We love the idea of a special ingredient fixing us, a supplement transforming the look and feel of our body, or a beverage improving physical performance. Can adding a herbal elixir to our morning smoothie actually improve our mental and physical health?

To learn more about the powers of plants we spoke to rainforest herbalist, and founder of plant-based apothecary Anima Mundi, Adriana Ayales.

Splendid Spoon: Hi Adriana! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Adriana: I’m a clinical herbalist from Costa Rica, and I’m obsessed with the medicinal powers of plants.

My roots [We’d like to think pun fully intended — Ed.] are in tribal rainforest herbalism, but I’ve also studied and integrated other traditions like North American herbalism, European alchemy, Ayurveda, and Chinese medicine into my practice and business. I’m the founder of Anima Mundi Herbals: an apothecary composed of the most pristine and medicinal botanicals found in nature. My specialty lies in integrating these different traditions with modern day herbalism to formulate full spectrum medicines.

Splendid Spoon: What is herbal healing?

Adriana: Herbal healing is the art and science of integrating plant medicines into our daily lives for mind-body wellness.

Splendid Spoon: What does detox mean to you?

Adriana: Detox means to purify all major organs from stagnation, inflammation, toxic buildup and overall excess. To cleanse our main purifying vessels, like our liver and gall bladder, we can effectively (and wisely) jumpstart our system.

Splendid Spoon: Can detoxing help our mental health as well as our physical body?

Adriana: Yes. When we detox, we purify and oxygenate our blood. Once we clear that toxicity and regain healthy circulation, we can remove the impurities from our body. This naturally leads to a less stressful life. Stress causes the majority of mental and physical illnesses. Once we de-stress our organs, we experience less brain fog, more creativity, less hormonal imbalance (i.e. less emotional drama!), fewer mood swings, and more controlled cravings.

Splendid Spoon: How can we use herbs to cleanse our bodies?

Adriana: The best way to cleanse with herbs is to use extracts and powders. Add them to nourishing mixers such as smoothies and infusions, so that your body can more easily absorb their medicinal powers. I also love including tonics like moringa in my salad dressing, or even stirred into a bowl of soup.

Splendid Spoon: What is moringa and how should we use it?

Adriana: Moringa is a medicinal tree that grows in tropical areas. It’s known for being rich in vitamins and minerals. We typically consume the leaf, ground into a powder or as a capsule. It’s traditionally used as a daily multivitamin because of its powerful phytonutrient and antioxidant content.

Splendid Spoon: What are the benefits of moringa?

Adriana: Moringa is a nutrient-packed energy booster [Swap that morning coffee for a teaspoon of moringa powder in your smoothie! — Ed.]: it contains a mega load of vitamin C, fights free radicals and overall toxic build up, acts as an anti-inflammatory, helps reduce diabetic symptoms, supports breast milk supply for new mothers, protects the liver, lowers blood pressure, improves sleep, and is an internal and external antiseptic! It really is a heal-all!

Splendid Spoon: How often should we detox?

Adriana: I believe that the best way to cleanse is to follow an alkaline diet. [An alkaline diet is one rich in alkaline foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes, which keep your body’s pH between 7.35 and 7.45. The goal is to eat 80% alkaline foods and 20% acidic foods. — Ed.] This means your body will always be cleansing itself.

If you eat a plant-based, alkaline diet two or three days a week, you naturally cleanse your liver, gallbladder, and gut. This is better than having an acidic diet and then pounding through a 5-day juice cleanse. A cleanse that is so intense and extreme can shock the body in a harmful way. Keep the cleansing active and nourish your organs wisely!

Splendid Spoon: If our liver is able to detoxify our bodies, why do we need to supplement our diet with detoxifying ingredients, such as moringa?

Adriana: The liver needs support. When the liver gets backed up with work, it needs assistance to catch up again. Eating predominantly alkalizing ingredients detoxifies our bodies. An alkalizing diet is typically made up of dark leafy greens, bitter, sour foods, low (and good!) oil intake, fresh veggies, low-glycemic fruits, and nuts and seeds.

Splendid Spoon: What’s the most powerful detoxifying ingredient you recommend to people who are looking for an intense cleanse?

Adriana: There are so many in the herbal world! Some of the most powerful ones are quassia, burdock, milk thistle, orgeon grape root and rhemannia.

Splendid Spoon: Can you share your favorite detox tea recipe with us?

Adriana: My favorite simple, delicious, cleansing tea is a mix of burdock, nettle (seed and leaf), dandelion root, parsley, and lemon. Mix equal parts of the herbs, and add hot water, and a squeeze of lemon juice.