Interest in herbal cleansing has grown in recent years. Many people feel that modern living exposes the body to massive doses of poisonous substances (toxins). They turn to some potent herbal products to remove–or cleanse–these toxins from the body. There’s no doubt that herbs can have powerful influence on the body. Still, opinions differ on whether herbal cleansing products are needed or effective.
The theory behind herbal cleansing states that the body’s organs become overworked trying to remove toxic substances found in food, household chemicals and cosmetics. As a result, the toxins build up, leading to liver damage, kidney disease and cancer. With herbal cleansing, people turn to herbal remedies to help the body flush toxins, restoring good health and preventing disease.
Herbal cleansing products use a variety of ingredients. The most common herbs found in these products fall into 3 categories: diuretics, laxatives and purgatives.
Diurectics, such as alfalfa and burdock root, remove excess water and waste liquids from the body.
Laxatives–including aloe vera, milk thistle and psyllium seed powder–encourage the body to evacuate solid wastes.
Purgatives, such as cascara sagrada, have been claimed to flush poisonous substances from body cells so the body can evacuate them.
Overuse of diuretic and laxative products can lead to loss of essential nutrients and dehydration. Many herbal cleansing products contain a mixture of herbs and other ingredients. Before using any herbal product, review the label carefully to ensure you know the contents.
Many mainstream medical organizations caution people against relying on herbs or other supplements to cleanse the body of toxins. According to these organization, the skin, lungs, liver, and kidneys naturally detoxify the body. The American College of Gastroenterology warns that there is no scientific proof that herbal products can repair a damaged liver. The American Cancer Society states that available scientific evidence does not support claims that colon cleansing is effective in treating cancer or any other disease.
A study of herbal medicine users in the United Kingdom indicated that many share a set of beliefs regarding herbal medicine. Many people believed:
1) Herbal supplements were more natural, using fewer chemicals than prescription medicine.
2) Herbal supplements are less potent than prescription medicine.
3) Doctors did not need to be informed when patients use herbal medicines.
In fact, herbal medicines can have significant effects on the body, and can interact with prescription medicines. The result can be reduced effectiveness and/or unexpected side effects.
Before using any herbs to cleanse your body of toxins, share your plans with your doctor. This is especially important if you have cancer or another serious illness, have a chronic disease, and/or take prescription medicines.