I’m into day 6 of my spring “healthy eating and detox” cleanse and was inspired by a reader (thanks, Laura from Chicago) to focus on some specific detox nutrients. To be on the safe side, I’m going to stick with food sources and skip talking about specific supplements. We’ll keep it natural, gentle and simple.
I won’t go into too much detail, but the liver is considered the most metabolically active and important organ when it comes to detoxing. It filters blood at a rate of about 1.5 quarts per minute (you read that right). There’s a lot of action going on throughout the body when we detox, but the liver is the workhorse. There are two blood sources to the liver, one that carries newly absorbed nutrients, drugs, microbes, toxins, and other icky things from the gastrointestinal tract. It detoxs alcohol and chemically alters or excretes thyroid hormones and steroid hormones (estrogens and aldosterone). The liver has to “decide” what to do with all these substances, so keeping it in good shape keeps us in good shape. Here are a few simple and effective detox rejuvenators to help us do that.
*Again, check with your health care provider before embarking on a detox cleanse or before taking these products. Just because they are natural doesn’t mean they’re always safe. There may be conditions in which you should not take these products and some should only be taken for a short time. Many herbal products should not be taken during pregnancy — please consult your physician if you are pregnant or nursing.
The following organic herbs are believed to help support the digestive tract, liver, kidneys, blood, and/or lungs to promote healthy detoxification.
Sarsaparilla root gives root-beer it’s root-beery flavor (what would you call that flavor?) and promotes the excretion of fluids and increases energy (Chi) flow.
Milk Thistle (also called wild artichoke) stimulates new cell growth in the liver and helps protect it from toxins. It also protects the gall bladder and kidneys, both of which are involved in detoxing. Milk thistle is also good for adrenal problems, psoriasis and helps boost immune function.
Ginger root is protective to the liver and stimulates circulation. I chop, mince, or zest whole ginger root and put it into all kinds of things, including my tea.
Dandelion root (celiacchick Kelly mentioned this in my first post on cleansing) stimulates bile production. The liver helps break down and eliminate toxins by producing bile, which is stored in the gallbladder. Bile is part digestive secretion and part excretory product. We want healthy bile flow. It’s rather unattractive looking camo-colored goop, but it’s very important.
Red clover helps support liver and kidney function and has anti-inflammatory properties. It also boosts immune function and helps with skin disorders.
Rosemary leaves help detoxify the liver, stimulate circulation and digestion, and provide antioxidant protection.
Fenugreek seeds stimulate and lubricate the intestines and act as a laxative.
Garlic enhances immune function, improves circulation, supports liver and digestion, and helps detoxify the body.
Cilantro will have its own post in a few days.
Burdock root (I saved my favorite for last)
I’m actually not sure why, but I love burdock root and have been using it (whole) for a long time. It’s unattractive and isn’t all that tasty, but I use it on a regular basis. I sauté it in coconut oil and pureé it with stock to add depth and thickness to soups and stews. Because I live gluten-free and never add flour for thickening, I use things like cooked potatoes or burdock root, which provide a healthy alternative.
Burdock root acts as an antioxidant and aids in the elimination of excess fluid and toxins. It helps purify the blood, supports liver and gallbladder function, stimulates digestion, boosts immune function, helps with skin disorders, and may help relieve PMS symptoms. It can also be used as a rinse to promote hair and scalp health. Good stuff all the way around. I prefer getting my nutrients through organic food sources (rather than supplements) as it’s easier to know what you’re getting and control what you’re ingesting.
Burdock root can interfere with iron absorption if taken internally as a supplement, so, “ask your doctor if burdock root is right for you.” (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
*The above photo shows a piece of brown burdock root (carrot sized) alongside coin shaped pieces I cut from the root. These are ingredients I used to make burdock root soup a few days ago. This is one of the mainstays of my detoxing routine. I don’t really have a recipe as it’s something that comes out different every time I make it (depending on what I have on hand). If any of you are more interested in that, I’ll make some, pay attention to what I do, and create a real recipe.
There are numerous herbal adaptogens, but I’ll stick with this short list of the ones I feel may help with this type of cleansing. Most of these come in organic herbal tea form, so they’re easy to find at your local “natural” market.
Go forth and do some spring cleaning!