Greenbrier Herbalist
celebrating the healing wisdom of herbs
   267-337-5236                  2015  Farm-Based Herbal Education Course begins May 17th  
photo of passionflower
Home            Blog            Articles            Q&A           Consultations            Resources            Gallery            About

Cleansing & Detoxification

Cleansing has been an important element of healing traditions throughout history, and certainly more relevant in our complex modern lives than ever. As we become conscious of accumulating discomforts in our bodies, the concept of toxic overload seems to correspond to our experience of overwhelm.

Within the holistic paradigm of healing cleansing, nourishing, and balancing are interrelated elements of returning ourselves to optimal health.

In optimal healthy state our bodies have multiple systems for processing removing wastes and toxins that would otherwise cause poisoning or damage. Toxins can include both external substances that we encounter from eating, breathing or touching them, and waste produced in the course of normal bodily functions.

Sources of Toxic Overload

Prescription, over-the-counter & recreational drugs
Drinking tap water, alcohol, caffeine drinks, sodas
Processed food, fast food & sugar-loaded foods
Stress, excessive work, lack of sleep
Exposure to environmental toxins
Chronic or repeated infections, allergies & inflammatory conditions
Imbalanced intestinal ecology & poor digestive function
Impaired ability to effectively process and remove these substances can result in a variety of unpleasant symptoms and may provide a fertile ground for disease states to develop.

Results of Toxic Overload

Frequent headaches; hung-over feeling
Frequent nausea or bitter taste
Chronic fatigue
Chemical & food sensitivities
Increasing allergies & inflammation
Skin breakouts; itching; hives
Joint & muscle aches
Foggy thinking; inability to focus
Depression, anxiety, mood swings, irritability
Constipation, gas, frequent diarrhea
Chronic and increasing indigestion; acid reflux
Shortness of breath; congestion
Poor resistance to infections
A good cleansing program provides an excellent starting point on a healthful path and will include supporting all of the body organ systems and cleansing pathways. Often during the process of a cleansing program we have the opportunity to gain clarity about underlying issues that can be addressed, both at physical and psychological levels.

Throughout the body metabolic processes in each cell result in waste material that is carried through the fluids surrounding the cells through the blood stream to the body’s primary recycling center in the liver. Materials toxic to the body acquired on the skin, ingested or inhaled are also passed into the blood stream bound for the liver detoxification processes.

The liver accomplishes more than 70% of the detoxification within the body. Because the liver has more than 300 different jobs to do to maintain our bodies in healthy condition, herbs to assist liver function take center stage in a cleansing program. Toxicity often occurs when the liver is overwhelmed by the load of work due to unhealthful lifestyle and lacking the nutrients necessary to process the recycling of toxins. Scientific evidence is accumulating to implicate increasing toxicity as an instigating factor in a number of serious diseases including cancer.

About one-fourth of the remaining natural detoxification processes occur in the intestinal tract, with the colon and urinary tract being the final passage for waste disposal. Herbs can assist these organs to function optimally in releasing their contents to avoid the re-absorption of waste materials into the blood stream.

Although popular voices claim that colon buildup or parasites are the source of most toxicity, in my years of herbal practice I discovered disordered digestion and flora imbalance (commonly called “candida”) from poor quality food, deficiency of nutrients, stress, use of alcohol and prescription drugs is often at the root of such very common problems such as acid reflux, irritable bowel, and increasing food intolerances.

Go to Questions & Answers to see more information about cleansing programs and popular diets.

Traditionally, herbal cleanses were taken in the spring time, often using fresh spring greens from local wild weeds to stimulate liver and digestion. However, a cleanse can be taken anytime. It is wise not to embark on a major cleanse or fast during the heat of summer or deep cold of winter, as this can put too much stress on the body. Folks in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction can benefit, as a cleanse can support regaining good health and a reduction of cravings.

Those who should not take a cleanse include women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, children, people who are weak, underweight or recuperating from serious illness or surgery, organ transplant patients should not take cleanses. If you have just experienced a major life stress or are in a grief period it is best to wait until you have regained some emotional balance before attempting a cleanse.

Cleanses can improve digestive, eliminative, and detoxification functions so that the effectiveness (and toxicity) of medications increase or decrease beyond their therapeutic range. In other words, improving your digestion could make you more sensitive to medications, which could be dangerous. People with serious or chronic illnesses such as AIDS, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and auto-immune conditions are at greatest risk, since their medications may have very crucial functions and narrow dosage ranges.