In recent years, detox diets (or cleansing diets) have become common as methods for weight loss and physical rejuvenation. Our foods, even if they are organic, can leave heavy metal residues in our bodies, and non-organic foods may contain pesticide residues along with mercury, arsenic, cadmium and aluminum. Even worse, a lack of fiber in our daily diets can contribute to a build-up of these toxins, which many people mitigate by undergoing a cleanse involving juicing vegetables, consuming clay, or following a raw foods diet or a chlorophyll-rich seaweed diet. These and other methods help remove toxins, heavy pollutants, and fats from the digestive system, leaving us feeling more alert and energized.
One of the best and most natural detox methods involves herbs; many herbs are useful for enhancing the health of the liver, the urinary system, the colon, and the entire digestive tract. Additionally, some diaphoretic herbs encourage the body to sweat out built-up toxins through the skin, thus increasing the effectiveness of the cleanse. What’s more, most of these herbs are tasty, inexpensive, and easy to use.
Of the hundreds of herbs used as medicine for the human body, a handful have been identified as “essential herbs” relevant for the beginner in any healing tradition. The criteria for essential herbs include:
- These herbs are easy to find and identify.
- They are common (many are “weeds”).
- none of them is endangered, threatened, or at risk.
- They are versatile and can treat different ailments.
- They are established herbs that have been used for centuries.
- They are safe.
- It is easy to make food and medicine from them.
Of the essential herbs, those that can best be used for detoxification and cleanses include calendula, dandelion, elder, ginger, lemon balm, mint, nettle, plantain, red clover, and yarrow. This list includes the hepatic herb dandelion which, along with burdock and yellow dock, act as liver tonics and stimulate the secretion of bile from the liver and the gall bladder. Slowly overcoming its reputation as an annoying lawn weed, dandelion has for centuries been used as a mild diuretic that flushes toxins from the liver and acts as a laxative for a more efficient digestive system.
To experience the diuretic and cleansing effects of dandelion, create a simple Fall and Winter Cleansing Decoction. Dandelion stays green well into the winter in many climates and can be easily harvested for inclusion in a detox program.
“To experience the diuretic and cleansing effects of dandelion, create a simple Fall and Winter Cleansing Decoction. Dandelion stays green well into the winter in many climates and can be easily harvested for inclusion in a detox program.”
Ingredients you’ll need for one quart of Fall and Winter Cleansing Decoction:
- 1 cup fresh dandelion root, chopped ½ cup fresh yellow dock root, chopped
- 2 tablespoons dried elderberries
- 1 tablespoon dried licorice
- 1 one-inch piece fresh ginger, chopped
A decoction is a liquid medicine that has been cooked on the stovetop. It consists of the harder and woodier parts of plants such as roots, bark, seeds, and tough stems. Gather the seeds and roots you wish to use. Wash and chop them with a knife, and then place them in a deep teapot or soup pot, covered with fresh cold water. For each ounce of fresh roots, use one cup of water; for each one to two teaspoons of dried roots, use one cup of water. Allow this mixture to sit for one to two hours and then turn on the heat and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer, cover the pot tightly and allow to simmer from 20 minutes to 3 hours. After removing the pot from the heat, allow it to sit while still covered overnight. Strain the herbs and reserve as much liquid as possible.
The Fall and Winter Cleansing Decoction will be bitter, so add the honey for taste and drink three to five hot cups daily for no more than three days. For best results, combine this decoction with a Fiber Blend.
Ingredients you’ll need for two cups of Fiber Blend:
- 1 cup dried plantain (another essential herb)
- 1 cup whole flaxseed
- 1 pinch powdered cinnamon
“A Stimulating Massage Oil rub can increase blood flow throughout the body, encourage the body to sweat, and eliminate toxins.”
After combining and storing the herbs in your refrigerator, grind them together just before using. Take one teaspoon in one cup of juice or water. Alternatively, sprinkle them on oatmeal, breakfast cereal, or even in smoothies for a nutritious and fiber-rich crunch. you can also add a couple of teaspoons to muffins and breads for the same effect.
When you’re doing a cleansing diet, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, and remember it’s important to never cleanse when you’re pregnant or nursing.
Proper and effective cleanses require commitment and work, but they can also be relaxing and enjoyable. A Stimulating Massage Oil rub can increase blood flow throughout the body, encourage the body to sweat, and eliminate toxins. The following recipe combines the essential herbs of mint and clover.
This stimulating oil brings blood flow to the surface of the skin and encourages the release of toxins through sweat. While cleansing, complete your massage with a hot towel around your body and apply a hot water bottle over a thin towel against the skin over the abdomen, lower back, and shoulders. This is designed as all-over body massage oil, but it can be just as effective when applied to sore joints.
Ingredients you’ll need for stimulating massage oil:
- 1 cup sweet almond, hemp, or jojoba oil
- 20 drops eucalyptus essential oil
- 20 drops Scotch pine essential oil
- 20 drops peppermint essential oil
- 10 drops clove essential oil
- 5 drops wintergreen or sweet birch essential oil
Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small jar or bowl and rub over the body, making sure to avoid the sensitive skin and the eyes. Do not use this strong oil on young children.
In addition to cleansing the liver and colon, it’s important to maintain a healthy urinary system and to treat urinary tract and kidney infections. If you are prone to kidney infections or are recovering from one, Kidney Tonic Tea can nourish the urinary tract, keep fluids flowing, and keep infection at bay.
“Cultures throughout history have found it valuable to cleanse and detoxify the body, especially after a period of illness or simply as a way of losing weight and stimulating the body’s vital organs.”
Ingredients you will need for 1 quart of Kidney Tonic Tea:
- 2 tablespoons dried dandelion leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 tablespoon dried plantain leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried red clover blossoms
- 1 teaspoon dried cleavers
- 1 teaspoon dried pipsissewa (optional)
Combine the herbs into a one-quart glass jar. Pour enough boiling water over them to fill the jar to the brim and then let steep for five to eight minutes. Add honey to alleviate the bitterness and drink two to three cups daily. Do not use this remedy if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. This calming tea is another great example of what essential herbs can do to help cleanse the body of various toxins.
Cultures throughout history have found it valuable to cleanse and detoxify the body, especially after a period of illness or simply as a way of losing weight and stimulating the body’s vital organs. While some of the new, brand-name cleanses that you’ll find in the drug store offer quick results, they are often unpleasant to experience or made with questionable ingredients. These simple, affordable and essential herbal cleansing remedies will naturally revitalize the body and rejuvenate the spirit.
Holly Bellebuono is the author of The Essential Herbal for NaturalHealth: How to Transform Easy-to-Find Herbs into Healing Remedies for the Whole Family. A certified and traditional herbalist since 1995, Bellebuono owns and operates Vineyard Herbs Teas & Apothecary LLC in Martha’sVineyard. Her original formulas have won multiple awards at the International Herb Symposium. Bellebuonoalso teaches distance-learning courses on Western botanical healing. hollybellebuono.com