June    |    Cleansing

Cleansing to gently alter our bodies toward health

Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot that it do singe yourself...William Shakespeare

The cleansing subject and our detoxification needs, both hard to ignore in today's chemical-laden, industrialized world.

We live in a toxic world and our bodies know it. Amazing organ systems reside naturally inside us to prevent problems associated with toxin build up. Enzymes in our liver, sweat glands on our skin, elimination systems in our lungs, kidneys, and digestive system all serve as natural detoxifiers. And yet, with the overload of toxin exposure this may not be enough; these systems may need help.

There are many ways of cleansing. Liver cleanses, blood cleanses, whole body cleanses and each carries promises that likely are not permanent; although, in the short term may be true. Cleansing of the mind, the heart, the spirit are all not to be forgotten. There are gentle methods and stronger, there are retreats and just a few days of this drink or that fast. Herbs have a place in the world of cleansing and can touch on all needed areas.

The ultimate cleaner goal involves altering the body toward better health. Herbs can have a pivotal role, especially two broad herbal classifications. Alteratives are referred to as blood purifiers but they don’t actually do that, they don’t have a direct effect on blood. Instead they assist in the breakdown and elimination of metabolic waste and toxins as well as enhance absorption of nutrients; the ultimate effect is a cleaner system, a purer internal environment. Alteratives overlap with herbs classified as bitter. Many alteratives are bitter and vice versa. Merely the taste of a bitter herb initiates an action. The stimulation of bitter taste receptors ignites a surge of digestive enzymes. This moistens food allowing for better movement through the digestive tract and assists break down of food into substances that facilitate optimal nutrient absorption. Additionally, most bitters simulate the liver and release of bile from the gallbladder vital to fat digestion and stool production.

Generally, the green leaf parts of plants are gentler. They tend to be diuretics, which means they work as cleansers through the kidneys; eliminating or removing waste products in urine rather than allowing them to build up. Roots likely will target the liver and push the body a bit more. The liver is vital to metabolism and detoxification as the place where the junk goes. Material that enters from the environment, whether from food or drugs, passes through the liver where it meets intricate detoxification enzyme systems that change the substances into a form that can be eliminated so as to not litter our bodies with impurities. Waste products accumulate in body fluids such as blood, lymphatic fluid, digestive juices and then meet other cleansing systems in kidneys, large intestine, and skin which then work to get them out of the body. Alterative and bitter herbs can assist this intense work to run more efficiently.

As spring turns to summer, we crave the shedding of extra protection layers, lightening, cleansing. But it’s not just in summer that we benefit from cleansing as exposure to toxins through chemicals in our environment is constant. By maintaining a gentle state of cleanse, our organs and body will function better. Sort of like cleaning your house once a week versus letting it go, waiting for spring cleaning. Just as too much dust is problematic, accumulating impurities in our body’s tissues that act like toxins, will wreak all kinds of havoc. Alterative and bitter herbs offer year round cleaning, like the housekeeper who comes once a week and never lets the dirt pile up. Some herbs are gentle enough to use daily and year round, others should be reserved for more deep spring cleaning and perhaps while working with an herbalist. We may not live in a perfectly clean world and odds are that some type of environmental toxin is present, but the plant kingdom offers us natural tools and the power of choice.


Alterative Herbs:

  • Dandelion
  • Burdock
  • Yellow Dock
  • Cleavers
  • Nettles
  • Sassafras
  • Sarsparilla
  • Mullien
  • Chickweed
  • Red Clover
  • Red Root
  • Violet

Bitter Herbs:

  • Dandelion
  • Yarrow
  • Artichoke
  • Yellow dock
  • Angelica
  • Gentian
  • Goldenseal
  • Boneset
  • Orange peel
  • Chicory
  • Hops


http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbalgram/issue49/article2270.html accessed 6/3/15

http://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/herbal-energetics.html accessed 6/12/15

Ellingwood, F: American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy. Cincinnati Ohio, 1919.

Klein A.V. and Kiat H. (2014) Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: A critical review of the evidence. J Hum Nutr Diet.

doi: 10.1111/jhn.12866.

Wood, M: The Liver part 1. Plant Healer Magazine volume IV issue II; 2014, pp287-293.