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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Purification - by Rebecca Veenstra


     Every New Year I find myself thinking about how this season symbolizes a clean start. A fresh slate? I know...that is not how it really works. Wouldn’t that be cool though? If you could just turn the page and embark on the New Year with out any regard. Just head on out there like it’s all new again?

     I suppose that thinking pattern leads us all to our yearly resolutions-- and insincere promises to improve our lifestyles, to exercise, to sleep more, complain less, be on time more often, save more money, eat less chocolate. 

     So, this year I’m looking to incorporate small life changes. Things that don’t take a heap of effort. This way we start the New Year fresh with out setting ourselves up for failure. Because honestly, who’s really going to turn down M&M’s and actually exercise every day?

     I think there are things we can incorporate into our daily lives that will make a true difference. If every year for the rest of our lives we sought to learn one new trick. Maybe we could become old and happy, filled with wisdom and peace of mind.

     Herbal writings define purification primarily as detoxification. Many texts speak of the benefits of removing poisons, fats and general build-up in our bodies is an important part of feeling healthy. Sometimes, the word detoxification is interpreted to imply harshness or drastic flushing of the body. That type of detoxification can be very dangerous and generally renders temporary results.

     The body’s balance of electrolytes is delicate. What that means is the systems or machines of the body require a particular balance of salts, and minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, etc.  Every part of our body; our blood, organs and brain--require their own individual balance of nutrients.

     Harsh cleansing can remove necessary elements which could cause health problems or even emergencies. I once heard of a man doing an “as seen on TV” colon cleanse that sent him into kidney crisis. A lot of us have done those quick cleanse drinks. Those just flush the kidneys. The way to ultimately clean the body is to avoid putting bad things in... LOL... but that’s easier said than done.

     So, really the best approach is to live how you want to and compensate for your unhealthy habits by doing extra healthy things on the other end. For example, if you like to eat a whole pizza every day-- take up walking. If you like to eat two pizzas-- take up running. Really, it makes sense, even though it sounds silly.

     The Harvard Health Publications state that “the human body can defend itself very well against most environmental insults and effects of occasional indulgence. If you’re generally healthy, concentrate on giving your body what it needs to maintain a robust self cleaning system...” The text goes on to extol the virtues of a healthy diet and regular exercise. So, instead of reading that and wondering how to fit ten carrots and a 2 mile run into our day-- I vote for small changes with big benefits.

     Lemon Juice is a terrific cleanser. It purifies the blood, reduces mucus build up in the body tissues and organs, and alkalizes our blood. Our bodies perform at their best with an alkaline ph. Another interesting benefit of using lemon juice is that according to some writings limonene in lemons interacts with the cannabinoid and THC receptors in our bodies allowing our bodies to utilize the terpenes and THC in cannabis more effectively. The Handbook of Cannabis refers to a study done about ten years ago where the research subjects reported that Limonene added to THC made the experience of marijuana use more cerebral and euphoric.

     The best way to add lemon is to put a bit in a glass of water or tea. Some people like to drink the juice of several fresh lemons. It does really cleanse the system. But, people with acid reflux might find it more tolerable in smaller doses. The bottled lemon juice sold in the store will work fine but pay attention to the ingredients. The cheaper bottles sometimes aren’t a bargain. They will contain more lemon oil than juice. One lemon a day cut into quarters provides four nice lemon juice drinks otherwise.The added benefit is not only do you get the lemon-- you are also incorporating extra hydration. Just upping water intake a little bit can often increase energy and a person’s sense of well being.

     There are many herbs that can be added to a morning tea with lemon that can assist the body in removing build up and congestion from the blood and tissues. Many of them are pleasant tasting and easy to incorporate into a regular routine.

     Dandelion is a very common herb with tonic abilities. Dandelion leaf and root are rich sources of vitamins and minerals, including beta-carotene, calcium, potassium and iron. Dandelion leaf is mildly diuretic, this means that it promotes urine flow. Both the flowers and leaves are used in salads and teas, while the roots are sometimes used as a coffee substitute. Dandelion leaves and roots have been used for hundreds of years to treat liver, gallbladder, kidney, and joint problems. In some traditions, dandelion is considered a blood purifier.

     Another good cleansing herb is Ginger. The dry powder has been reported in some texts to have higher Gingerol content than the fresh root but either would work well for tea. In addition to its liver cleansing properties ginger has been used to treat people with arthritis. A small number of case studies suggest that taking fresh or powdered ginger may reduce the symptoms of swelling and pain. Side effects due to ginger are rare when used as recommended. However, some people are sensitive to the taste and may experience heartburn. In addition, people with a history of gallstones should consult a doctor before using ginger

     One of my personal favorites is Lemongrass which has been reported to assist in cleansing the liver, kidneys, bladder as well as the entire digestive tract. It tastes mild and has a beautiful fragrance.
In addition to its historical and current use as an anti-inflammatory substance; Tumeric has been used for hundreds of years as a blood purifier. It grows in a root like ginger. It is widely available as a dried powder though. Tumeric has been known to thin the blood. People on anticoagulants would want to research and consult their physician before adding Tumeric to teas.

     Green Tea is a well known antioxident.  Maybe you have some pain issues and use Cannabis in the daytime. That can really add up over time. Maybe you use a little more than you would like to to achieve relief. A nice pick me up of Green Tea and lemon might help alleviate the sleepiness from your Cannabis during the day and also help to cleanse build up from the body which could over time decrease your usage.

     Another way to cleanse the body is to address the energy systems with in us. Many texts refer to these energy centers as Chakras. Chinese medicine calls the points meridians. Western medicine acknowledges endocrine glands and cannabinoid receptors in our bodies that correspond with the ancient writings on Chakras and Oriental medicines. Even Sanskrit writings pre-dating Christ refer to the energy our bodies contain.

     If we start our day with a nice cleansing cup of tea with lemon, that seems simple enough. That alone is buying some time for ourselves--taking the time to care for ourselves and purify our flesh. But what about the Chakras? Who has time to meditate? Meditation can be a difficult thing to incorporate into real life. There just never seems to be enough quiet or enough time. It’s like the resolution we know we will never keep. So, we pass it off as a nice idea and watch TV instead.

     What if I told you in the time it takes your tea to cool you could go through a simple meditation that would set the tone for the rest of your day? Have you ever heard the saying “The rest of your life begins today?” Its the kind of obvious thing that escapes us I think. It’s like the song “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” Purification can pertain to our perspective as well. It is important to clean house emotionally and spiritually as well as to drink lots of water and eat well.

     So, maybe you are running around putting the kids together before work and the idea of a cup of tea is the funniest thing you have heard in ages. Don’t lose hope. At some point in your day all you need to do is stop and take a few deep breaths. You might be surprised how adept you can become at centering yourself after a little bit of practice.

     I think a gardening metaphor works best in this instance. My mind is best able to visualize flowers but feel free to innovate. Some people like to visualize colored orbs of light or colored flames. Use the image that works best for you. Intent is the most important aspect of the whole excercise. Even if it feels ridiculous and you can’t feel anything happening, that’s ok. The idea that you are dedicating the thought to the process is all it takes. It really is that simple.

     Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a column of white light at least six feet around. Feel the light around you as best as you can.
Then, place your feet on the ground, (even if you are sitting) and imagine your feet are growing roots deep into the earth. Try to feel a loving connection to the earth-- again, as best as you can.

     Next you will proceed through the chakras one at at time imagining a flower opening at each point. The color, and the process of opening are the most important things to be consistant with. Orbs of light, stained glass jars opening, what ever is easiest for you to visualize.

     At the base of the spine around the tailbone imagine a red flower opening. Take 6 deep breaths and then imagine your attention moving to the sacrum and pelvis. The color for this chakra is orange. Imagine an orange flower opening. Take 6 more breaths and move your attention to your navel. The color you want to imagine here is yellow. Take 6 deep breaths and imagine a yellow  flower or light opening. Continue with 6 more deep breaths as you raise your focus to your heart area. There imagine a beautiful green bud opening... or an orb of light if you rather...lol...After you take 6 more breaths picture the color blue around your throat area as a flower or what ever you have chosen. Concentrate on that area opening for 6 more breaths. Next imagine a purple bud opening behind your eyes, or anything purple that makes you happy. Inhale and exhale deeply 6 more times and think about the very top of your head. The color here is white. Feel that color opening into your column of white light.

     Take 6 more deep breaths and begin to move downward doing the same process backwards. Imagine your white flower closing down to a bud, and your purple flower closing, and your blue, and green, and yellow, orange and red. Like a rose bud in time lapse photography backwards from the big open flower to the tight brand new bud.  You want to finish with all the flowers closed at the end of the excercise.

     Once you have closed the last one ( the root chakra), the red one at the base of your spine. Imagine your column of light transforming into a cloak of white light. Some people I know imagine armour of white light. Use your imagination. This is another instance where intent is the real medicine. In your mind’s eye, dress yourself in your cloak of white light, or armour. Take the time to picture yourself putting on the sleeves and covering your body with the white light. The more detail you can picture the better. The text I used to learn this meditation finishes by saying:  “ In this way you take light with you wherever you go without being open and vulerable.”

     If you breath very deeply this excercise might take up to 15 minutes. Basically, in 84 deep breaths you can begin and complete a grounding meditation. Many spiritual practitioners do this excercise every morning. The opening of the chakras/energy centers in theory allows for purification by releasing excess energy, both positive and negative. Then, the process of closing the chakras/energy centers allows us to retain our energy and ward off negative energy from entering our energy centers. It’s the kind of simple taking time for ourselves that can reap huge benefits through out the year to come. Remember, this stuff sounds loopy but it predates our modern religious practices by centuries. There might be something to it...
Often users report that using Cannabis prior to practicing yoga or meditation allows them to achieve their goals with more ease. I think that is worth mentioning. 

     So, having a nice cleansing cup of tea with lemon and doing a 84 breath meditation... doesn’t seem too imposing as far as New Year’s resolutions go. Maybe it’s not earth shattering and most likely my jeans will probably still be snug next year too...Still, It seems like the kind of thing I might actually follow through with. I especially like that chocolate is allowed and no running is required.

Live long, be wise, and prosper.

Peace,

Rebecca Veenstra
Chartered Herbalist
New World Seeds, Traverse City, Michigan

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