In the yearly creative cycle Spring represents a time of youthfulness, flexibility and vibrant growth – for plants and animals.
If well-rested and restored, animals naturally let go of their winter sleepiness and wake up into a ‘good morning feeling’ of Spring filled with renewed curiosity and playfulness.
Right on cue, Nature provides animals with all they require to respond positively to the impulses of Spring. Playing a central role in this phase is the extraordinary relationship between the liver and bitter tasting plants.
The liver is essential to life and is wholly or partly responsible for hundreds of vital functions in animals. The liver organ is largest in young animals, in the Spring of their lives. In newborns it is involved in blood production, before the bone marrow takes over this function. With age, the liver naturally becomes smaller corresponding to a reduced liver function.
Functions of Liver (and Gallbladder)
Livers are involved in many vital functions, including:
- Protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism
- Bile production and excretion
- Hormone production and breakdown
- Detoxification and drug breakdown
- Storage of various vitamins and minerals
Supporting healthy liver function throughout an animal’s life is therefore vitally important.
Each season can be seen to embody its own taste or flavour, with the fresh green leaves and shoots of Spring associated with the bitter taste.
Bitter receptors on an animal’s tongue detect a variety of ‘bitter principles’ in the plants (bitter tasting chemical constituents like volatile oils, alkaloids, iridoids or sesquiterpenes). The bitter taste triggers a range of responses via the nervous system, with the degree of the response correlated to the intensity of the bitterness.
Many of these bitter plants have been used as medicinal herbs by humans and animals because of their strong effect on liver function and digestive health. Traditionally, these herbs have been referred to as bitter digestives, hepatics, choleretics and cholagogues. These categories refer to the qualities responsible for the ‘blood cleansing’ or detoxifying effects of these herbs.
Creating a Happy Animal Garden with a variety of herbs is also a good idea. Be sure to include dog and cat grass. Make it easy for your animals to self-select what is needed and what makes them feel better. Getting active and taking daily walks out in Nature will provide opportunities for animals to browse and benefit from the many plants Spring provides for a happy, healthy liver.