Detoxification is the process of removing toxic substances from the body. This is something your body is generally very good at doing, all by itself. (Otherwise, none of us would be around to read this article) However, there are many factors which can slow down the detoxification pathways of the body. Some of these factors are genetic, some are environmental exposures and even lifestyle choices, like diet, exercise, stress and sleep patterns can have a negative effect.
The first step in supporting detoxification should always be removing as much toxic exposure as possible. Think about it like a bathtub filled with water. If you add toxins to the water (like chemical pesticides, heavy metals, plastics) it might get harder and harder for the whole thing to go down the drain. Before you work on opening up the drain wider, you might want to stop pouring the toxins into the tub. There are many ways to limit exposure to toxins (many articles have been written on this) but a few tips include: stop smoking, eat organic foods, drink plenty of filtered water and avoid environmental exposures whenever possible. Also, get enough sleep, get some exercise and work to reduce your stress load (pretty much all of the things your mother has probably told you to do). Healthier bodies do better at managing toxin load.
There are many therapies designed to assist in toxin removal (cleanses, colon hydrotherapy or chelation to name a few). I will not be discussing those here. I would like to look at some members of the plant kingdom that have blessed us with their medicinal abilities to support our process of detoxification. These plants help to support the organs in your body that play the strongest role in detoxification: your liver, your skin, your lungs, your digestive system and your kidneys. Because plants work hard to protect themselves from the toxins in their environments, they have created chemical compounds that help us to do the same. Thank you plants! I will be introducing a few herbs that are great for detoxification.
I would like to introduce: Dandelion, Artichoke, Burdock and Milk thistle.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) (Yes, those “weeds” on your front lawn have incredible medicinal actions!)
Part used: roots and young leaves
What it supports: Liver (major support), kidney, digestive system and gall bladder
Medicinal uses: Used for healing the liver and kidneys, reduces liver and gall bladder inflammation, potassium sparing diuretic (lowers blood pressure) and stimulates digestion
Artichoke (Cynara scolymus)
Part used: leaf
What it supports: Liver, kidney, digestive system and gall bladder
Medicinal uses: Used to treat heartburn, lower cholesterol, protect and heal the liver, relieve constipation and indigestion, reduce gallstone formation and as a mild diuretic
Burdock (Cynara scolymus)
Part used: leaf
What it supports: Liver, digestive system, immune system, skin, and gall bladder
Medicinal uses: Used to heal the liver, increase cellular metabolism, stimulates digestion, purifies the blood, restores suppleness to the skin, diuretic, anti-inflammatory and stimulates the immune system to fight viruses
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)
Part used: fruit
What it supports: Liver and cardiovascular system
Medicinal uses: Used to protect and heal the liver and works as a major antioxidant to stop the damage from toxins
Although some of these plants can be consumed safely as foods, please talk to your local Naturopathic doctor or herb-trained professional before starting use of these herbs as they can have very strong effects and may interact with various medications and medical conditions.
I hope you have enjoyed this brief tour through herbs for detoxification. Ask your Naturopathic doctor if these might be right for you!