What is Detoxification?

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What exactly is a toxin?

A toxin is any substance that causes a negative effect on our cells ability to survive and function properly.

Toxins that originate from outside the body are called exogenous toxins. Common examples include the array of chemicals now used in food processing and agriculture, solvents in cleaning materials, many pharmaceutical drugs and contamination of the environment with numerous toxins including heavy metals such as lead, aluminium, mercury and cadmium. We live in a heavily polluted world, mostly we can’t see it, but it’s there.

Toxins that we produce inside our own bodies are called endogenous toxins. These come from our own metabolic processes and include carbon dioxide, lactic acid, urea, oxidative stress, lipid peroxidation, poorly digested proteins and an array of harmful substances that can be absorbed from having a less than healthy internal micro-flora.


How do we know detoxification is necessary?

There are common physical signs that the body needs help with removing a build-up of toxins, such as bad skin, dark rings under the eyes and an off-colour, heavy or greasy coating on the surface of the tongue.

Often, the body will be telling us, in the form of certain symptoms, that it is labouring under a too-heavy burden of waste products. The systems most commonly affected by excess toxicity are the nervous system and the immune system.

The nervous system, including the brain, is especially sensitive to toxicity and can manifest such signs as fatigue, headaches, poor concentration, brain-fog, poor vision and disturbed nerve functioning in the digestion leading to things like reflux or IBS. Behavioural changes, such as irritability and depression are also common, many people report a marked improvement in their mood once they have successfully gone through a process of detoxification.

The immune system is always affected by excess toxicity. We have many billions of powerful, specialised immune cells, called macrophages, throughout our bodies, that are made to ingest and dissolve toxins every bit as much as they will do the same thing to unwanted microbes. When the immune system is struggling with toxicity, it is common to see such signs as increased intolerances to foods and other substances, recurrent infections, autoimmune disorders, inflammatory joint disorders and chronic skin problems.


What is the best way to detoxify your system?

When needed, the best way to detoxify your system is with the use of certain herbal medicines that have been prized for their ability to work in this area for millennia, some of the best: include:

Burdock Root

Burdock is ideal for deeply cleansing the blood via the liver and kidneys. It is a particularly important herb for people with chronic skin problems related to toxicity, more about it here

Dandelion Root

Dandelion root is one of the most certain and gentle of all the cleansing herbs, it “rinses the renal filter and squeezes the hepatic sponge”; more here


Celandine is perhaps the strongest of all the liver cleansing herbs, it can have phenomenal effects, but its extract must be made from fresh herb and/or non-stale dried herb in order for it to convey its true potency and it must be taken with care, more here


Barberry may be the 2nd strongest liver cleansing herb after Celandine, it will certainly activate a marked increase in liver function and it also must be taken with care, more here

Juniper berry

Juniper is perhaps the strongest of the kidney cleansing herbs. You must diligently keep up your fluid-intake whilst using it, whereupon it will be a great ally in helping flush out excess wastes, more here

Yellow Dock

Yellow Dock is a potent liver herb in its own right and can be especially helpful when we need to also gently activate the bowel as part of the cleansing process, more here

Poke Root

Poke root is one of the most potent, whole-body cleansing herbs on Earth and must be used with great care and respect and only when the treatment needs to go very deep, more here


Cleavers is a gentle but certain remedy that is especially helpful when we need to activate and cleanse the lymphatic system, e.g. when the glands are chronically swollen, more here

Red Clover

Red Clover, both the leaves and the flowers, has a deep, cleansing action on the blood that can be of help in even the most serious of illnesses, more here


One of the reasons I cannot advise people without seeing them in person is that I don't know the strength or the quality of the herbs they have and so the vital matter of how much to take is impossible to know for sure. Another compelling reason is that people, from different constitutions, ages, sex, weight etc. considerably vary in how much they need to get an effective response. The art of herbal medicine is hugely dependent on getting the right dose!

Obviously, too small a dose will be of little help but equally, too much is going to cause harm rather than good. This is why nearly all proprietary, over-the-counter, cleansing programs have the right sorts of ingredients but are very low in their doses, it's for safety, better they only work a little than they make people sick and wanting to sue!

In our own clinic, we make our own tinctures from raw, organic material so the doses given by example below may not translate to another preparation of the same herbs. They are certainly very much higher than any cleansing herbs you would buy in a shop or online. The reason the following example of a cleansing formula is given is to demonstrate how it is common to use a group of herbs together and also to show the kinds of dosages that are commonly given for us to be certain of a deep cleansing effect.

Cleansing formula

Dandelion root 100mls
Burdock root 100mls
Red Clover flowers 80mls
Juniper berry 80mls
Barberry 80mls
Celandine 30mls
Poke root 10mls
Licorice root 60mls

To make 540 mls herbal tincture, which easily fits into a 500ml amber pharm bottle. The Licorice root is there to help the other herbs blend well together and to make it all a great deal more palatable than it would be otherwise. Peppermint extract or Elderberry extract could be used instead if a person had high blood pressure or an aversion to the taste of Licorice.

Some people may be better with smaller doses but typically, we might use 8-10mls of such a formula, before food, twice a day for a month, then review and see if the job was done or if we needed to do further work, which possibly then might be at a lower dose e.g. once a day.

8mls of a cleansing herbal formula of combined extracts


Cleansing Tea

Another common treatment to help the process of detoxification is to use a Cleansing Tea. It takes some dedication to be sure to be drinking enough liquids whilst using the tea, because it can stimulate a lot of cleansing via the kidneys and it is very important to remain well hydrated during that process. But people like how it makes them feel and often ask if they can take another course of it when it has finished! The recipe for the tea and instructions on how to make and use are found here


Cleansing Diet

Whilst taking the cleansing herbs, it is very important to keep the diet clean, light and alkaline. Nothing extreme is required here and people have always reported that they found the diet very do-able and, moreover, how much better they felt for doing it, the cleansing diet is described in detail here

Drink Water

It is vital to drink plenty of water throughout the process of detoxification. How much is enough? You should not be going to the toilet to pass urine less than every two hours, but neither should you be going more than once an hour. It may be helpful to get a jug, preferably glass, fill it with water and add some cut lemon or green herbs like lemon-balm or mint. It's a pleasant way to drink ample water and serves as a visual reminder to keep it going.

How does detoxification make you feel?

It is common that, in the process of getting rid of toxic substances, people experience one or more symptoms of what is known as a ‘healing crisis’ within a week or so of starting their treatment.

What is happening here is that the systems and organs of cleansing and elimination have all become highly activated and the waste products are really starting to move around and out of your body. Common experiences in this phase include feeling more tired, changes in body temperature, headaches that come and go, sore and stiff joints or muscles, disturbed digestive function.

Any of those symptoms are, of course, unpleasant, but people do not suffer unduly or for too long and, if they know to expect it and that it will definitely pass, they usually bear it well.

All cultures and traditions of medicines have given the greatest importance to cleansing and, If you have ever heard the phrase ''sometimes you have to get worse before you can get better' this is where it comes from. The main points to remember are

1) keep up your fluids
2) get as much rest as you need
3) be assured that it will pass

However, if you find that you are struggling too much with this phase, or that it is not shifting in a timely manner over just a few days, then it may be of much help to push things through the crisis point by doing some 'sweating therapy'. This is an intense process that requires a bath or sauna but, if needed, it should quickly move everything forwards, details here

Once they get through the initial phase of increased cleansing, people typically start feeling markedly better overall and it is usually smooth sailing from then on.

For a person with any kind of chronic health condition, it is usually necessary to keep a cleansing program going for at least a month. In many cases this will be enough, and you can just stop or go on to something else, but it very much depends on the individual person and their health situation,

Just as getting the right dosage is a crucial matter, so is knowing how long to keep a treatment going so, If at all possible, get the guidance of an experienced practitioner in this regard, or learn the signals from your own body, it will tell you what you need if you are willing to hear it.

Juniperus communis (Juniper berry)


Why do I need to cleanse my system - am I doing something wrong?

If someone has been drinking a lot of alcohol or taking a lot of drugs or eating a lot of fast or processed foods, then the reason to need cleansing will be self-evident. However, over the years I have also met many people who go to great lengths to eat whole foods or even organic foods, to not use chemical cleaners and cosmetics, to drink pure water, to even live outside of the city and away from pollution, who nevertheless show a marked accumulation of 'debris' in their blood, a characteristic coating on their tongue, and the signs and symptoms of health problems that are indicative of a compelling need for cleansing. Why is this?

I don't know for sure, maybe it has something to do with the 'endogenous', internal toxins mentioned at the beginning, maybe it is to do with genetics, which is another word for constitutional health, maybe It is because planet Earth is like a giant fish bowl, where everything we put into our water, air and food-chain goes around and around and we are all breathing, drinking and eating from the same environment...

I do think it is wise to avoid exposure to toxins as much as possible, but I don't think people should automatically assume they are doing something wrong even if they do need to cleanse their systems.

This Earth is all we have, and we certainly can't all live in space! A generation of much more environmentally conscious people will be coming into power this century and it is heartening to see the growth in understanding of green ecologies and the need for sustainable living; surely an essential shift for the generations that we must trust, and ensure, are still to come....

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd