In the spring, nature wakes up gently, and then suddenly; we sense the sluggishness of winter shedding, and the freshness of spring emerging. Our bodies respond to the seasonal changes, readily reacting to the temperature, humidity, balance of light and dark, and a variety of other natural influences. For many, this connection becomes most apparent during the transition from winter to spring.
During every season, our bodies work hard to maintain a healthy balance. To attain this balance, our bodies crave the things we need, such as food, air, water, sunlight, and other nutrients needed for mental, spiritual, and emotional health. What our bodies don’t need, they discard through detoxification systems, primarily via the digestive tract, the respiratory system, and the skin. Human bodies have always carried out instinctual detoxifications without any intentional assistance.
Despite our amazing detox systems, however, we sometimes crave additional support to nudge our bodies along in the processes of shedding the old. In springtime, we start to feel the fire steadily building in our bodies — the need for movement, stimulation, activity, and engagement. Of course, the change in seasons has us staying out later, playing harder, and embracing the warmer weather. Using aromatic herbs and spices can enhance our metabolisms and support our bodies’ ability to shed the old and welcome the new.
Spice Up Your Health
For millennia, humans have used spices for health and wellness, while also delighting in their flavor. It’s a perfect package: the combination of powerful medicines, health-sustaining tonics, and the pleasure of flavors that can take us on a sensory journey. There’s a blood-pumping delight that comes with the first bite of something spicy, warm, and aromatic. Sure, you might have a few of your favorite hot sauces ready to sprinkle on your morning eggs or in your evening soup, but a whole artillery of aromatic medicines can also increase your blood circulation and support detoxification without setting your tongue on fire.
Fiery spices, such as cayenne pepper, help you detox by acting as gentle irritants as they pass through your body. It might sound counterintuitive, but some of the healthiest practices include small nudges in the right direction, such as inducing subtle irritations without causing harm. Small irritations immediately increase circulation to the local areas where the spice directly touches your membranes — mainly the digestive system and urinary tract — while simultaneously increasing metabolism, blood flow, and sweat production. If you’ve ever dined on a super-spicy meal, you know exactly what I’m talking about!
Many pungent aromatics, such as ginger and black pepper, achieve the same results without intense heat. In fact, more isn’t always better when it comes to hot spices — an insanely hot ghost pepper sauce isn’t going to be any more medicinal than something more mundane. Find your own spice comfort zone and watch how your body responds.
In addition to helping us detox, several research studies have determined that cayenne pepper and ginger each play a role in increasing our metabolisms. A 2018 study published in Nutrition Research determined that 2 milligrams of capsaicin — the spicy component in hot peppers — increased resting energy expenditure in obese youth after two hours because of its role as a “metabolic activator.” Another 2017 study, published in Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, concluded that overweight women who took dietary supplements containing 25 milligrams of capsaicin and 50 milligrams of ginger extract four times daily with meals increased their insulin metabolism, lost weight, and improved their body mass indexes after just eight weeks. A third study, published in 2015 in the International Journal of Biometeorology, concluded that consuming 1 gram of dried ginger root powder helped facilitate fat utilization in the test subjects after just two hours. When consumed as a regular part of the diet, both cayenne pepper and ginger support the utilization of body fat, in addition to providing many other health benefits.
Design Your Detox Diet
We’re often bombarded with messages about what not to eat during a period of detoxification, but it’s also important to consider what to add to your diet to improve and support your body’s systems that carry out routine detoxification. While some of us might be up for fasting or restricting our intake of certain foods, it can take a huge amount of energy to make sweeping dietary changes. In choosing a spicy-hot detox, you can select what you do and don’t eat, because this plan will adapt to any diet you choose and fill it with aromatic and pungent delights!
You can use the following selection of recipes individually, or combine them to create a weeklong spicy-hot detox menu. If something sounds too hot for you, switch out the hot pepper for a milder one, or simply use less hot pepper by diluting it with other ingredients. If you want to immerse yourself in your spicy-hot spring detox, you can follow the Spicy-Hot Detox Plan (see chart below), and watch your body gear up for summer.
Spicy-Hot Detox Plan
There are so many ways to combine spicy sauces, salads, and drinks. The following chart gives you an idea of how you can use some of the base concepts here to create a weekly plan for your own spicy spring detox. Feel free to create whatever menu tickles your tongue. Get creative, or find suggestions online. Whatever you do, just spice it up!
For More Spicy-Hot Recipes, see:
- Ginger-Chili-Lime Chopped Vegetable and Chicken Salad Recipe
- Spicy Chai Tea Recipe
- Classic Fire Cider Recipe
- Iced Hot-and-Spicy Lemon Drink
- Lemon-Garlic Harissa Recipe
- Black Pepper and Ginger Sauce Recipe
Bevin Clare, M.S., R.H., CNS, is a clinical herbalist and nutritionist with a deep love for plants. She holds a master’s degree in infectious disease, and serves as president of the American Herbalists Guild.