Cleanse, cleanse, cleanse—it's everywhere you look during the month of January. But guess what—you don't have to live on juice alone or just fruits and vegetables to detox; a cleanse can take many forms. Simply cutting out wheat and sugar, both associated with inflammation, can constitute a cleanse. For some, simply ditching alcohol can be a cleanse. There are also a variety of botanicals that can aid the body in detoxification; for example, the herb milk thistle can help your body's detox organ, the liver, function better.
Whether you're juice fasting, lightening the sugar or fat load, or not making any dietary changes, there are herbs that can assist your body to work better and feel better. We spoke with Laurie Steelsmith, ND, author of Great Sex, Naturally (Hay House, 2012) for the lowdown.
"If you think about all the chemicals you are inadvertently exposed to each day, it can get overwhelming. The good news is that it is easy to give your body a break: first, minimize exposure; and second, give it a boost and clean it out with herbs, supplements and other means that you can incorporate into your daily life," Steelsmith says.
If you want to help your body cleanse, then she suggests paying special attention to your liver, lung, skin, kidney and intestinal health. Here she offers some tips on how:
- Use turmeric in your diet to enhance liver health—the active component in turmeric is curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory. It protects the liver from toxins as well, and can break down cancer-causing agents in the liver. Curcumin also helps the liver to make bile'the liver's way of removing sludge and toxins from the body. You can take curcumin as a supplement. Steelsmith gives her patients 500 mg three times a day during a cleanse.
- To enhance kidney function, not only drink a lot of water (at least half your body weight in ounces), but drink plenty of ginger tea to improve overall circulation and build the energy, or qi, of your kidneys.
- Milk thistle is great for detoxification because in addition to enhancing your liver's ability to break down toxins, it also helps protect your liver from toxins in the process. Steelsmith recommends that patients take a milk thistle supplement of 400 mg a day, standardized to contain 70-80 percent silymarin.
- To improve elimination through the skin, do skin brushing or loofah scrubbing before or in the shower. Be sure to always brush toward your heart because this will move your lymph back to where it needs to go to enhance detoxification. Topically you can apply 3 drops of essential oil of cedar wood, diluted in 1 tbsp of jojoba oil, after your scrubbing. This will help move fluids through your body and in turn will also support your kidneys' ability to eliminate toxins. Note that on an emotional level, cedar wood is associated with strengthening will power.
- To increase elimination through your intestines, take in a lot of fiber. Add chia seeds to your smoothie, or just mix 2 tbsp in 8 ounces of water and drink twice a day. This will act as a broom and whisk toxins out through your colon.