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Detoxing with Herbs

By Brigitte Mars, AHG
(American Herbalist Guild)

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.

Herb Categories

There are a number of categories of herbs used in the detoxification process. One of the most popular types is alteratives. 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.

Antifungal 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 heals.

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.

Herbs in Detox

  • Some important herbs to consider in the process of detoxification include the following:
  • 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 agent!
  • 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 antiparasitic.
  • 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 of calmness.
  • 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.

Copyright © AIM International, Inc. Used with permission.

All articles and information on this website are for educational purposes only. They are  not to be regarded or relied upon as medical advice.  The articles and  information have not been evaluated by the FDA. AIM products are not intended to cure, treat, heal, mitigate, or prevent a disease or illness. Results may vary per person. Consult your  health practitioner if you have health problems.

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