Christmas is well and truly over and with January under way some of us are looking at the bathroom scales and wondering what on earth went wrong.
Many people choose January as the start of new diets and detox regimens. We are bombarded with endless articles and adverts on the subject as soon as the festive season ends. Some of us embark on strict regimes with evangelical fervour and, in the pursuit of physical perfection, adopt regimes that would make Bear Grylls weep. This at a time of year when the weather is at its harshest and our immune systems are already stretched to the limit. It is perhaps healthier to take a more gradual, gentle approach to ensure you don’t deprive your body at a time when it needs sustenance the most.
Many plants and herbal remedies are known to aid weight loss and naturally purify the system. Chickweed, which is in season now, grows everywhere and this tiny plant has been known as a weight loss herb for centuries. Chickweed is also known as stellaria media and you will probably find it listed in the ingredients of many weight loss pills and potions.
This versatile herb is edible and actually very tasty with a flavour reminiscent of freshly-shelled peas. It is just as potent added to soups or steamed like spinach and, what’s more, it’s free. Added to this, chickweed is practically a multivitamin containing vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D, as well as iron, potassium, calcium, manganese, sodium, silica and zinc. Cleavers is another excellent weight loss herb, but sadly it is not growing this early in the year. However, it is available in various forms from most health food shops. Alongside its actions as a weight loss plant is it also a diuretic, lymphatic detoxifier and immune booster.
If it’s a total detox you’re after then Dandelion is the ideal herb, thriving even in the depths of winter. As an antioxidant, powerful diuretic and mild laxative it ticks almost every box. Dandelion is a known cholesterol reducer which is probably a good thing after a month of rich living. It is also full of vitamins and minerals and increases the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. The leaves are edible (if a little bitter) this late in the plant’s life cycle, but they still make a palatable tea. The tea is a weight loss aid too, but if it doesn’t appeal there are a myriad of dandelion-based remedies available from health food shops. In particular, dandelion root remedies are useful for cleansing the liver.
My final herb, garlic, is such a common addition to most kitchens that many of us never consider what health benefits this tasty bulb can offer. Garlic is strengthening, energy boosting and detoxifying. It is believed to slow the ageing process and is known to markedly lower cholesterol. It is also thought to be an anti-viral and as an expectorant it has long been used for colds and chest ailments. Our ancestors used wild garlic as an early Spring tonic, clearly aware of its advantages. It cleanses the entire system while replenishing it with vitamins A and C along with magnesium, selenium and iron. In many ways it is a superfood, managing to boost the immune system at the same time. Wild garlic is just as powerful as shop-bought bulbs and will be available next month. Keep your eyes peeled, or just follow your nose.
So before you splash out on the next fad diet book, slimming shake or whatever else promises to help you lose the most weight, take a look at what nature has to offer to shift that bulge. Above all, be kind to yourself and put as much effort into nourishing your body with vital nutrients as you do into shedding those pounds.
Main Image: Wild Garlic
- Chickweed looks very similar to some types of spurge – which are poisonous. Always ensure you are collecting the correct plant by identifying it has the tiny white star flowers or, if it’s not in flower, by the fine white hairs growing along one side of the stalk.
- Not to be taken internally by diabetics or people on lithium-based medication.
- Due to its strong detoxifying effects the herb should be taken on a two-weeks-on, two-weeks-off basis.
- Do not use if you suffer from low blood pressure.
- Do not take the root without medical guidance if you have any bile duct disorders or gallstones.
- Until it flowers in May, ramsons, or wild garlic, looks very like other poisonous woodland plants. Always ensure you are collecting the correct plant by checking it has the garlic odour.
DISCLAIMER: These are some of my personal experiences combined with information I have researched over a number of years. I am not encouraging people to self-medicate; in the treatment of specific conditions it is best to consult a herbalist or your GP. If you should develop an adverse reaction to any of the herbs mentioned above please stop using them immediately. Always take care when identifying plants.