Just as many of us take time to clean out the clutter in our lives—go through
the basement and closets—we should also acknowledge that every once in a while
our bodies need help in facilitating the natural process of detoxification and
elimination. The body is a self-cleaning mechanism via the liver, kidneys,
urine, feces, breath, and sweat. Keeping our systems of elimination in a healthy
condition can help improve and protect our health. Yet for many of us, our
systems are overloaded and can use a bit more help. We can give our bodies the
opportunity to let go of that which is not necessary—the feeling of sluggishness
and the extra pounds gained. Although weight loss is not always a primary goal
in detoxification, it can be one of the benefits as well as simply feeling
lighter and fresher. A cleaner body can even enhance one’s ability to feel more
creative, motivated, and energetic.
Most people are exposed to chemicals
at higher levels than ever before in history. Pollutants in the body can
contribute to fatigue, mental dullness, allergies, headaches, skin
problems, digestive disorders, degenerative disorders, and a weakened
immune system. Herbs can provide us safe, natural, time-tested methods
to improve the natural functions of our bodies and be valuable allies to
support the body’s natural cleansing process.
There are a number of categories of herbs used in the detoxification
process. One of the most popular types is alternatives. Although
alterative herbs are often referred to as "blood purifiers," the way
they work is to improve organs of blood purification, such as the liver
and kidneys, and thus aid in the elimination of harmful by-products of
metabolism. Alteratives increase blood flow to the tissues, detoxify,
improve assimilation, and stimulate metabolism. They are also often rich
in electrolytes and trace minerals and are best used over a period of
time for their restorative influences.
Anti-fungal agents inhibit the growth of unfriendly yeasts that can
contribute to candida. Antioxidants help protect us from free
radicals—unpaired molecules we are exposed to through environmental
pollutants that can cause cellular damage. A cholagogue
promotes bile flow to the liver and aids the breakdown of fats. A
demulcent soothes irritated tissue of the throat as well as
gastrointestinal system. This effect is usually due to the plant’s
content of mucilage, a soothing slippery substance that lubricates and
Diuretics increase kidney function and thus the elimination of urine
and excess fluids. Nutritives are rich in vitamins and minerals
that help build and tone the body. Rejuvenative properties in
plants help renew the body and mind and help slow down the aging
process. They are usually tonics, are highly nutritive, counteract
stress, and gently increase endurance. A vulnerary herb helps
promote cellular growth and repair.
- Some important herbs to consider in the process of detoxification include
- Psyllium seed (Plantago psyllium, P. ovata) is a lubricating
mucilaginous fiber used as a gentle bulking and laxative agent. The mucilage
in the seeds expands eight to 14 times the size of the original seeds. This
can also create a feeling of fullness, decreasing one’s desire to overeat.
Psyllium fiber works as a broom, sweeping the gastrointestinal tract of
toxins. Be sure to drink lots of water when using psyllium as a cleansing
Black walnut hull (Juglans nigra) is an alterative
and antifungal agent that helps the body eliminate parasites.
Hibiscus flower (Hibiscus species) is mildly
antibacterial and has soothing properties. It is also mildly diuretic and
- Horsetail, also known as shavegrass (Equisetum arvense), is
considered an alterative, antifungal agent, and diuretic. It is extremely rich
in trace minerals and improves the healing of bones, flesh, and cartilage.
- Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is known as "the great
harmonizer" in Chinese medicine. It is mildly laxative, nutritive, and
considered a rejuvenative. It soothes irritated mucus membranes and nourishes
the adrenal glands. Using small amounts of licorice helps to instill a feeling
- Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is a natural diuretic and laxative. It is
an excellent source of fiber and provides natural chlorophyll, which has
deodorizing properties, helping to sweeten the breath and freshen body odors.
- Cascara sagrada bark (Rhamnus purshiana) is widely appreciated for
its quick-acting laxative effects. It stimulates secretions of the liver, gall
bladder, stomach, and pancreas due to its bitter anthraquinone content.