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Herbal Cleansing

The basis for health

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Herbal Cleansing

Plants cleanse and revitalize our bodies from the inside. Our body systems are designed to utilize the benefits of plants, and we may suffer chronic illness and premature aging if we do not consume enough botanical bounties.

Plants cleanse and revitalize our bodies from the inside. Our body systems are designed to utilize the benefits of plants, and we may suffer chronic illness and premature aging if we do not consume enough botanical bounties.

Many natural plant chemicals (phytochemicals) work to break down and eliminate toxins, such as those from the environment, as well as those formed as normal byproducts of metabolism. Let’s look at some examples of how phytochemicals from medicinal and food plants help to cleanse and detoxify our bloodstream and tissues.

Your liver: cleansing specialist

Powerful herbs support the liver—one of the most important cleansing organs in the body. The liver has special long-lived cells that produce enzymes that neutralize toxins and convert them to forms that can be safely excreted.

Even when we live a supremely healthy life, our liver is under daily attack from reactive oxygen metabolites (ROMs). Also known as free radicals or unstable oxygenated compounds, ROMs are our largest cleanup problem. Most ROMs are naturally and unavoidably produced by activated immune cells, increased metabolism, strenuous exercise, and as part of the response to tissue injury.

Antioxidants from plants cleanse by acting like chemical sacrificial lambs, preferentially reacting with ROMs so they don’t get a chance to react with our tissues. This sacrifice is the reason antioxidants reduce chronic pain and inflammation.

The herbs and the bees

If we’re not living a supremely healthy life, our liver may be so overloaded it can’t fully cleanse our blood. That’s where the powerful herbs that support liver function can help. Standardized extracts of Silybum marianum (milk thistle), Schisandra chinensis, Picrorhiza kurroa, and curcumin (turmeric) have been shown in numerous human and animal studies to protect the liver from cancer chemotherapy, alcohol abuse, excessive paint and adhesive exposure, hepatitis, and deliberate poisoning with solvents and carcinogens (carbon tetrachloride, hydrazine, methanol).

If you’re otherwise healthy, but would like some daily liver cleansing support, I recommend bee propolis. Worker bees collect resins exuded from the leaf buds and bark of certain trees, and mix with them with a little wax, honey, and enzymes to make propolis. It’s used as putty to seal cracks, repair honeycombs, and sterilize the hive.

Bees are phytochemical experts: they have already done the research and development for us. Propolis is the most concentrated, all-purpose botanical detoxifier known.

Carotenoid air filters

Carotenoids, from the Latin word carota, impart a characteristic deep orange colour to fruits and vegetables such as carrots, squash, apricots, peppers, mangoes, tomatoes, and pumpkin. More than 600 carotenoids are found in nature, and about 50 of these are consumed in appreciable quantities in our diet.

Orange, yellow, and red fruits and vegetables are particularly rich in carotenoids. They also occur in green produce, but the green pigment of chlorophyll masks them. In autumn, when the leaves of deciduous trees die, the chlorophyll fades and the brilliant carotenoid colours are revealed.

Carotenoids are exceedingly important antioxidants for humans, animals, and even the plants that manufacture them. Humans distribute carotenoids—especially lycopene—throughout our bloodstream and tissues. Increased levels of carotenoids are associated with stronger, healthier lung function and reduced risk of asthma.

Lung tissue is particularly vulnerable to ROM damage since it functions to exchange gases and is constantly exposed to airborne contaminants. In a University of North Carolina study, 23 healthy subjects received a high-lycopene vegetable juice or placebo for two weeks. Afterward they were exposed to ozone (a common air pollutant) in a chamber while they exercised intermittently. The carotenoid-rich vegetable juice reduced lung-cell DNA damage by 20 percent compared to placebo.

Free-radical shields

The enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) is one of the primary antioxidants for all organisms that utilize or come in contact with oxygen. Everything—from bacteria to plants to humans—contains SOD within almost every cell.

SOD has the specific function of reacting with the superoxide ion, a particularly nasty ROM with an extra, highly unstable electron that it very much wants to get rid of. Superoxide is highly toxic to cells and tissues—left unchecked, it essentially burns us from the inside.

Like all organisms, we synthesize SOD; there’s no oral supplement or raw food that contains it in a usable form. However, a wide variety of botanicals from Western, Asian, and Ayurvedic traditions help increase the SOD activity in our cells and bloodstream so that we can fully cleanse and detoxify our tissues.

Careful colon cleansing

Soluble plant fibre also has excellent benefits. We can take a load off our liver by preventing excess absorption of toxins in the bowel. Moving waste out quickly helps, and plant fibre offers plenty of plant antioxidants. Used in conjunction with beneficial bacteria, soluble fibre is the key to softening stools, detoxifying, and feeding beneficial bacteria simultaneously.

Regular consumption of flaxseed is recommended. In addition, choose a fibre product with probiotics and prebiotics combined. Prebiotics are actually soluble fibres that we don’t digest well, but that our beneficial bacteria love to eat. Examples of ingredients containing prebiotic dietary fibre are fructooligosaccharides (FOSs) such as inulin from chicory root.

Botanical cleansing via regular use of herbal tonics can be used to prevent illness and to treat chronic illness and inflammation.

These are a few specific examples of the effectiveness of phytochemicals as herbal cleanses, but there are probably hundreds more. In a nutshell: produce equals protection.

Plant fundamentals

Epidemiology has shown that a high intake of fruits and vegetables lowers our risk for every major chronic disease, including arthritis, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, and stroke. This means that plants perform fundamental requirements for us—such a wide range of prevention can’t be attributed to just vitamin C or fibre.

The scientific evidence

  • A supplement combining standardized extracts of bacopa, milk thistle, ashwagandha, green tea, and curcumin increased red blood cell SOD (see “Free-radical shields” below) by 30 percent compared to baseline. Twenty-nine healthy male and female subjects (ages 20 to 78) took a single 675 mg dosage daily for up to 120 days (the approximate lifespan of a red blood cell). Study results suggested this SOD increase would remain steady if supplementation continued.
  • Mango extract (rich in a variety of phytochemicals and nutrients ranging from vitamins A, B6, C, E, and K, to pigment antioxidants such as carotenoids and polyphenols) was effective for age-related oxidative stress. Healthy persons over age 65 received 300 mg, three times daily, for 60 days. 
  • Quercetin (a flavonoid found in citrus fruits, apples, onions, parsley, tea, and red wine) increased lung antioxidant levels depleted by influenza infection in mice.
  • Green tea protected against oxidative damage associated with excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Naringin (a flavonoid responsible for the bitter taste in grapefruit) strongly reduced oxidative stress associated with high cholesterol and blood cholesterol levels. Thirty patients with high cholesterol and 30 controls received 400 mg per day for eight weeks.
  • Fenugreek leaves protected diabetics from the excess oxidative stress associated with the disease.
  • Bee propolis protected humans and rodents from ROM created by the chemotherapy drugs cisplatin and cyclosporine A, carbon tetrachloride, radiation, pain drug overdose, and infections.
  • Triphala (an Ayurvedic herbal prescription blending Terminalia chebula, Terminalia bellerica, and Emblica officinalis) protected rats from noise-induced oxidative stress.
  • Aloe vera and piperine (the active compound in black pepper) protected rats against significant oxidative damage from the carcinogens arsenic and benzo(a)pyrene.

Causes of free-radical damage

  • Radiation
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Volatile toxic chemicals
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Stress
  • Illness
  • Pharmaceutical drugs (especially cancer chemotherapy)
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