Cleanses and detox are controversial subjects these days. There are those who swear by them and those trying to get everyone off them. The former believing our bodies need detoxing and the latter insisting they already naturally do. So who’s right? I believe both are right to a certain extent. Our bodies are naturally designed to cleanse and detox themselves but also benefit from a cleanse.
While studying herbalism I came across a balanced way to do a cleanse. It consists of drinking tea or the juice of a medicinal herb while drinking a lot of water and maintaining an antioxidant rich diet that is easy to digest. A cleanse like this last between 9 days and 3 months. No fasting necessary. No juice-only detox. No non-sense diet. Just pick an organ or system, decide which plant to use to cleanse it, and then just do it. I thought this way a great idea. After all, why should I deprive my body of energy? And of nutrient dense and antioxidant food when this very food helps my body to cleanse and detox itself?
Since this kind of cleanse is so gentle, you can even pick an organ or system per month! But gentle doesn’t mean ineffective. On the contrary! Often in herbalism less is more. It might seem pointless to drink herbal tea or juice for 3 weeks but I know you that if you do it correctly, you’ll see results.
Things to remember when doing a cleanse
- Drink a lot of water. I cannot emphasize how important this is. Our bodies need water to flush out metabolic waste. So drink, drink, drink.
- Eat healthy, easy to digest, nutrient dense, antioxidant rich food.
- Avoid meat (absolutely no pork). Meat is difficult to digest and you’re aiming for a diet that is easy on your body.
- Avoid artificial sugar. Not only sugar, avoid artificial everything.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Don’t eat any processed food. Better yet if quit it once and for all.
- It’s gotta be simple and easy. Let’s be realistic: organ cleanses must be simple and easy to carry out or you’re not gonna do it or stick with it. Whether you decide for a tea or juice cleanse, make sure it fits your schedule and lifestyle. If you can’t make it yourself, consider buying the herb juice or dried herb for tea.
Season by season, organ by organ cleanses
Liver and gallbladder
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) protects liver cells and prevent liver injuries caused by various chemicals or toxins.
Silymarin, a flavonoid compound found in milk thistle and its active constituent, silybin, work as antioxidants, scavenging free radicals and inhibiting lipid peroxidation. Imagine it working as a castle drawbridge would. It closes the way into the liver cells making enemy (free radicals) attack much more difficult. Liver and gallbladder cleanses help the liver filter out build-up metabolic waste. Your liver will work more efficiently and you might even lose a bit of weight.
Daily dose: 12-15 g fruit, whole or ground. Take it for 3-6 months sprinkled on salads, muesli, smoothies, etc.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) may reduce gallbladder inflammation and relieve liver congestion. It has curcumin which is a powerful antioxidant. A Turmeric cleanse reduces generalized inflammation, promotes healthy pancreas, liver and gallbladder.
Daily dose: 2 g powdered root mixed in some water.
Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) is a strong antioxidant that supports metabolism, gallbladder and intestinal functions. It kills microbes without harming the intestinal flora. A wild garlic cleanse rinses the intestines of unwanted germs and waste. This helps the intestines absorb nutrients more efficiently.
Daily dose: about 15 leaves
Blond plantain (Plantago ovata) has psyllium which is a rich source of natural antioxidants and essential and sulfur-rich amino acids. It has saponin, which is a natural plant ROS (reactive oxygen species) scavenger. Excess of ROS causes oxidative stress which damages cells. A cleanse with blond plantain assists the body in flushing out extra ROS from the body.
Daily dose: 12-40 g (1 tablespoon = 5 g) seeds sprinkled on salads, yogurt, muesli, soup, etc. Drink a lot of water with it and throughout the day.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) heals stomach ailments including peptic ulcers. It inhibits adhesion of Helicobacter pylori to human gastric mucosa. A licorice cleanse strengthens the lining of the stomach.
Daily dose: 5-15 g root.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a powerful antioxidant used to treat a myriad of ailments including stomach related problems. You can use it to treat constipation, indigestion, belching, bloating, gastritis, stomach pain, stomach ulcers, indigestion, nausea and vomiting. A ginger cleanse strengthens the lining of the stomach and will warm your whole body.
Daily dose: 2-4 g ginger root
European Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea) prevents the formation of kidney stones and help remove urinary gravel. It is an anti-inflammatory herb that also destroys germs (antimicrobial), promotes urination (diuretic) and reduces pain. A great choice for a kidney and bladder cleanse. Make sure you drink a lot of water to flush out all the toxins.
Daily dose: 6-12 g flowers with their stems. Drink a lot of water throughout the day.
Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) is a great plant to prevent and treat urinary tract infections. If you want to treat a UTI, don’t rely only on cranberry. Alone, it can’t really flush out the kidneys. Add European Goldenrod, Stinging Nettle, Dandelion or Birch tea to your Cranberry treatment. Rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, cranberry is a wonderful cleanse to rinse the bladder, kidneys and urinary ducts.
Daily dose: 50 g berries or 100 ml cranberry juice.
Field pansy (Viola arvensis) is an anti cancer herb that works wonders for the skin. It has saponin which cleanses the body and mucilage which protects the skin and mucosa. It may treat metabolic skin conditions. Field pansy cleanses flush out toxins and hydrate your skin from the inside.
Daily dose: 4-5 g flower in salads
Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) produces vitamin bomb berries. A red golden oil is extracted from the berries and used to treat skin conditions like neurodermatitis, psoriasis, wounds, bed wounds, skin ulcers and allergies, burns, sunburn, frostbite and skin pigment disorder. The oil is antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and rich in vitamins A (Beta-Carotin), B1, B2, B6, B9, B12, K and E. A sea buckhorn cleanse is done directly on the skin. Be careful! Dilute the juice or it will stain your skin bright orange.
Daily dose: 1-3 ml fruit oil.
Musculoskeletal system (skeleton, muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints, and other connective tissue)
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a nutrient dense herb. It has many minerals, especially silicic acid, that support bone health. It regulates the metabolism and reduces inflammation. It flushes out metabolic waste and toxins from the joints making it an outstanding prevention and treatment for arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and other joint related complaints. Nettle cleanses rinse and flush out toxins from the joints and muscles. It is imperative that you drink a lot of water while doing a nettle cleanse.
Daily dose: 8-12 g dried tips (leaves and young stems).
Common Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is the best herb for the locomotor system. It adds stability to bones and elasticity to connective tissue. It contains a lot of silicic acid which is necessary for healthy bones and cartilage. It regulates the metabolism of calcium locking it in the bones and promoting firmness and regeneration of bone tissue. It stimulates collagen production which promotes cartilage health. It strengthens connective tissue, tendons, ligaments and joints. A common horsetail cleanse helps keep osteoporosis and arthritis at bay.
Daily dose: 6 g herb to use internally. 10 g herb in 1 liter water to use externally.
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) protects the immune system. It tastes pungent because it contains glucosinolate which is strong antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal. It is a natural antibiotic without side effects. It is rich in vitamin C (285mg per 100g fresh leaves compared to lemon 50 mg per 100 g fruit), vitamin B, flavonoids, carotinoide, sulphur, iron, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. Vitamin C is very important for immune function since it promotes the production of antibodies and the destruction of germs. A nasturtium cleanse strengthens the immune system. It should not be done for too long and not at high doses because the mustard oil (byproduct of glucosinolate breakdown) can irritate the stomach and the kidneys.
Daily dose: 10 g herb (flowers and leaves) added to food, especially salads.
Sweet-clover (Melilotus officinalis) promotes lymph flow, strengthens the vessel walls of capillaries, decreases blood vessel wall permeability and improves venous return (rate of blood flow back to the heart). This way less blood and water accumulates in the legs (lower risk edema). It is used, therefore, to treat varicose veins, venous and lymph insufficiency, hardened lymph nodes and breast swelling. No treatment or cleanse will work without increased physical activity.
Daily dose: 4-6 g dries herb.
Narrowleaf Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) strengthens the lungs, reduces inflammation, relieves a cough, strengthens lung tissue. It is astringent (shrinks body tissue) and antibacterial. It contains silicic acid, mucilage, flavonoid, tannin, vitamin C and minerals. It is an ideal herb to use on children. Narrowleaf plantain cleanses protect the body from colds and strengthens the immune system.
Daily dose: 3-6 g dried leaves.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is the ideal herb to treat bronchitis, asthma, colds and pertussis (whooping cough). It contains flavonoids which act as a free-radical scavenger (antioxidant) and saponin which looses bronchial secretions and thins mucus. Thyme essential oils, carvacol and thymol, relax the bronchi and destroy bacteria, viruses and fungi. A thyme cleanse prevents fall and winter colds.
Daily dose: 4-6 g dried herb (flowers and leaves) as tea.
Nervous system and the mind
Saint John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) can be used internally and externally. When used internally, it improves your mood and reduces anxiety. When used externally, it eases lower back pain (lumbago), relieves muscle tension and soothes burns. A cleanse prevents winter depression (seasonal affective disorder).
Daily dose: 2-4 g herb (flower, stems and buds).
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) lowers stress, strengthens the nerves and combats depression. It is a strong antioxidant which protects cells from damaging free-radicals. It improves concentration, long-term memory and energy metabolism in the cells. It increases mental and physical resilience. It calms the mind without causing tiredness and combats fatigue without over-stimulation. It protects the immune system, lowers the stress hormone cortisol and increases stress resilience. A rhodiola cleanse helps us endure stressful situations you must go through such as illness or death in the family, divorce, etc.
Daily dose: 5 g root.
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna and Crataegus laevigata) is the absolute best herb to support the heart. And since it causes no side effect, it can be used for a long time. Hawthorn strengthens the heart muscle and valves, improves heart rhythm, regulates blood pressure and improves coronary function (blood supply to the heart muscle itself). It prevents the weakening of the heart muscle following a bad bout of influenza. A hawthorn cleanse strengthens the heart muscle, and the coronary and circulatory systems preventing heart diseases.
Daily dose: 5 g leaves with flowers or 4 tablespoons fresh fruits or 3 tablespoons dries fruits. Take it for at least 6 weeks.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a typical winter cleanse. It stimulates the blood circulation, enhances concentration and strengthens the memory. It warms the hands and feet, increases the supply of blood to the heart itself (coronary function) and acts as a tonic in stressful times. It helps you recover more quickly from a flu. A rosemary cleanse improves the cardiovascular system and improves cognitive performance.
Daily dose: 4-6 g dried leaves or 8-12 g fresh leaves to use internally. 50 g leaves to use externally.
Veins and arteries
Garlic (Allium sativum) is rich in antioxidants which scavenge cell damaging free radicals. It supports vein health, lowers blood pressure and prevents cardiovascular diseases and arteriosclerosis. It is antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal. The whole body profits from a garlic cleanse.
Daily dose: 3-4 g fresh garlic cloves (1-2 small cloves) or 900-1200 mg dried garlic powder.
Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) is rich in flavonoids which are strong antioxidants that protect the body from free radicals. A buckwheat cleanse prevents arteriosclerosis, improves elasticity and blood circulation in the capillaries, and makes the body less susceptible to inflammation.
Daily dose: 5-6 g herb (flowers and leaves).
Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris) is the most important herb to treat ailments in the female reproductive system. It is an anti-inflammatory, astringent, antiseptic and pain-killer. It strengthens the uterus, soothes menstrual cramps, prevents breast inflammation and balances the hormones.
Daily dose: 5-10 g dried herb (dried flowers with leaves).
Pumpkin seeds (Cucurbita pepo) prevents prostate enlargement, strengthens the bladder in both men and women, stimulates urination (diuretic) and prevents constipation.
Daily dose: 10 g pumpkin seeds as therapy, 3-5 g as prevention. Can be taken for several months.
Enjoy and rip the benefits of these cleanses. I sure do!