Mother Earth Living

Smart Cleansing: Herbal Body Cleansing Regimes

Flush away toxins for peak health Kathleen Halloran
By Kathleen Halloran
March/April 2000


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Spring is a time of renewal. The world is young again, and the lightness of spirit that we experience each year as the weather warms is often accompanied by a desire to shed the effects of the winter indoors. We want to start fresh and clean, lighter in both body and spirit, healthy and ready for the promise of the season. An herbal body cleansing regime can help get us there.

Cleansing can target lurking toxins that are the effects of exposure to industrial pollution, pesticides, heavy metals, poor eating habits, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, and other facets of modern living that tax our bodies. A purification routine that includes fasting and detoxifying, herbal teas, and herbal and nutritional support can help boost the body’s cleansing organs, make us feel better physically and spiritually, and get us on track toward healthier living. The process is a great motivator because it brings us closer to what we’re feeling, how we’re living, and the connection between the two.

“It’s great to see how my body responds when I give it a break for a few days,” said Roberta

Madsen, a thirty-four-year-old bookkeeper in Arvada, Colorado. When we spoke, Roberta was perusing the aisles of a health-food market for herbal products to accompany a five-day juice fast she was planning. “I’m not a health nut, but I’ve done a few different kinds of fasts and cleansing routines over the last few years, and I’ve always had good experiences. I especially like to do a modified fast if I’ve been indulging in bad habits and not eating right. When I’m done, I feel like I’m starting over, sort of pure and clean and empty. I always feel great after a fast.”

A cleanse need not be arduous or unpleasant. Many available herbal products are easy to use and helpful in detoxification, yet the vast selection of products carrying the terms “cleansing” and “detoxification” can be bewildering. Understanding the purpose of cleansing and how the herbal ingredients can help will make it easier to select a product. You should also know what types of cleansing programs are safe to try and when to seek medical advice or the supervision of a health-care expert.

Judith Schroeder, another thirty-something would-be faster whom we encountered on the detoxification aisle of a natural-foods market in Colorado, was shaking her head in frustration as she looked at the array of commercial cleansing products. She had been encouraged to try a cleanse by enthusiastic friends but felt very unsure of herself as she read the unfamiliar ingredients on the labels.

“How do you know what to use? There are so many,” she said before walking away empty-handed.

Selecting wisely

There are many types of fasts, from the water-only fasts—not recommended for any but the most experienced faster—to short fasts, three to seven days, that consist of fruits, vegetables, and juices—all easily and quickly digested compared to proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. ­Apples and citrus fruits contain lots of pectin, which is a good intestinal cleanser because it binds with toxins and carries them off before they can be reabsorbed by the body.

Most prepackaged cleansing products include some form of toxin binder. Two substances that are excellent for this purpose are psyllium seed and bentonite clay. Psyllium seed is a high-fiber herb and a laxative, so it’s a good bowel cleanser, as is bentonite clay. If you’re not using a packaged product, choose a toxin binder or a combination of psyllium seed, bentonite clay, and fruit pectin (also available in powder form), and take it daily with lots of water.

A modified fast can be a very pleasant experience, although sometimes one may experience some unpleasant symptoms such as light-headedness, mild headache, fatigue, or dizziness. The end result, however, is generally one of increased energy and vitality and a great sense of satisfaction. You may lose weight during a fast, which most people consider a bonus benefit, and you can use a fast to help recover from unhealthy habits such as alcohol or tobacco use.

9 Tips for Choosing a Fast


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