If you, like me, have overdone it this Christmas on the chocolate/cheese/red wine side of things, a detox of sorts may be what you need to get your liver and digestive system back to its pre-festive condition. Many plants, besides the obvious 5-a-day, have a detoxifying effect on the body when taken as an infusion, powder, or other form of extract, and you can even grow some of these yourself:
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a herbaceous perennial native to South Asia, whose rhizomes (underground stems, which, like ginger’s, are often mistaken for roots) are boiled, dried, and ground into a yellow powder and used for flavouring dishes. The key chemical compound of turmeric is curcumin, which has been used in Ayurvedic practices for millennia, and is thought to increase bile flow in the liver, helping it to eliminate toxins which have accumulated as a result of excess alcohol intake. You can add turmeric powder to soups and curries, or take half a teaspoon in hot water with some lemon, honey or maple syrup.
You can grow turmeric indoors in the UK, by planting a portion of the rhizome which has started to sprout shoots. Few nurseries stock the plant, but you can find it in some Asian and Caribbean shops.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is widely used in several forms of traditional medicine as as a liver detoxifier, natural diuretic and for the reduction of inflammation, acting by increasing salt and water excretion from the liver. Dandelion is high in potassium, which also helps with blood sugar regulation.
The plant is widely considered a weed as it grows so prolifically and its tap root is so difficult to get rid of once established, but you can plant it outdoors or indoors and use the young leaves in a salad or infused in a tea. The roots have most of the diuretic properties, and should be cleaned, grated, and used as an infusion. You can also find dandelion root ready made into tea bags in most health food shops.
Aloe vera, a succulent which grows extensively in arid climates, is thought to have beneficial digestive properties, acting by encouraging the stomach to release pepsin (a gastric juice enzyme which is needed for digestion). Plus, Aloe vera is high in vitamin B12 (in fact it’s one of the few vegetarian sources of the nutrient), a lack of which can result in added post-Christmas fatigue. Take Aloe vera daily as a juice, widely available from health food shops.