Looking for ways to naturally detox your body from its long winter nap? We profile favourite botanicals—dandelion, stinging nettle, milk thistle, and burdock—and dish on why they may be exactly what’s needed.
After a long and indulgent winter, many of us could use some assistance to get back on track. What better way to ensure a lighter load than to gift your body with a natural detox? The following flora are readily available to help in the process of toxin elimination and offer many other health benefits.
Making tea out of dried herbs is an enjoyable way to reap their benefits; however, many are also available as capsules, liquids, powders, and more. Ask at your local natural health store for recommendations.
Tips for making herbal tea
- Choose herbs that have not been treated with herbicide.
- Be sure you know how to identify the herbs if you are harvesting them yourself. Some herbs, such as burdock, should not be harvested from the wild.
- Dry the part(s) of the plant you wish to consume, by either hanging or placing in a single layer on a flat surface. (Make sure the temperature is hot enough that the herbs won’t get moldy while drying.)
- Once herbs have dried, crush them. Store in a dark, airtight container.
- Consult a medical herbalist before consuming new herbs to learn about possible side effects and also to determine how often and for how long to consume the herbs.
Cranberry for cleansing
Herbs aren’t the only botanicals that can help stop toxins in their tracks. Cranberry is well known for its ability to ease urinary tract infections (UTIs). But many of us don’t realize that our urinary tract (which continually filters toxins at a rapid rate) is composed of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra (plus the prostate in men) and can benefit from regular detox assistance.
Compounds found in cranberry possess strong antibacterial properties, which are capable of preventing E. coli, a bacteria that commonly cause UTIs, from binding to cells along our urinary tract. In fact, a recent study found that cranberry juice could inhibit E. coli binding for up to eight hours after consumption.
Commonly mistaken for a weed, dandelion actually has powerful detoxifying properties. The root has traditionally been used as a liver detoxifier, and both the root and leaves serve as a digestive tonic. Additionally, the root acts as a mild laxative, while the leaves are sometimes used by herbalists to aid kidney function. The herb also helps flush the urinary tract by eliminating excess fluid from the body.
A cup of dandelion tea can be easily made by steeping 1 Tbsp (15 mL) dried root and leaves (crushed) in 2/3 cup (160 mL) hot water for 10 to 15 minutes.
In addition to the detox benefits of dried dandelion, the fresh leaves and flowers make excellent greens in one’s favourite springtime salad, but the key is to pluck them from the ground early in the spring when they’re young. (Once the herbs mature, they taste bitter.)
It’s important to discontinue consuming dandelion if a rash or other symptoms develop, because some people are sensitive to the milky substance inside the plant.
Consult your health care practitioner to determine which herbs are right for you, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, are taking other medications, or have allergies or medical conditions.
Although fresh nettle is primarily known for its stinging quality, dried nettle has some incredible detoxifying properties. It contributes to the detoxification of the urinary tract, and it also contains histamine that may help with seasonal allergies—a condition many of us may be currently suffering from.
In fact, Vancouver medical herbalist Katolen Yardley explains that while “many herbs play a valued role in detoxification, seasonal cleansing, and decreasing signs and symptoms of internal toxicity, nettle is an ideal choice for treating allergic eczema and allergies, such as sneezing and a runny nose.”
Nettle leaf tea can be found in many natural health stores.
Originally native to the Mediterranean region, milk thistle can now be found around the world. A spiky-looking herb boasting brilliant purple flowers, milk thistle is widely known as a liver tonic and detoxifier, and it has been used in herbal medicine to treat both acute and chronic viral hepatitis, alcoholic liver disease, and toxin-induced liver diseases. While more research is needed to determine the extent of milk thistle’s effectiveness, it shows promise and is one of the most widely studied detoxifying herbs.
Certain components of the milk thistle plant (found primarily in the fruit and seeds) may act as a buffer between toxins and your body, preventing the toxins from binding to your liver cells and thus blocking toxin overload before it occurs.
To make milk thistle tea, add 2/3 cup (160 mL) boiling water to 3.5 g dried fruit and seed, and steep for 10 to 15 minutes.
This tall plant can grow to three or four feet in height—and its detoxifying properties are just as impressive. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to clear toxins from the bloodstream, and it’s known to increase urine output. Removal of accumulated waste via kidneys, skin, and mucous membranes is another traditional use of burdock in herbal medicine. The root contains antioxidants, while the leaf helps cleanse our mouths of unwanted micro-organisms.
Those with allergies to daisies, chrysanthemums, or ragweed should be cautious of using burdock, as it’s possible they’ll be sensitive to this herb as well.
To make burdock tea, place 2 to 6 g dried burdock root in 1 cup (250 mL) water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
Although there are many herbs that can assist in detoxifying the human body, the ones mentioned in this article are some of the most easily obtainable. So go on—eat and drink your way to better health, and reap the rewards of a cleaner body.