Herbal Detox For Full-Body Detox | Phytotherapy: Herbs And Detoxification

Herbal Detox For Full-Body Detox | Phytotherapy: Herbs And Detoxification

20 powerful herbs to use for a full-body detox

Humans have evolved within the system, even though we often think of ourselves as masters of the planet. Along with us all the while, healing herbs have been evolving as part of the system.

There has never been a time when humans have not relied on plants for healing. Herbs are our bodies’ allies in many areas of health and detox is certainly no exception. A primary principle of traditional herbal treatment was that cleansing and elimination of toxic wastes was required before healing could take place.

Herbs in action

Herbs support detoxification in many ways. Some plant medicines help to remove poisons and toxins from the body — for example, through increasing urination or sweating. Some herbs reduce the toxicity of substances by either reducing their destructive potential through antioxidant action or enhancing their removal by binding to them and removing them safely from the body. Other herbs optimise or support the function of an elimination organ to enhance detoxification.

Some of the actions herbs perform in the body are not fully understood. The herbal pharmacology knowledge base is growing and more secrets are being revealed by the science of phytotherapy.

Plants contain hundreds or thousands of different interacting compounds. The current method for studying single substances acting within controlled environments is the best because of the complexity.

Herbalism involves the interaction of a plant and a human within a complex environment, which is awkward for the current scientific paradigm.

Some of the benefits of herbs come from the compounds they need for sustaining their life. Like foods, these include a variety of sugars, lipids, and other substances.

A good time to drink an alterative herbal brew is during the day.

Secondary metabolites are compounds that are not necessary for sustaining the plant’s life so much as extending the plant’s competitive advantage in its environment. The more active compounds in a herb are called secondary metabolite compounds. There are also essential oils, phenols, and glucosinolates. They are created to protect against insects or to protect against sunrays as an attempt to attract attention for reproduction. There are many different effects of them.

Science is showing us that the balance of active ingredients within herbs is incredible. Reductionist medicine tends to single out the action of one compound or constituent. Standardisation of herbal medicines is the process by which one specific component or group of components is measured in a medicine. It is possible to assure a specific level of activity from that medicine.

According to the herbal tradition, the action of the compounds within the specific herb is responsible for the activity of some of the constituents. The action is referred to as synergy. The whole is more than the sum of its parts, which is what holism teaches.

The quality of the herb is the most important factor in determining the power and efficacy of a herb. The quality of the seed, the soil, the growing conditions, time and method of harvesting and the drying and storage are all dependent on this.

Many of the secondary metabolites produced to protect the plant from pests will not be present if the herb has been grown with pesticides. The power of the plant may be diminished as well as having pesticide residuals on it. The health effect of any medicine made from the quality of the herb is more important than the quantity.

When the herb is indicated and of high quality, one can experience a quick effect on the body. If appropriate, the boost after some ginseng or dandelion root will have a quick effect.

Many traditions around the world involve burning herbs for healing and cleansing.

There is more to synergy than a single plant’s components. In a synergistic manner, different herbs work together. Essiac tea is a blend of cleansing herbs from the American Indian Ojibwa region. Rene Caisse, a Canadian nurse, popularised Essiac. Some forms of cancer can be treated with a cleansing brew. Specific quantities of burdock,Rhubarb root, slippery elm and sheep sorrel are included in the original formula.

The herbalist combines specific herbs into an individual blend. A combination of herbs that are suited to your strengths and weaknesses can be more effective than a single herb alone.

There is a tradition of smudge sticks from the Americas. Shamans use smoke from herbs to cleanse an individual’s energy system or clear the energy of a particular environment. Smudge sticks are made from different types of cleansing herbs. Burning herbs for healing and cleansing ceremonially and ritually occurs in many traditions around the world, including among some indigenous Australians.


Terms of engagement

Over the course of its long history, herbalism has developed many different terms. There is a glossary of herbal cleansing terms.

ALTERATIVE This is the main word used to describe the detoxifying actions of herbs.  Alteratives are herbs which act as blood cleansers. They alter the blood and lymph to enable detoxification from body tissue.

ADAPTOGEN Often replaces the word “alterative”. Helps the body withstand different stressors. Also known as whole-body tonic.

DEPURATIVE Another term for alterative. A blood purifier. Improves detoxification by improving digestion, function of liver and gall bladder, kidney and bladder and/or the immune system.

CLEANSING Associated with herbs, barks and seeds that cleanse the bowel and relive uncommon constipation.

DETOXIFIERS Herbs that aid the removal of a poison, change a toxin’s chemical structure or assist in its excretion through supporting an elimination avenue.

DEOBSTRUENT That which clears obstructions by dilating natural passages of the body.

CHOLAGOGUE Increases the flow of bile.

LAXATIVE Promotes evacuation from the bowel.

LYMPHATIC Improves the flow of lymph fluid or increases the detoxifying properties of lymphatic drainage.

HEPATIC Improves the function of the liver and normalises the bile flow.

DIURETIC Increases output of urine and/or the excretion of metabolic waste products.

Selecting your herbs

Every day is a good time to drink an alterative herbal brew. The best herbal teas for your level of detoxification can be found here. Here is a list of things to look out for when selecting herbs.

  • The product should look like a herb, made of distinguishable leaves, twigs, flowers or roots, and not a fine powder.
  • It is recommended that you use a certified organic product. If imported, make sure it is Fair Trade as well.
  • The tea should have a different hue even though it is being dried. Oxidation can destroy some of the Medicinal properties of dried herbs.
  • It should have a pleasant smell. Many of the active chemical components in herbs are volatile, which means they can become airborne and be smelled. Good harvesting, drying and storage techniques will allow a quality product along with its smells to reach your teapot.
  • The herb should be labeled with its Latin name as well as its common name. The identification of herbs is of paramount importance.

Making a herbal brew is a good way to start a daily cleanse.

A minimum of two dessert spoons of dried herb per cup is required. If you use twice as much fresh leaf, you will get a noticeable effect.

Just-boiled water is poured over the herb.

For 8 to 10 minutes, leave it.

Strain to drink.

If making tea from the twigs, roots or bark of herbs, gentle boiling (decocting) will give you more constituents.

If you want, add honey or lemon to the taste. It’s possible to use stevia as a sweetened beverage.

Twenty detoxifying herbs

The long history and use of herbal medicine has left a colourful legacy, rich in varying, accumulated, empirical understandings. There are many different types of herbal writers. Below are the 20 best herbs to use at home, using insights from numerous excellent herbals in relation to herbs that enhance detoxification. It is not a complete list of all the detoxification herbs or a monograph of their functioning throughout history. The goal of this selection is to provide cleansing support for all excretory organs and open all elimination pathways as a starting point for safe daily, general and accessible use.

Herb names and part used
Area effected and how it acts
Usage ideas

Alfalfa whole herb in flower



Medicago sativa



Bernard Jensen suggests alfalfa tablets with colonic hydrotherapy treatments, provides the best bulk for cleansing the bowel. Contains essential enzymes and many minerals and vitamins. Rich in silica that is protective against aluminium.
2—3 teaspoons dried herb per cup of boiling water makes a grassy tea that’s great for bone and teeth strength. Put fresh green grass through cold-pressed juicer. Sprouts are a great source of protein.

Red clover blossoms


Trifolium pratense



Many empirical accounts of cancer reduction can be found for ovarian and breast cancer. Red clover is also described as a deobstruent by Bartram. The pathways of cleansing and encysted glands can be opened by red clover. Alterative, antispasmodic, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, estrogenic and blood thinner are some of the drugs that are used.


Lovely as a tea. Ensure the clover blossoms still have a tinge of red colour. Mix with lemon balm for a calming, delicious tisane. When mixed with yellow dock and burdock it is particularly good for chronic skin diseases.

Cleavers foliage




Gallium aparine


Matthew Wood said that cooling and filtering the inner waters was important.

Cleanses lymph particularly around the neck and ears, though connects the entire system together. Supports good urine flow. “One of the best remedies for kidney and bladder troubles, particularly when combined with broom, uva ursi, buchu and marshmallow,” according to Kloss. “Filters and detoxifies and promotes the transportation within the hidden waterways of the body,” wrote Wood. Gently opens passageways to and from the liver, pancreas and other internal organs, having a general decongesting capacity. Interestingly, cleavers also had a long tradition as an anti-obesity herb. In the ancient world it was used to cure cancer.

The tea blend is part of a cleanse. It should be used fresh or in a fresh plant extract. It is a good idea to make a wash to clear skin problems.

You can eat fresh cleavers as a vegetable.

It can be used to treat dry skin conditions.


Celery seed


Apium graveolens

It is alkalising to the blood when it is rich in iron, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. It increases urine flow and acts as a cleanser. It supports the nervous system because of its high mineral content.


It is indicated for gout to help clear uric acid build up. You can use soups to enhance flavour. You can add a pot of tea.


Dandelion root


Taraxacum officinale



The leaf increases urinary flow and helps detoxify the urinary tract. The root supports the body’s internal organs. It stimulates the gall bladder to release more bile, and it is also effective on the ducts that allow bile to enter the body. It can act as a mild laxative and support the function of the bicyle. It is rich in vitamins A, B and C and has a high content of salts that can destroy acids in the blood.


Use fresh leaves as a salad. Ground roots can be used as a substitute for coffee. Roasted root is still beneficial, though the medicinal effect may be lessened.

Blueflag root


Iris versicolor

Often planted in ponds to help keep the water clean. It has a tradition as a depurative, gentle, non-stimulating laxative, alterative, cholagogue and lymphatic. Blueflag acts on many areas of the body. It’s a pancreatic aid that helps balance people who suffer from low blood sugar dizziness. Effective for people with red “sugar-glazed” skin (Woods).
Use as a tincture created by a trained herbalist. With yellow dock and sarsaparilla it powerfully cleanses the lymph (Bartram). Or use topically in a lotion to help calm the red “sugar-glazed” skin (Woods). Adopt good dietary direction for blood glucose balancing.

Burdock root


Arctium lappa


Iron, sulphur and B vitamins are included. The blood can be flushed through the urinary tract. One of the most powerful and reliable blood tonics is Bartram.

Other actions include the use of antibiotics. It has a use in uterus issues.

It can be a boon for chronic skin complaints when the problem is caused by a congested liver.

Use root as part of a tea blend. Ideally, decoct the root for optimal extraction.

Nettle leaf


Urtica dioica

Excellent kidney supporter. Increases the flow of urine. The nutrition within nettles provides an alkalising influence. Splendid blood purifier (Kloss). Mineral rich, which is hugely supportive during a detox.
Cook fresh leaves like spinach to eat (Kloss). Infuse in hot water as a kidney-supporting tea. Blend with red clover, clivers and mint.

St Mary’s Thistle is the seed.

Milk thistle

Marian thistle


Silybum marianum


St Mary’s thistle is one of the most popular remedies for the bile duct. It acts as a tonic to support the actions of the liver. The major action is its anti-oxidation action. It supports for the first and second phases of the process of removing toxins from the bile duct. It helps promote the flow of bile through the GI tract and protects the gall bladder. According to Bartram, it can be used to repair damage caused by alcoholism and environmental poisons.


Ground seed can be sprinkled over steamed vegetables with olive oil and tamari. Or sprinkle over the fruit salad and yogurt. The taste was delicious.

If you want to use the seed as a tea or decoction, crush it.

Not suited to women who are tending to anaemia.

Gotu kola leaf


Centella asiatica


Tonic for digestive and nervous systems and a cleanser of the blood. Gotu kola is similar to ginseng in its wide action and supportive attributes, albeit milder. It is a wonderful day-to-day herb for enhancing mental functioning.

It’s a good idea to use as a tea. Adding liquorice root will give you an additional boost. After 6 weeks of use, have a rest. If it is growing in your garden, you should eat leaves in your salads.


Sarsaparilla root


Smilax ornata


Many actions including anti-inflammatory, diuretic, powerful blood tonic, stimulator of the metabolism, enhancer of immune function, support for the adrenal hormones, also for progesterone and testosterone balancing. Aids the elimination of mercury salts. Often used to enhance performance in sport or for enhanced sexual function.

Burdock and yellow dock are often used to resolve eruptions of the skin. The root can be Decoct to make a tea. If you want a more stimulating tonic, mix it with liquorice.


The whole plant of chlorineella.



It works against candida by removing toxins from the body, and it also provides vitamins for friendly bowel flora. It has an affinity for poisonous substances in the gut and the liver. It’s useful in lead poisoning and heavy metal toxaemia. The harmful effects of radiation are mitigated.

There are 19 of the 22 amino acids, including 8 essential ones.

Take it as an encapsulated or tableted supplement.

The pineapple juice will make you drink a small amount. You can use it in a smoothie.

There are flowers, foliage and roots.


Echinacea spp.

Excellent blood cleanser. Mixed with myrrh cleanses the morbid matter from the stomach and expel poisons or toxins (Kloss). Bartram calls it a detoxicant. Has a strong immune supportive role.
Use the foliage as a tea. Mix with fresh ginger to warm and cleanse. The root and/or foliage can be used as a tincture. Capsules and tablets are also available. Ask a herbalist for help.

Psyllium husks


Plantago psyllium

Bulking laxative that gently scours clean the intestines. Acts as a demulcent, soothing and strengthening the protective mucous lining of the bowel.
Sprinkle 2—10 teaspoons of psyllium over your fruit salad/cereal. Add a dessertspoon to your fresh juice, mix well and drink without delay. Always drink additional water when taking psyllium husks.

Coriander seeds, leaves, root.



Coriandrum sativum


Seed is calming to the gastrointestinal tract. Leaves and roots support the chelating of the blood and may help reduce heavy-metal toxicity.
Use seed in curries with other calming spices, like cumin and fenugreek. Use leaf and fresh root to make pesto and eat a dessertspoon each day.

Turmeric root


Curcuma longa

Has a high level of antioxidant action and a specific action to support the liver and enhance bile flow. It is a potent anti-inflammatory and can help reduce inflammations that occur during a detox.
Use root or powdered root in cooking, in salad dressing or sprinkled over vegetables with olive oil. Use fresh root grated within a coleslaw. Speak to a herbalist about using it as a tincture or tablet.

Marigold blossoms


There is a flower called Calendula officinalis.

Alterative. Many actions including antifungal, antibacterial, anti-worming, antiseptic and immune stimulant. Helps resolve enlarged lymph glands and inflammation. On the skin it speeds repair.
Can be drunk as a tea alone or blended with other cleansing herbs. Use strong tea to make a compress to soothe, irritated, non-inflamed skin.

The elm inner bark is slippery.


Ulmus fulva

The soothing effect on the digestive tract is what makes it a cleanser. It is possible to repair the digestive tract with the help of slippery elm. It can be used in both CSD and diarrhoea.


Eat as a powder within yoghurt and grated apple for digestive ease. Drink a teaspoon mixed in 500mls water before sleeping to soothe and repair the digestive tract.

Fenugreek seed


The foe-num-graecum of the triconella.


There is a cleanser for the irritative tract.

There is a cooling effect on the bowels when seed is soaked in. During a fast, it helps balance blood-sugar levels.

Drink as a tea, but be warned, as it can alter perspiration smells for a while. Use for curries.



Rosa canina

Rich in vitamin C, therefore provides antioxidant protection and can also support tired adrenal glands. Also contains Vitamin A, B1 & B2. It was once considered excellent for the support of healthy collagen. Diuretic and mild laxative.
Enjoy as a coloured tea. Mixes nicely with rosella and other berries for an antioxidant boost.

Rosella florets


Hibiscus sabdariffa

Provides support for a fatty liver and improves kidney function and increases excretion of uric acid (thus care must be taken with kidney stones).
Enjoy as a beautiful coloured tea. Mix with rosehips (as above). Use preserved rosella florets in your champagne this Christmas.

A detox tip from naturopath Leisa Wheeler

The freshwater green algae, chlorella, is one of my favorite additions to a detoxification program. It is one of the premier green superfoods, containing chlorophyll for alkalising and cleansing the blood, as well as the phytonutrients and Omega 3 fatty acids. During a cleanse, the immune system needs to help the body in binding toxins for excretion. Adding this simple supplement can help prevent negative symptoms from being caused by circulating toxins, which can be unpleasant. I use chlorella as an essential part of any juice fast program because of its benefits.

A tip from naturopath Dawn Whitten

One of Dawn’s favourite cleansers is rosella, it is high in anti-oxidants and good for the body. It works to improve the function of the kidneys and cleanse the liver. Since it increases the excretion of uric acid, it must be used with caution in people who are suffering from kidney stones. Two heaped teaspoon is enough for a cup. The following herbs are included in Dawn’s cleansing brew: blue flag root, dandelion root, and nettle leaf.

Interviews and a variety of herbals were used to gather this information.

The Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine was written by Thomas Bartram.

Matthew Wood wrote a book about herbal wisdom.

Simon Mills and Kerry Bone wrote about principles and practice of phytotherapy.

Back to Eden is a song written by Jethro Kloss.

Michael Thomsen wrote a desk reference about Phytotherapy.

There are herbs and natural supplements that can be used.

Interview with Sally Leadman, a naturopath.

Interview with Dawn Whitten, a naturopath.

The lecture was given by Dr. Roberts.

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