Many herbs can support or even create detoxification. In fact, this area is really one of the strengths, I believe, of herbal medicine. There are hundreds of possible herbs to be used for blood cleansing, cleansing the tissues or strengthening the function of specific organs.
The herbal approach to detoxification is based upon the premise that the human body is a self-healing and homeostatic organism – the green healer simply has to support normal processes. The body has a wonderfully effective and astoundingly complex mechanism for ridding the body of waste and poisons. This can be helped by using basic, simple and safe herbs as long as the eliminative process are addressed as a whole and not just the colon.
This means that whenever such a program is undertaken, one has to ensure that all organs of elimination are being helped at the same time. In addition, always help the specific area of the body that you conclude has been under most toxic pressure. Examples would be the lungs in a tobacco smoker or the liver in someone with alcohol-related problems. Details of how to work with detoxification in these examples and other specifics are given in the appropriate specialization courses.
- Support the whole process of elimination.
- Provide support for overly taxed organs.
- Alleviate symptoms and address any pathologies that are also present.
Therapeutic Actions and Elimination
There are therapeutic actions whose physiological impact makes them especially indicated for the support of the different elimination pathways of the body.
- Whole system support: tonic, alterative, adaptogen, anti-microbial
- Liver and blood: hepatic, alterative
- Digestive system and colon: aperient/laxative
- Lymphatic system: alterative, lymphatic tonic
- Kidneys and urinary system: diuretic
- Skin: diaphoretic, alterative
- Respiratory system: expectorant, pulmonary, anti-catarrhal
Using the actions model and the lists and examples below, it is relatively straight forward to formulate a detoxification formula that is effective in supporting the body’s eliminative work, whilst also being uniquely suited for the unique individual.
Selection of Herbs
As described in the basic model, selection criteria should take into account secondary actions as well as system affinity. Always tend towards gentle remedies when stimulating elimination. If overly active plants are used, then the effect may be one of intense elimination. This can be unpleasant and uncomfortable and is of no added therapeutic benefit.
Side note: Deliberately induced Purging & Puking is not a healing crisis, but rather the worst aspects of 19th-century medicine. On the other hand, it’s worth noting that emetics and purgatives (often administered as enemas) are used extensively in traditional African healing systems.
Below are suggestions for herbs that effectively supply the therapeutic actions indicated whilst also being safe and mild.
Alteratives (Blood Cleansers)
Alteratives are herbs that will gradually restore the proper function of the body and increase health and vitality.
Side note: Alteratives was once known as blood cleansers and the term is used in many standard herbal texts. The idea of a blood cleanser, while hinting at much says little at all. If the blood was indeed in need of cleansing then there would be a major medical emergency afoot! However, because the term is so ingrained we still use it ourselves.
- Echinacea: lymph cleanser, improves lymphocyte and phagocyte actions.
- Red clover blossoms: blood cleanser, good during convalescence and healing.
- Dandelion root: liver and blood cleanser, diuretic, filters toxins, a tonic.
- Burdock root: skin and blood cleanser, diuretic and diaphoretic, improves liver function, antibacterial and antifungal properties.
- Yellow dock root: skin, blood, and liver cleanser, contains vitamin C and iron.
- Oregon grape root: skin and colon cleanser, blood purifier, liver stimulant.
- Chaparral: strong blood cleanser, with possibilities for use in cancer therapy.
- Sarsaparilla root: blood and lymph cleanser, contains saponins, which reduce microbes and toxins.
Adaptogens and Tonics
Herbs that enliven or strengthen either specific organs or the whole body. Refer back to The Superior Herbs – Adaptogens and Tonics and the extensive lists given in that unit.
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Pause and Reflect
Take some time to reflect on what you’ve learned in this unit.
- Work through the herb lists. Are there any that you feel an affinity for that is not on your materia medica shortlist? Add them.
- Based on the Basic Formulation Model, create your own master detox formula from the herbs listed in this unit. Use your intuition. DO NOT overthink or over research this. Developing your intuition (a.k.a. gut feel) is just as important as developing your knowledge.
- Share your formula in a comment below.