Herbs For Health Series- Part 5 | How To Cleanse & Detoxify Your Body Naturally
This is Part 5 of the Herbs for Health Series. Don’t miss out on Part 4: Herbs To Boost Your Immune System.
The material in this post is for informational/educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Please see a qualified health professional for specific health concerns. Herbal remedies are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.
Have you ever thought about how many toxins enter into your body every day? Or how many are present in your home unseen?
With all the new findings about how many different kinds of toxins are present in our environment, food, personal products, and everywhere else, I’ve started to wonder how we are all still alive.
Thankfully, our bodies are set up with natural cleansing processes. The digestive system, the liver, the kidneys- these are a few of the systems involved in keeping our bodies cleansed of toxins.
Unfortunately, our body systems don’t always work the way they are supposed to. Maybe we haven’t eaten the best food in the past or have experienced a toxin overload due to a bad environment.
Whatever the reason, using herbs is one of the best and most powerful ways of naturally helping your body cleanse and detoxify.
If you want to know which herbs are best for cleansing, think bitter. Herbs and plants with bitter compounds often detoxify the body best.
Adding more bitter foods into your diet can help your body’s cleansing systems function better overall. And here’s a look at four specific cleansing herbs you can try: dandelion, burdock, milk thistle, and triphala.
Dandelion: An Underappreciated Cleanser
For many who love green lawns, the war against dandelions is a serious business. But it’s a war I’m pretty sure the dandelions are going to win. And the tenacious dandelion spirit makes it one of the best herbs to help detoxify your body.
This herb (sometimes called a weed) is often used to help detoxify the liver. Dandelion root has a cleansing, stimulating and ‘decongesting’ effect on the liver. The bitter compounds in dandelion also help the digestive system get ready for food and function optimally.
This makes dandelion a powerful detoxifying herb because the digestive system and the liver are major parts of our bodies’ natural cleansing ability.
Ways to use dandelion:
- The entire dandelion plant can be used (root, leaves, and flowers), but I most often see the roots called for in herbal recipes for cleansing. A simple way to use the root is to make a tea. Put about 1 tablespoon dried dandelion root (or 2 tablespoons fresh) in for each cup of water. Simmer about 1/2 hour and enjoy. You can also add other herbs if dandelion isn’t your favorite flavor. Roasting dandelion and chicory root in the oven before making a tea will give you a coffee-like beverage.
- Dandelion root is also used in tinctures for liver cleansing. You can buy a liver tincture mix and make your own or look for a pre-made tincture. Tinctures are much stronger than teas. If you use one made with alcohol, it will have a greater effect on the liver.
- As a digestive aid, dandelion is often used to make digestive bitters (like these from Urban Moonshine). Bitters are typically taken before a meal to help the body digest food better.
- The list with dandelion goes on. You can eat the leaves fresh in a salad or chop the root and add it to your cooking. The flowers can be used to make syrup and wine. (Harvest the greens early in the season for a fresher and less bitter taste.)
Final notes: Dandelion has a milky latex in its flowers and stems which some people are allergic to. If you notice any allergic reactions, discontinue use. Also, when using fresh dandelions, please make sure you are using ones that have not been sprayed with weed-killer or other pesticides! That stuff is definitely not good for you.
Burdock: Blood-Purifying and Cleansing
Rosemary Gladstar calls burdock one of the safest and most effective detoxifying and cleansing herbs. Another of the herbs that is considered a weed by many farmers and gardeners, burdock has a powerful ability to detoxify your body.
Burdock root can help to neutralize toxins in the body, move toxins out of the body, purify the blood, support the liver, and de-congest the lymphatic system. It’s also used both internally and externally for skin problems, especially acne. (1)
That’s one powerful ‘weed’!
Ways to use burdock:
- The root of burdock is the most commonly used part, and it can be used fresh or dried. Like dandelion, burdock root can be used to make a tea. (You can get dried burdock root here or try out this herbal detox tea blend with burdock.) It can also be combined with other herbs- dandelion, cinnamon, ginger, etc.- in a tea mixture. To get the full cleansing effects of burdock, you’ll want to drink 2-3 cups of tea a day for at least two weeks.
- To get stronger cleansing action, use burdock to make a tincture or buy a tincture with burdock in it. (Tinctures need to sit for 4-6 weeks so if you want to use burdock tincture right away, look for a pre-made one.) A tincture made with equal parts of burdock and dandelion will provide a powerful cleansing benefit.
Final notes: Burdock is a very safe herb to use. It is a powerful cleanser, so start with small amounts and work your way up- or combine with other herbs.
Milk Thistle: Liver Protector and Cleanser
Milk thistle gets part of its name from the white liquid that comes out when the leaves are crushed. It gets the other part of its name from the sharp, pointy spines that cover the plant.
On the bright side, milk thistle is one of the best herbs for cleansing and protecting the liver (and the gallbladder). It has a compound called silymarin that’s been shown in some studies to help treat and even reverse liver damage. (2)
Silymarin also acts as an antioxidant by fighting free radical damage and working to slow the aging process. Milk thistle not only helps to draw toxins out of the body, it also helps protect the liver from damage. (3)
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Ways to use milk thistle:
- Milk thistle is available as a supplement in several different forms, including tablets, capsules, tinctures, powder form, and liquid extract. Look for a high quality product that contains pure milk thistle and not too many fillers.
- The seeds (and sometimes leaves) of milk thistle can also be used to make a tea. Try this cleansing and tasty milk thistle tea blend from Republic of Tea. Of course, if you find milk thistle growing in your backyard, you can use the seeds and leaves to make your own tea. Just be sure that nothing has been sprayed on the plant.
Final notes: Milk thistle is very safe and does not usually have any bad side effects. However, it may interfere with certain medications such as blood thinners and allergy medicine. Talk to your doctor before taking milk thistle if you are using prescription medications.
Triphala: Cleanses and Supports the Digestive System
Technically, triphala is actually three herbs. Used often in Ayurvedic medicine, triphala is a blend of three dried fruits: amalaki, bibhitaki, and haritaki.
The herbs I’ve talked about so far support the whole body but are especially helpful for detoxifying the liver. Triphala, on the other hand, is one of the herbs that helps detoxify your body by cleansing the digestive system.
Triphala works to cleanse the colon and helps to strengthen the intestinal muscles, which is important for regular bowel movements. It also has very gentle laxative properties but is safe to use daily. It leaves tissues cleansed, nourished, toned, and rejuvenated. (4)
Ways to use triphala:
- Triphala is typically used in powder form. As a daily digestive cleanser, mix 1/2 tsp. of triphala with 1 cup hot water and drink about an hour before bed. Try to take on an empty stomach.
- To say that triphala has a strong taste would be putting it mildly. I tried everything I could to make my triphala tea taste good, but I ended up putting the powder in capsules and taking it that way.
- Triphala is also available in pre-made capsules, tablets, and liquid extract. Banyan Botanicals is a quality source for triphala powder, tablets, and liquid extract.
Final notes: Triphala is safe but can cause digestive upset. Sometimes this is a part of the cleansing process and symptoms will go away. You can reduce the amount of triphala you are taking and slowly build back up. If symptoms continue or are severe, discontinue use. Not recommended for pregnant or nursing women.
Get Rid of Those Toxins
Sometimes our bodies need a little help with their natural cleansing processes. Eating a healthy diet, exercising, and other healthy habits are also important to keep the toxins moving out of our systems.
Here’s a quick recap of how these 4 herbs can really help your body to detoxify and cleanse:
- Dandelion is a great all-around herb that is often used to cleanse the liver and support the digestive system.
- Burdock is another powerful cleanser that can neutralize and move out toxins in the body, support the liver, and purify the blood.
- Milk thistle is one of the best liver protectors and cleansers and can even reverse symptoms of liver disease.
- Triphala is a revered herbal blend in Ayurvedic medicine that works to detoxify and cleanse the colon and support the whole digestive system.
Most of us could use some cleansing and detoxifying herbs in our daily routine. Dandelion is a great all-around cleanser to start with. Try it! You might just find yourself planting some in your backyard.
(Did you miss the rest of this series? Catch up on the four previous posts, starting with Part 1: The Basics of Using Herbs to Benefit Your Health.)
Sources: Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide by Rosemary Gladstar. Storey Publishing. Copyright 2012.
**This series about herbs for health is intended to be helpful and informational. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Please consult a doctor before using herbs if you have a medical condition or are pregnant. And always listen to your body!