Spring Detox

 Ireland AM TV3 - 02 March 2010

Spring is here at last, the days are beginning to stretch out and we are finally getting a few warm spring sunny spells. The season triggers the rising of the sap and the hedgerow pharmacy finally opens its doors after the winter holiday. So now that the deliciously fresh and vital plants are on the ‘shelves’ it is time for a spring clean or detox.

Why a Spring Detox?

A detox diet will help restore and promote optimum health and vitality, restoring feelings of energy, alertness and a positive attitude. The addition of cleansing herbs will help to mop up, pack up and eliminate toxins while supporting all the organs and tissues involved in the detoxification process; lymphatics, blood, liver, kidneys, skin etc. it will act like a reset button, you will feel so good that you are much more likely to continue with a positive diet and healthy lifestyle.
The human body has evolved to live seasonally. Life before supermarkets and air-miles meant that after a long winter of eating stored foods and fats, we had congested livers and very little vitamins and minerals. Springtime offered the cleansing nutritious spring greens we so badly needed. So although we have access to every kind of conceivable ‘healthy’ food 365 days of the year, most often we are still congested and nutrient deficient after winter. 
A growing body of research suggests that many of the chemicals we ingest daily through food, water, and air can become deposited in fat cells in our bodies. A diet that lacks certain nutrients may also impair our natural ability to detoxify chemicals, which further leads to their build-up in the body.
The cumulative load, called the "body burden", is thought to lead to illness and has been linked to hormonal imbalance, impaired immune function, nutritional deficiency, and an inefficient metabolism.

What are Toxins?

Toxins are substances that can act as a focus for disease processes. They can be general to the population as a whole or may be specific to an individual ie. Allergens or those produced internally due to an existing disease process, a weak digestion, repressed emotion or stress or inefficient metabolism and elimination.

Signs of Toxic Accumulation

1. Thick white or yellowish coating on the tongue
2. Dull or off colour skin
3. Swollen lymph nodes
4. Lethargy and low stamina
5. Headaches
6. Irritability and sudden anger
7. Alcohol and fat intolerance
8. Indigestion and feeling of fullness
9. Sour or bitter taste in the mouth
10. Rheumatism and other aches and pains
11. Recurrent Infections
12. Itchy skin rashes
13. Erratic periods
14. Mucous congestion

Toxic Overload Contributors

1 Eating Junk Food
2 Eating a diet not appropriate for you
3 Eating when your digestion is not ‘fired up’ (eating on the go, while working, late at night or when stressed)
4 Living in a toxic environment (emotional or physical)
5 Taking drugs and stimulants
6 Not enough water
7 Kidney and liver problems
8 Lack of exercise

Who Shouldn't Try a Detox Diet?

Anyone considering a detox diet should consult a qualified medical herbalist or their medical doctor first. Pregnant or nursing women or children shouldn't go on a detox diet. People with anemia, eating disorder, diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid disease, autoimmune disease, cancer, terminal illness, certain genetic diseases, and other chronic conditions should only use this diet under the supervision of a medical herbalist or their primary care provider. It is not intended for alcohol or drug detoxification.

Spring Detox

  1. Try to arrange a time when you are least tasked with work, take time off or detox over the weekend if possible.
  2. If you drink a lot of caffeinated tea or coffee, try to reduce your intake gradually for 2 weeks prior to the detox to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as headache.
  3. Fast for 1 day if possible but do include the cleavers cleanse, herbal teas, diluted pure fruit juice, water and spirulina.
  4. Follow a cleansing diet for 3-7 days


  1. Meat, fish and eggs
  2. Dairy products
  3. Alcohol
  4. Caffeine (coffee, regular tea and green tea)
  5. Avoid wheat
  6. Fizzy drinks 
  7. Added sugar and salt
  8. Refined or processed foods

Eat as much as you like;

  1. Fruit (fresh and dried, banana every other day)
  2. Vegetables (not too many potatoes)
  3. Brown Rice
  4. Quinoa
  5. Millet
  6. Porridge
  7. Lentils and pulses
  8. Organic Nuts (plain, unsalted, no coating)
  9. Organic Seeds (plain, unsalted, no coating)
  10. Honey to sweeten (if required)
  11. Rice milk or nut milk in place of dairy
  12. Flaxseed oil for dressings
Handy Tips!
  1. Make nut milk by mixing ground almonds with water in a sealed container. You can use this to thicken vegetable soups or curries and you will love the creamy texture while enjoying all the benefits!
  2. Snack on Ryvita, oat cakes and rice cakes.
  3. Make a mix up dried fruits, seeds and nuts to snack on throughout the day. A wonderful source of vitamins, minerals, protein and essential fatty acids, they will help you to stay energized.
  4. Make smoothies and vegetable juices for extra antioxidant benefit from raw fruit and veg.

Good Things!

  1. Skin Brushing – Use a loofa or skin bristle brush to dry brush the skin twice daily, always brush in the direction of the heart.
  2. Epsom Salts Baths – Add 500g of Epsom salts to the bath, for a detoxifying soak. Wrap up warm and drink plenty of fluids after.
  3. Upon rising, drink one cup of warm water with one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. Alternatively, drink one cup of warm water with one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Lemon juice and apple cider vinegar will get the digestive system moving.

Kelp Tablets

Sea kelp provides a number of essential vitamins and minerals; iodine, salt, iron, potassium, phosphorus and calcium. The vitamins sea kelp supplies include vitamin A and niacin, along with a healthy dose of protein. As a highly alkaline substance, sea kelp can also help restore the optimum pH levels in the body.
Because it is an excellent source of iodine, sea kelp can improve thyroid function, potentially increasing metabolism and energy and decreasing weight gain. The iodine, calcium and other minerals in sea kelp are easily absorbed by the body, aiding in digestion and correcting relevant mineral deficiencies.
Dose: 1 tablet 2-3 times daily before food.


Due to the iodine content of sea kelp and its potential effect on the thyroid, people with thyroid conditions or a history of thyroid problems or who are currently taking thyroid medications (eg. Thyroxine, carbimazole) should consult a medical herbalist before trying any kelp-based product. Do not take as a supplement if pregnant or a nursing mother.

Handy Tip!
If you live near the sea, why not forage for your own fresh kelp on the sea shore. You can add directly to soups and stews for flavour, added vitamins and minerals and it will also help to thicken.


Spirulina is a blue-green algae found in both fresh and sea waters and has a long history as a super food. There is evidence to show that it was harvested and eaten as far back as the 9thC in Chad and in the 16thC by the Aztecs. 


Spirulina is very high in protein and contains all essential amino acids and is superior to typical plant protein such as legumes. The protein digestibility of Spirulina is rated at about 60% versus 20% for beef, which means you get all the benefits of protein without the fat and the increased load on the liver. It actually has a cleansing and protective effect on the liver and kidneys.

Enhances natural cleansing and detoxification 

Researchers have found spirulina to significantly reduce kidney toxicity caused by the heavy metal mercury and pharmaceutical drugs. 
Today we are subject to an onslaught of toxic chemicals in our air, water, food and drugs. Our bodies need to continually eliminate these accumulated toxins. Spirulina has a completely unique combination of phytonutrients - including chlorophyll, phycocyanin and polysaccharides, that can help cleanse our bodies, especially during times of detox when the body aims to clean up these toxins.
Spirulina has a myriad of other bebefits including;
  1. GLA (Gamma-linoleic acid) and Omega 3, useful for burning fats and controlling inflammatory conditions.
  2. Richest beta-carotene food (10 times more concentrated than carrots!) which provides us with powerful anti-oxidants and anti-aging and anti-cancer protection.
  3. Rich in easily absorbable iron, magnesium, zinc, Spirulina is a rich source of potassium, and also contains calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium and sodium.
  4. Immune system tonic. Studies show that spirulina enhances the bodies ability to generate and enhance the activity of multiple immune system cells, thus making the immune system more effective at killing bacteria and preventing viruses from attaching to or penetrating cells.
  5. Studies suggest that Spirulina may help to reduce serum LDL (low density lipoproteins – the bad cholesterol) and raise HDL (high density lipoproteins – the good cholesterol) which is good news for cardiovascular health.
  6. Promotes digestion and bowel function. It stimulates beneficial bowel flora like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria.
  7. Source of vitamins; B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (nicotinamide), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid), vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E. 
  8. It contains valuable mucopolysaccharides which strengthen body tissues especially the connective tissues making them more elastic and resilient to damage.This is an ideal supplement for those who are active or in-training and also for older people. 
Spirulina is safe to use for adults, children, pregnant and nursing mothers.

Lymphatic Cleanse

cleavers - medical herbalist cork ireland - spring detox 
Cleavers (Galium aparine)

Cleavers Cleanse

Help Detox with a Cleavers Cleanse, free and fresh from the hedgerow pharmacy! (see kelliohalloran.com for helpful hints on foraging). Only ever pick and use a plant that you can 100% identify. If in doubt, leave it out and contact your local medical herbalist or suitably qualified bontanist.

Cleavers (Galium aparine)

Cleavers is essentially a lymphatic cleanser with useful diuretic and skin healing effects. Internally it is useful for swollen lymph nodes, especially the cervical lymh (neck glands). It also helps dry eczema and psoriasis. It can help to lower the blood pressure and is anti-inflammatory and can be useful in generalised fluid retention. An over night cold infusion of the fresh herb is best.
Cleavers Cleanse
2 handfuls fresh cleavers
Cold water
  1. Quickly wash the just picked cleavers, roughly chop them and place in a bowel.
  2.  Add enough cold water to just cover the herb, cover and leave to soak over night. 
  3. The next day strain, and drink the liquid throughout the day (about 2 glasses).

Blood Purifier

nettles - medical herbalist cork ireland - detox - ireland AM TV3
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)


Nettle (Urtica dioica)
It was traditionally thought that taking three meals of nettles in Spring guarded against illness for the year. 
Pick the youngest fresh shoots when only a few centimetres high. Wear gloves unless you want to purposefully sting your arthritic joints. Flaying the joints with stinging nettles is an old cure for rheumatism. Or trust in the old rhyme; 
If you grasp a nettle
It will sting you for your pains
Grasp it tightly like a rod of metal,
And as soft as silk it remains
Nettle is traditionally seen as a blood cleanser and so will be particularly good for those with skin complaints such as rashes, pimples and boils.
Stinging Nettle has a flavour similar to spinach when cooked and is rich in vitamins A, C, D, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. The hedgerow offers us a plant that we can simply infuse as a tea or use as a spring vegetable to benefit from all it’s nutritious and blood cleansing properties. 

Nettle Tea

Simply pick some fresh young nettle tops, add hot water, cover and infuse for 5 minutes. Strain and enjoy a nutritious cup of nettle tea!
Handy Tips!
  1. Once heated or added to water, the leaves will loose their stinging properties making them perfectly safe and comfortable to eat! 
  2. Make soup, eat as you would cooked spinach or make a delicious pesto (just replace basil with nettles!)
  3. If you cannot get out for a forage, try your local health food store where you will be able to get dried nettle in tea bags all ready for your teapot!

Kidney Cleanse

 Dandelion | Medical Herbalist Cork Ireland - Spring detox on Ireland AM Tv3
Dandelion Leaf

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

In Spring collect the leaves for juicing or make an infusion. The leaves are a wonderful diuretic, which has a high potassium content, making it very helpful in the treatment of fluid retention caused by heart conditions. The leaves offer us a much needed early vitamin shot in early Spring and are particularly good to eat up until the end of May (after this they get a little tougher, but can still be eaten and may benefit from a lightening quick blanch in hot water). Dandelion is a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc.
The bitter leaf will generally aid the digestion and can act as a gentle laxative, helping to eliminate during your detox.
Dose: Add fresh young leaves to salads or infuse a handful in hot water for a fresh tea, infuse for 5 minutes and drink 2-3 cups daily.
Dried leaf Infusion: 1-2 tsp per cup, infuse for 5-10 minutes and drink 2-3 cups daily.
Tincture (Leaf): Take 20 drops 3 times daily in a little water (Note For relief of fluid retention, much larger doses are required and should only be taken under the supervision of a medical herbalist).

Liver Cleanse

Dandelion Root

It is the root of the dandelion that exerts the greatest effect on the liver. It’s bitter principle will stimulate the flow of bile and will prompt the liver into action to help conjugate fats and remove toxins from the system. This will generally improve gallbladder and liver function. It will have a gentle laxative effect so also useful for those with a tendancy toward constipation.
Dandelion root is high in inulin, a constituent that studies suggest can help normalise blood sugar levels and improve lipid profiles (lowering total cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL, ‘good’ cholesterol).
Dose: Take as dandelion coffee (as directed per product)
Decoction: Simmer 1-2 tsp in a cup of water for 15 minutes. Strain and drink _ cup 3 times daily.
Tincture: Take 20 drops 3 times daily, in a little water.
Caution! People with gallbladder problems and gallstones should consult a medical herbalist before taking dandelion.

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) has been used for 2,000 years as an herbal remedy for a variety of ailments, particularly liver and gall bladder problems. Several scientific studies suggest that substances in milk thistle (especially a flavonoid called silymarin) protect the liver from toxins, including certain drugs such as acetaminophen (Panadol), which can cause liver damage in high doses. Silymarin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and can actually help the regeneration of new liver cells. Taken during your detox it will help to protect the liver against released toxins while mopping them up for elimination.
Its effect ion the liver is so powerful that traditionally milk thistle has been used as an emergency antidote to poisoning by deathcap mushroom (Amanita phalloides). Animal studies have found that milk thistle extract completely counteracts the toxic effects of the mushroom when given within 10 minutes of ingestion. If given within 24 hours, it significantly reduces the risk of liver damage and death.
Dose: Take 200-400mg daily (1-2 tablets, as per product).
Tincture: 20 drops 3 times daily.

Herbal Detox Summary

  1. Kelp 1 tablet 2-3 times daily before food
  2. Spirulina (dose as per product)
  3. Cleavers Cleanse 2 cups throughout day for 1-3 days
  4. Nettle & Dandelion leaf Tea 2-3 cups daily
  5. Dandelion Root _ cup 3 times daily
  6. Milk Thistle 200-400mg daily

Side Effects

Anybody suffering from diarrhoea must be mindful to not suffer from dehydration (see kelliohalloran.com for helpful hints under ‘herbal help for tummy bugs’.
Constipation may occur if people consume excess fibre without also increasing their fluid intake.
Other side effects can include tiredness, irritability, acne, weight loss, and hunger.


For further information please visit: kelliohalloran.com
For further information on the professional body of medical herbalists in Ireland (The Irish Institute of Medical Herbalists) please see: www.iimh.org
To find your local IAHS health store please see www.iahs.com 
Any worsening of symptoms or new symptoms that occur during a detox diet should prompt a visit to a qualified health professional.
Do not continue this cleansing diet for more than 7 days without medical supervision.
Please note that the advice given in these notes is not intended to be a replacement for professional medical advice and treatment. Always visit a fully qualified medical herbalist or G.P. for diagnosis. If you are pregnant, have an existing condition or are currently taking medication consult a medical herbalist to see which herbs are appropriate for you to take.
 © Kelli O’Halloran 2010