This is Part 3 of a series on fasting and detox. If you’re hungry for more basics, check out Fasting and Detox: The Good, The Bad and The Excellent, and Fasting and Detox Part 2: Cleansing Diets and My Story.
If you visited a natural foods store right after the first of the year, you were likely confronted with a huge display featuring a dizzying array of products that promised to cleanse and detox your system.
That’s because January is the time when lots of people, fresh from writing their resolutions, are determined that this year they will start eating healthier and lose those extra pounds. Marketers know this and many companies run sales on detox and diet products during the first month of the year. The same thing will happen again with the advent of spring.
There’s nothing wrong with this – except that you, perhaps a newbie to the whole idea of detoxes, can get a wee bit overwhelmed about which is the best formula for you.
As I wrote in Part 1 of this Fasting/Detox series, there’s no easy answer to this question. Every individual body is different and we all need different foods, supplements and lifestyle plans in order to thrive. But I thought I’d offer up a few important considerations to keep in mind if you’re wanting the aid of herbs and supplements for internal cleansing.
Some detox and fasting plans recommend specific supplement regimes and advise against straying from the protocol. For example the Fat Flush plan that I described in Part 2 allows only specific spices and herbs.
I’m a bit of a rule-breaker, so even though I like to follow a fairly strict food regime while cleansing, I had to throw that “no oregano and basil” thing out the window. As I said: different strokes for different folks. And the fat flush still worked just fine, thank you.
Most plans do recommend drinking some cleansing herbal teas. It’s always preferable to brew your herbal teas from whole leaves rather than teabags – but sometimes that’s just not practical.
There are tons of boxed detox teas on the market – and many of them are pretty decent. If you choose to drink the more instant variety of herbal teas, make sure the company uses organic herbs. Yogi Tea makes a nice assortment of detox teas in various flavors. You can find these at most health food stores and even some supermarkets.
If you’ve got the time and inspiration to purchase dried herbs in bulk and make your own blends, I’ve included a couple of recipes to try. As usual I recommend Moonrise Herbs or Mountain Rose if you need to order your herbs. Both companies are committed to quality, freshness and they carry organic herbs.
There are many herbs to choose from when blending a cleansing herbal tea. Roots like dandelion (raw), burdock, licorice, yellow dock and Oregon grape are detoxifying to the liver and blood. Fennel, fenugreek and caraway seeds help with gas, bloating and digestion. Nettles remineralize the body and reduce water retention. Sage eliminates mucus in the stomach and respiratory passages. Peppermint stimulates digestion and soothes the tummy. Red clover flowers are tasty and cleansing.
Try these tea blends to assist your body’s natural detoxification process.
Christopher Hobbs’ Polari-Tea
I’ve enjoyed this tea during many a cleanse. The herbal ingredients work to flush the liver, clear the lymph and aid digestive elimination.
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons flax seeds
1/2 teaspoon burdock root
2 teaspoons fenugreek seed
1/2 teaspoon licorice root
2 teaspoons peppermint
Simmer the first five ingredients in 5 cups of water (covered pot, very low heat) for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, add peppermint and let steep for another 10 minutes. Should make about one quart of tea. Can be drank warm or room temperature. I like to heat it up and drink it warm.
Nutritive Tea For Inner & Outer Beauty
Drink this tasty nutritious tea throughout the day hot or cold. It’s rich in replenishing vitamins and minerals. Mix all herbs together and store in a jar. Use four teaspoons of herb blend per quart of water. Steep for 20-30 minutes.
1/2 cup peppermint
1/2 cup nettles
1/4 cup oatstraw
1/4 cup alfalfa
1/4 cup sage
I started this post talking about the huge and confusing array of different supplements available to the would-be detoxer. There’s no way I could evaluate even a fraction of them on this blog, so I will just tell you about a few that I really like.
Most of my personal favorites work to assist my body in dropping fat while detoxing.
Frankly, the teas listed above go a long way to gently detoxing your system, and you may not need to tax your digestion with supplements.
If you are doing a full fast, you should lay off the vitamins and supplements during the days that you are not consuming any solid food. They are just too tough on your empty stomach and the whole point is to give it a break from digesting. Possible exceptions would be pysllium husks (see below) and or a specific program you are following such as Arise & Shine (see part 2 of this series.)
This is the basis of many over the counter natural laxative drink mixes such as Metamucil. You can purchase psyllium husks in bulk at health foods stores or online – for a fraction of the price of a commercial drink. It has a gentle action and basically works by changing the consistency of your stools, making them softer and easier to pass. (Kind of clinical terminology, but couldn’t think of any other way to say it without saying ‘poop.’)
To use psyllium husks, simply stir a tablespoon into a cup of water or juice and drink quickly. When combined with water psyllium quickly takes on a soft, gelatinous texture. That’s why it works so well inside your colon. However if you stir in the husks, and then leave the cup of water sitting there for five minutes you will have a rather disgusting jello-like mess waiting for you. So, stir and drink immediately.
It’s important to continue to drink plenty of water throughout the day, so that the psyllium can work its magic. If it doesn’t get enough moisture it can just turn into a rock in there – producing the opposite of the desired effect!
Essential Fatty Acids
These can be in the form of fish oil, evening primrose oil, borage seed oil, or a number of others. Any supplement high in Omega-3 fatty acids will work to flush water from your kidneys and raise your metabolism. Many of these supplements also contain omega-6 fatty acids stimulate the thyroid and also work to burn off fat.
I take 1300 mg. of evening primrose oil (contains both omega-3’s and omega-6’s) every day. But I up the dosage when I’m cleansing to stimulate the flushing and fat burning
EFAs have so many more benefits – particularly for women, and new studies show up just about every week. They are an important addition to any supplement regimen.
Kind of a health nut’s secret, this stuff (conjugated linoleic acid) is a more recently discovered fatty acid. It is produced by grazing farm animals from the linoleic acid in the grass they eat. So – not one for vegetarians, sorry!
Studies have reported numerous benefits for various conditions, however far and away the most exciting have been the results about its efficacy in weight control. Some scientists have postulated that it works by reducing the body’s ability to store fat and promotes the use of stored fat for energy. It’s been shown to convert fat to lean muscle tissue.
That all sounded good to me, and since I’m not a veggie I tried it out and have been pleased with the results. Like the evening primrose, I take one (1,000 mg) gelcap a day, and up the dosage to 2-3 when cleansing with the specific goal of dropping some fat.
This is an essential mineral that has been shown to increase muscle mass. Since increased muscle takes the place of fat – and increases metabolism – I like this one while I’m cleansing. It’s also an excellent supplement when you want to pump up your weight lifting program. Chromium has the added benefit of increasing the ‘good’ cholesterol in your body, while decreasing ‘bad’ cholesterol.
New Chapter’s Diet & Energy
This is not a supplement that’s easy on your wallet – I’ll warn you about that right now. But it’s one that I personally love. New Chapter is one of my favorite supplement companies, consistently producing high quality products made only with premium ingredients.
It’s a blend of herbs, vitamins and minerals – including green tea, ginger and chromium – to optimize your energy levels and weight loss potential. While not particularly billed as a ‘detox supplement,’ I found it to be a welcome addition to my cleansing plan. It helps my energy remain steady throughout the day, and I do think encourages my system to shed fat and build muscle.
You can learn more about this formula at the New Chapter web site.
These concentrated plant essences can play a part in your detox plan as well. Try mixing a few drops into pure almond oil or another favorite carrier oil and massaging your body. Or, place 1-5 drops of essential oil in a hot bath along with some epsom salts for a relaxing end to your day.
Some good choices for detoxifying oils include: juniper, angelica, grapefruit, lemon, cypress, rosemary and geranium. Juniper has been reported to quickly reduce water retention. Add just a drop or two to your bath – it is super strong!
Sometimes the simplest and most basic practices can be just as effective, if not more, in therapeutic regimes. Try these two easy detox tips.
Start your day with some fresh lemon juice squeezed into hot water. Lemon is a natural flusher and can break up and dislodge toxins that have accumulated in the body. If you can tolerate it, add a pinch of cayenne to your ‘lemon tea.’ But don’t do this if your stomach is sensitive to hot foods!
Hot lemon water is a great way to start every day – whether you are cleansing or not.
Another well-known technique for eliminating toxins is the ‘dry brush skin massage.’ Some Ayurvedic practitioners recommend the dry brush massage as a daily habit before showering to promote optimum health. It’s also a popular practice in saunas to promote sweating and the elimination of toxins.
You’ll need one of those soft-bristled body brushes, you can find them just about anywhere – from health food stores the the bath department of department stores. I like the type with a long handle because it’s easy to get your whole back. You could also use a loofah on a stick, but the brushes are better.
Before you get into a shower or bath, take your brush and vigorously scrub your entire body. Start with your face and head and work toward the middle of your body. Then do your feet and work your way up . You’ll slough away dead cells and they can be washed away along with the toxins in the hot shower water.
As we’ve been told again and again, the skin is the largest organ of the body. This dry brush massage technique stimulates the lymphatic system allowing it to remove waste through the skin. This goes a long way to assisting your cleansing process.
Your turn: Have I missed something essential? What’s you favorite tea, supplement or simple routine to assist in a detox program?