With the arrival of spring, we’re waking up and coming out of our winter stasis. At this time many of us take a good look around at our lives and health. We become brighter, more alert, more eager. A certain restlessness sets in as we feel an urge to move, to grow and push out of the darkness, to sow new seeds – literally and metaphorically – for our future. As the days start to get that bit longer, we have more daylight by which to see clearly.
In terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine’s Five Element Theory, the season of Spring is associated with the element of Wood and rising yang. Traditional Chineses Medicine (TCM) is thought to have been practised for at least 5,000 years, with the first written records of this modality dating back to nearly 3,000 years ago. Many of TCM’s underlying principals echo those of other ancient medicinal systems such as Ayurveda and indigenous Native American healing practices. The theory of yin and yang forms the foundation of Oriental medicine nad the Five Elements are thought of as the movements or phases of yin and yang energy. This energy or Qi (pronounced ‘Chee’) is at the heart of TCM.
TCM defines Qi as our vital life force energy; as our life-giving, transformative and universal energy; the source of our physical energy, warmth and nourishment. Qi brings about heat and movement and protects us from disease. Imbalances arise in our Qi when it’s low – deficiency of Qi; stuck or blocked – stagnation of Qi; or excess of Qi. These imbalances can affect our mood and may lead to illnesses. When our Qi is in disharmony, we may experience symptoms such as constant tiredness no matter how much we rest or sleep, hyperactivity or feeling either too hot or too cold. We may find that we’re suffering regular colds or experiencing repeated digestive issues such as indigestion, bloating or constipation.
In Oriental medicine, as well as being associated with an element, each season is associated with the elemental eneegy of a paired organ system of the body. For Spring and the Wood element, these are the Liver and Gall Bladder. Spring is when the Liver (yin) and Gallbladder energies (yang) are in focus. Liver energy is all about movement, action, growth and new direction.
“The Liver has the functions of a military leader who excels in his strategic planning… [It] is the dwelling place of the soul, or spiritual part of man.’ 
So, in terms of TCM and the phases of Qi, spring time is the best time to do a Liver and Gallbladder energetic and physical detox. Eliminating toxins and getting our Qi in balance doesn’t just have physical benefits, but mental and emotional ones too.
Oriental medicine works on the basis that our individual constitutions influence our inborn strengths, weaknesses and susceptibility to disease or ‘patterns of disharmony’. Diet and lifestyle impact our Qi enormously. TCM practitioners take our eating habits into account as well as a range of other circumstances including which season we’re in currently, where in the world we live, our age and our medical and general health history.
Modalities such as Acupuncture, Acupressure, Shiatsu and Qi Gong all work to rebalance the flow of Qi. Essential oils and aromatherapy can be used to this end too. Each essential oil has it’s own unique therapeutic signature, which is a reflection of that plant essence’s vital force.
Physically our bodies are constantly working to break down and eliminate toxins from additives in our food, medication, household cleaning products and alcohol, as well as the toxic waste produced by our metabolic processes. Everything we ingest passes through the liver as part of the digestive process. If the liver can’t process a substance, it stores that substance; for example chemical excipients from pharmaceutical drugs that the body can’t use. Supporting our body with toxin removal gives our liver and kidneys a break and helps our body work more efficiently, giving us healthier skin and hair, improved digestion, increased energy levels and better mental health.
Our bodies are extremely sophisticated and toxins are removed naturally through the digestive system, the skin, the lungs and the kidneys. It’s important though that we help our bodies in their work to eliminate toxins and waste by making positive lifestyle choices such as eating nutritious and cleansing food, drinking plenty of water and exercising regularly.
As well as supporting us mentally and emotionally, essential oils can help us to spring clean or detox physically. These wonderful essences have properties that stimulate our metabolism, which in turn helps our body eliminate toxins. Their beautiful aromatic molecules support us mentally, helping us lift our mood and restore calm.
Here are a few ways you can use essential oils to support your detox program.
Dead Sea Salt baths
Dead Sea salt baths with essential oils are a lovely way of detoxing the body. These salts are wonderfully absorbant and their high moisture content make them perfect for combining with essential oils. Ensure you drink plenty of water after the bath to rehydrate and support toxin release.
Whole body massage can help stimulate red blood cell production, and support the elimination of acids from the tissues. It also restores balance and calm to the psyche, as it soothes Liver energy tension and irritability. Massaging the abdomen in a clockwise direction with blend of essential oils diluted in a carrier oil can help with detoxifying the liver.
Dry body brushing
Daily dry body brushing using essential oils such as Grapefruit (diluted in a carrier) can really help with the removal of toxins. Dry body brushing your skin with a natural-bristle brush before a morning shower is a great way to stimulate your lymphatic system and help remove toxins. It will also boost energy levels and improve the condition of your skin.
Helpful essential oils
Grapefruit (Citrus paradisii)
Grapefruit essential oil contains phytochemical antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage. This oil boosts our metabolism and energy levels. It also reduces hunger pangs and sugar cravings. With its cooling and decongestant properties, this oil supports the liver, stimulates our lymphatic system and helps reduce fluid retention.
Grapefruit is mildly diuretic and has a stimulating action on the lymph. It helps the body eliminate excess fluids and break down fats, making it really useful for fluid retention, cellulite and weight gain.
Mentally and emotionally, Grapefruit has a bright, uplifting effect. This essence supports the release of stuck or stagnant emotions. Frustration, irritability, moodiness and tension are all eased with Grapefruit. Cleansing, clarifying and refreshing, this cheerful essence brings a lightness to our mood, letting us shake off any built up ‘heaviness’ from the winter months.
Grapefruit oil blends well with Peppermint and Juniper essential oil.
Safety note: Grapefruit essential oil should be avoided if on statins. The oil is also phototoxic, so don’t use it on the skin prior to sun exposure.
Juniper berry (Juniperus communis)
Steam distilled from the crushed, dried or partly ripe berries of the Juniperus communis tree, Juniper berry’s detoxifying and purifying properties assist blood with purification from substances such as uric acid. It is both a diuretic and lymphatic decongestant, making it helpful with fluid retention (oedema) and the elimination of waste products. Juniper berry oil has a decongesting action on the digestive system and helps to ease abdominal bloating and expel gases.
Blend with Grapefruit and Lemon essential oils – 2 drops of each in 5 ml of carrier and add to a hot bath for a detoxifying, and mentally fortifying and uplifting soak.
Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum)
This is a great oil for a tired and sluggish liver. It helps stimulate the production and regeneration of new blood cells and rebalance stuck or stagnant Liver Qi.
Helichrysum has wonderful blood-clearing and dispersing properties. We’ve used this oil combined with an arnica phytol, diluted in a carrier of sunflower oil to treat severe bruising with excellent results. It’s great for mental and emotional bruising too. It has a sharp curry-like scent that can cut through the most deeply stuck of emotions. If you have deeply held anger or resentment, working with Helichrysum (and an empathetic therapist) will help you shift these, giving you the space to find compassion and empathy for yourself and for others too.
Lemon (Citrus limonum)
TCM classifies lemon as being energetically cool and dry, making it ideal for clearing heat and congestion from the digestive and lymphatic systems.
A digestive tonic, Lemon soothes intestinal discomfort and helps with the liver’s secretion of bile. The liver produces as part of the digestive process and this bile is stored in the gallbladder. When prompted by hormones and the vagus nerve, bile is released into the duodenum and intestines to break down fats, absorb vitamins and remove unwanted waste products.
This is an excellent oil for a detox program massage blend, as it supports lymphatic drainage and helps improve skin tone. Its decongesting and cleansing properties make Lemmon a useful addition to your skin or hair care regime if these have a tendency to be greasy.
Mentally and emotionally Lemon’s freshness brings a sense of lightness, helping to ease nervous tension and soothe irritability. Its refreshing aroma helps clear confusion, overthinking, and that sense of being overburdened and bogged down with too many things to think about. It’s also a useful addition to a blend for insomnia. Combine it with Vetiver, Chamomile and Lavender for this.
Make use of Lemon’s mentally decongesting actions at work. Add 1 or 2 drops to a tissue and tissue and inhale from this as needed on those days when you have a lot of planning to do or key decisions to make. When things feel intense and full-on, Lemon’s bright and clear scent pierces that heavy bogged down feeling, clearing your mind and supporting productivity.
Cypress essential oil has a diuretic, decongesting and detoxifying action. Blended and used in massage with other diuretic and decongesting oils such as Juniper berry and Grapefruit, Cypress is very useful for oedema (fluid retention) and cellulite. It helps relieve achy muscles, abdominal cramps and menstrual pain. It can also be added to a bath as part of your detox program.
Emotionallly, Cypress oil is strengthening and fortifying. It helps us to navigate and deal with the bigger changes and transitions in life. It’s fresh, piney, resinous and slightly cutrusy aroma is soothing, yet uplifting and helps clear and calm the mind.
Try these recipes
20ml carrier oil or lotion base
4 drops of Sweet Orange
3 drops of Juniper berry
3 drops of Lemon
2 drops of Cypress
Use this as part of your morning shower routine. Dry brush your skin before you shower. After your shower, apply this blend, stroking towards the heart.
Spring Detox Bath
15 ml carrier or bath oil
3 drops of Lemon
4 drops of Grapefruit
2 drops of Juniper berry
3 drops of Lavender
Mix the blend thoroughly. Close the bathroom door and windows and run your bath. Add 6 drops of your blend to the bath only when the bath is ready and at your preferred temperature. Agitate the water well to disperse the drops of the blend. Relax in the bath for 20 minutes or so.
Rise Up Shower Gel
30 ml Bath or Shower Gel base
6 drops of Grapefruit
4 drops of Cypress
2 drops of Patchouli
1 drop of Geranium
This fresh, citrusy blend is a fabulous way to use your shower time to set you up for the day!
Clutter Clearing Focus Blend
As well as a spring detox of our bodies, traditionally this is the time of year when many of us in the UK do a de-clutter and spring clean of our homes. This can be a healing, cathartic process, clearing the way for a fresh start. For some though it can be quite a challenge and may be something that we put off doing. Inspire yourself to release the old and clear out anything that you no longer need ready for the new season. This is an optimal time of the year to get clutter-free. Check out Denise Linn’s book Secrets of Space Clearing. She offers some great advice on de-cluttering and space clearing.
To help, recruit your essential oil diffuser to work with you as you go about your sorting and clearing tasks. Diffuse this invigorating and focus-boosting blend:
3 drops of Rosemary
2 drops of Eucalyptus
1 drop of Peppermint
Remember, the decluttering doesn’t all have to be done in one go. Set a time limit of maybe 15 minutes each day. That way you’ll feel in control rather than the task overwhelming you. And you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you can do in that space of time.
Other ideas for your daily routine to help detox
The liver loves fresh lemon. Start your day with a glass of warm water with the juice of half a lemon squeezed into it. This will rehydrate your body, flush out your digestive system, and give you a small Vitamin C boost at the same time. Lemon is a great cleanser, both internally and out.
Body brushing helps to exfoliate your skin and remove dead skin cells while at the same time stimulating the circulatory and lymphatic systems to flush out toxins. Use a natural-bristle brush and firmly stroke the skin with long, sweeping upwards movements in a direction towards the heart. Start at your feet and work upwards. Use long, fluid strokes on the arms and legs, and a circular motion on your torso and back. Adjust the pressure accordingly on different areas of the body. Shower afterwards to wash off dead skin cells and then massage in the Anti-Cellulite Rub while your skin is still warm. Again, use strokes that move in a direction towards the heart. This will moisturise the skin and support your body’s natural elimination processes.
You are what you eat
Keep your diet clean. Eat fresh organic, locally grown (where possible) fruit and vegetables. Include wholegrains, pulses, nuts and seeds in your diet. If you’re a meat eater, source organic meat from your nearest local farmer. Do the same for cheese, eggs and milk.
Do at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise each day – anything that gets raises your heart rate and gets you out of breath. Running, going for a brisk walk and dancing all will your blood pumping and help flush out toxins.
Avoid office food temptations
If at work, you’re a habitual grazer, help reduce food cravings by diffusing 4 – 8 drops of Grapefruit essential oil in a diffuser or burner at home or at the office. Make sure you check with co-workers that they’re okay with you doing so first, as this essential oil should be avoided if on statins.
Monitor your screen time
Time-box your screen time and stick to it. Reduce scrolling on social media after work and during your precious time off. You can do this in increments of ten minutes or so and build up to actually turning the devices off altogether an hour before bedtime.
Freshen the room (and your mind) with essential oils
On those days where it’s not yet quite feeling Spring as it could (as I type, it’s snowing here in England), add a fresh feel to the atmosphere with this light, uplifting blend to lift your mood and remind you of what this time of year is about.
Pop 1 drop of Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), 2 drops Petitgrain and 1 drop of Geranium Pelargonium graveolens on a tissue or cotton pad and place it somewhere in your room to lighten the feeling of the room. With these uplifting citrusy-floral notes, you’ll quickly feel more uplifted and energised.
Be nice to yourself
Louise Hay used to say ‘The point of power is in the present moment’. And that how you treat yourself can define how your treat others. Monitor your self-talk. Keep it kind and gentle. Everytime you catch yourself berating yourself, stop it. Beating yourself up or holding a grudge will not fix the situation. Take a breath and say somethng positive about you and then something positive about the situation. Stress and anger cause toxins to be released into our bodies. If you’re going through your day moaning and being angry, you’re causing yourself mental and physical stress.
1. Ni, Maoshing The Yellow Emporer’s Classic of Medicine, Shambala Publications Inc, 1993