEE: Like coconut, ghee has experienced controversy due to it being more than 50% saturated fat. That said, it has a high smoke point and is high in nutrients. Full of antioxidants that help cleanse the body, the nutritional value of ghee also includes vitamin A, D, E, and K. The high smoke point of ghee makes it suitable for cooking as well as frying.
Oils Not Recommended In The U.S.
VEGETABLE OIL: A hodgepodge concoction, rarely do we know what’s actually in ‘vegetable oil’. Nutritionists agree it’s guaranteed to be highly processed, and manufacturers use this label to add whatever they want, from soy and corn to canola and cottonseed, without being required to print new labels. Also known for degrading the land, this oil is definitely bad in the U.S. Real talk: it basically has little to no flavor or nutritional value.
CANOLA OIL: Also low in flavor, the U.S. version of canola oil (derived from rapeseed) is typically highly processed. While “cold-pressed” or unprocessed oil of this variety is out there, it is difficult to find, and so we’re suggesting this oil is bad in the majority of the market.
The Happy Belly Juice or Smoothie
A delicious and refreshing juice for hot summer days. If you don’t have a juicer, we recommend blending this with water, or coconut water (and then strain to avoid the ‘fibery’ strings from the celery). You can have this juice first thing in the AM to activate digestive flow, or 30-45min before lunch, or as a mid-day snack!
Bunch of celery
1 peeled orange, or 1/2 a lemon (peeled) – or add both!
A few stems of parsley and cilantro
A small piece of aloe vera, outer “skin” removed
1 tsp of Liver Vitality powder
3-4 tsp of Fat Belly tonic (or 1tsp Happy Belly Powder)
For those of you blending this, and not juicing, highly recommended to blend with hemp seeds, and/or 1/2 of an avocado. A delicious and thicker and fuller juice alternative.
Juice all the above except the tonic and powders.
Pour into a tall jar, mix in your healthy belly tonic and liver vitality and serve immediately.
This story is brought to you in partnership with Anima Mundi. From time to time, TCM editors choose to partner with brands we believe in to bring our readers special offers. The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.
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