7 proven and effective ways to detox - McDowell's Herbal Treatments

Why detox? Because our bodies are exposed to harmful chemicals everyday in modern life; car exhausts, off-gassing from VOC (volatile organic compounds), flame retardants found in fabrics and materials, plastic packaging, heavy metals, BPA exposure, not to mention the chemicals in the food and water we consume everyday.

woman in field

The idea of detoxification, in my opinion, is the most confusing. This is because the word 'detox' is applied very loosely and can mean different things to different people. Small doses of 'toxins' may be somewhat beneficial due to hormesis however certain toxins can be harder to eliminate - BPA, chemicals from plastics, several mould toxins, heavy metals like nickel, lead, cadmium, mercury and aluminium as well as some pharmaceuticals. These are often stored in fat cells so one effective way to detox is lipolysis. I feel that you can break down the idea of detoxification into several areas:

1. Fasting
Fasting is fast becoming a very popular method of detoxification for many reasons.
Keeping up fluids is important and herbal teas like chamomile, rosehips, ginger and peppermint are ideal (although some practice what is called a 'dry fast' where nothing is consumed). Prolonged fasting (more than 2-3 days) needs to be supervised appropriately and is not recommended in many situations. Periodically fasting when healthy has numerous benefits, as studies are now showing. Being in ketosis (through fasting) is an effective way to induce lipolysis by breaking down fast stores in to free fatty acids, which then convert to ketones. 

2. Saunas and infrared 
Sweating can get rid of both heavy metals, phylates and xenobiotics. Both traditional and infrared saunas induce sweating that helps remove lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury. Remember that sweating pulls electrolytes and trace minerals from your body, along with water, so ensure you have plenty of high quality salts and clean water. 

3. Clean Foods
In this day and age of fast foods, eating unprocessed food is now considered detoxing! By simply to whole foods and eliminating foods known to cause inflammation - foods like wheat, sugar, coffee and alcohol. I promote this kind of diet as a standard way to eat, incorporating the idea of 80-90% is this kind of diet, and 10 - 20% can be “cheats” so long as you’re generally healthy. You can’t 'cheat' if you’re trying to achieve a healthy outcome in a specific period of time, or if you’re chronically ill.

4. Exercise
Exercise has many benefits with sweating and the breaking down fat cells releasing toxins in to the body. This can he assisted by supporting the organs with herbs (see below).

5. Colon Cleansing
Colon Cleansing is very useful for people who are prone to constipation and inflammation such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Toning up the colon with a cathartic cleansing program (I like to use senna and cascara) can have wonderful benefits . Clearing out stagnant waste improves the overall bowel ecology, settles excessive mucus and helps to promote cleaner nutritional uptake by helping to repair the “leaky gut” syndrome. It’s useful to consider the whole gastro-intestinal tract as you would your external skin. Even though the system is well moistened, the skin and mucosal lining suffer from irritation, parasitic damage and atrophy. Herbs like wormwood help to make the lining very unattractive to parasites, and the lovely slippery elm powder will add a pre biotic benefit as well as protect an irritated GIT from ulceration.

6. Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal is an important part of the detox process. It remains to this day one world’s oldest and trusted detoxifying remedy - still used in hospitals as an antidote for drugs and poisons. Current research not only backs up these ancient claims but also i sshowing new and beneficial ways of using it. Ensure you find a high quality source. 

NB: Never take activated charcoal with prescription medications. Excessive charcoal consumption, especially without magnesium, can result in constipation. Different people respond to activated charcoal differently - to avoid potential undesirable effects use only as suggested.

7. Blood Cleansing
This is where we start to become a little medieval. The term 'blood cleanser' is certainly one of those terms that seems like a medieval myth, and gives rise to the idea of the “quackery” . I find that the system itself explains beautifully the idea behind blood cleansing. It simply means that certain herbs (classed as alteratives) nourish the metabolic process to increase elimination and stimulate the immune functions of cleaning up viral debris, bacterial debris and of our own cells that are dying off all the time. Its not known really how these herbs work, but it can be assumed that the nutrition the herbs provide are essential for these functions. What we do know is that blood cleansing herbs contain high levels of iron and sulphur and seem to help the immune system clean itself . Consider herbs like echinacea, garlic , horsetail , red clover and burdock as some of the more popular alternatives.

Organ Support
When an herbalist discusses ideas of stimulating elimination, it’s essential that the organs that are responsible for this task are well supported. Good kidney and liver function are obvious choices to support well with herbs.. But less obvious is how well we breathe and make use of the oxygen in our blood and the elimination of carbon dioxide. The process of energy release and the subsequent metabolic waste are areas often overlooked when considering elimination. Through iridology and appropriate questioning you can see find weakness and therefore provide the most relevant support. St Mary’s thistle, dandelion and fennel are commonly prescribed for liver and pancreatic support, whilst elecampane, nettle, rue and hawthorn may be prescribed for lung strength and heart health with the aim of improving overall metabolic waste elimination.

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McDowell's staff Herbalists can not diagnose your disease or illness. What they can do is offer a herbal program to assist with healing, after you have had advice from your doctor or specialist. If you have unexplained pain or symptoms, seek medical advice.

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