(Disclaimer: I try to keep my suggestions safe for pregnancy and lacation but everyone is a little different and even the safest herb can be an issue for someone, so you should seek guidance from a well-trained or licensed natural health practictioner, like Naturopathic Physician or Registered Herbalist with the American Herbalists' Guild for a more personalized approach - especially if you are on any medications or have any underlying health concerns or you are in the first trimester of pregnancy).
Spring Cleanse Tea
1. Dandelion Leaf - (Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelion leaf is the classic cleansing herb. It begins its regrowth in early spring just in time for us to eat it. (You were going to weed it from your garden anyway, right?). It is packed with nutrients and acts as a gentle liver stimulant and kidney diuretic. It helps increase your liver metabolism, restore nutrients and improve kidney function. Best of all, you can just eat it in salads if you want. The young leaves are less bitter and complement a mixed green salad perfectly. You can also chop it up and mix it fresh or dried with the other plants to make a tea. Just make sure your Dandelion is not picked from a place that is frequently sprayed with weed killers. Some places actually sell Dandelion greens in the vegetable section of natural food stores! Don't eat the root at this time unless advised to do so as it is a lot more stimulating to the liver and gall bladder which may be unsafe for some folks.
2. Cleavers - (Galium aparine)
Cleavers is another weedy plant that comes back to life in early spring. It tends to grow along the ground quickly invade any available space so this too might be something you wanted to remove from your garden. Good news is that it doesn't have to go to waste. This herb is not as tasty to eat in a salad but is fantastic as a fresh herb in your medicinal tea. You can just chop it up and add it to the rest. It is a gentle lymphatic mover in that it helps flush the lymph nodes and channels of fluids as well as improve the lymphatic function which is to produce white blood cells for our immune system and to move fluids from the extremities back through our circulation or through our kidneys. I consider this herb to also be supportive to the kidneys but its lymphatic action makes it so much more. The lymph channels and the kidneys both serve as our filtration systems and Cleavers helps us to filter out the waste metabolities we don't need and keep our systems running cleanly.
3. Red Clover - (Trifolium pratense)
I wanted to include another herb that is nutrative here. Something that provides minerals and supports the endocrine system and its role with our digestion. Red Clover is rich in minerals and its role with restoring the quality of our garden soils is similar to its role in restoring the quality of our metabolism. Gardeners plant it in the fall to restore nitrogen to the soil and we harvest it in the Spring to eat (or drink) to restore our systems too. Yes, it is another weed you might have thought you were going to get rid of but this one is very valuable for giving you those vital minerals such as Calcium, Magnesium, Iron and many vitamins as well that help you feel more energetic and ready for Spring. I could substitute many other herbs here - Burdock, Miner's Lettuce, Yellow Dock, Chickweed - so if those are more plentiful where you are, then you can substitute with those. All can be just chopped up to prepare your tea, though I frequently add Red Clover leaves (or Chickweed or Miner's Lettuce) to my salads as well.
4. Rosemary - (Rosemarinus officinalis)
Rosemary is a good herb to stimulate digestive juices (that is why it is frequently added to your chicken or other meat dishes). It is high in volatile oils - the oils that give it that characteristic smell - which the body eliminates via our breath. So it works medicinally by priming our pancreas and stomach, relaxing our gastrointestinal tract and stimulating our lungs to clear mucus and toxins through our breath. It also tastes good, in my opinion. I love the smell of it, especially fresh. You can just eat the leaves but this can also be chopped up into your tea. Rosemary is also considered very uplifting to our moods and our brain function so it serves the purpose of being a very awakening herb for the mind as well as the body.
5. Sassafras - (Sassafras albidum)
Those who know me, knew very well that I was going to add this herb. It is not available to everyone, sadly, as it grows in the southern central areas east of the Mississippi. I felt it was important to include because it is the premier spring cleanse herb from our Appalachian tradition where we finessed our understanding of metabolic cleansing in our medical history. Traditionally, Sassafras root was harvested in early Spring and the inner root was shaved off and chopped and used fresh or dried for a Spring tea. Sassafras has that nice rootbeer smell and flavor, though is more bitter than the rootbeer we've come to know in the day and age of High Fructose Corn Syrup and caramel coloring. (By the way, the original Root Beer was a medicinal elixir meant to cleanse the metabolic system too!). Sassafras' medicinal effects include stimulation of the liver, stomach, gastrointestional tract and circulation through the metabolic system. It also opens the pores in the skin and helps with the skin elimination effects I mentioned earlier. Sassafras' essential or volatile oils can be toxic if taken as isolated oils but in the whole herb forms are safe as many Sassafras tea drinkers from all over the Appalachians can attest. For those not from that region, you can usually find it dried and sold in bulk by a variety of herb suppliers. You could consider substituting with something like Linden flower or Ginger depending on your flavor preferences.
You can just chop up all of these herbs fresh (except for the Sassafras root) and add about 1 Tablespoon of each to 2 cups of hot water and steep for 30 minutes. Strain and drink once a day (typically in the morning) for 3-5 days. Be sure to include other healthy cleansing habits like drinking plenty of water and introducing some of those fresh, local, spring leafy greens back into your diet. You can also use the herbs dried if you like, though not as yummy or as nutrient dense as the fresh version. In that case use about 1-2 teaspoons of each per 2 cups of water.
Another note about pregnancy - we don't generally recommend doing any major cleansing when you are pregnancy because you don't want to dump toxins into your bloodstream when your blood is feeding a growing baby. The herbs above are all generally safe herbs often eaten as food in a variety of traditional medicines so I don't feel they'd be particular harmful but I did want to draw attention to the fact that it might be better to wait until you are no longer pregnant to cleanse. I consider Lactation to be safe for this sort of gentle, nutrative cleanse but again any stronger sort of detoxification should wait until when you are not providing nutrition to a growing baby.
So, Happy Spring and happy Spring Cleaning!