Posts Tagged ‘internal cleansing’

Implementation: Part 3

April 5, 2011

Sometimes we make a plan and our body has another idea entirely.  Whenever we “do” detox, whether deliberately or because our body is ready and just goes for it, emotional issues seem to pop up. Many healers believe that any toxic residue has an emotional component…and this will be the  topic I’ll address next week, and how essential oils can assist us.  However, today I will finish this section on implementing with the last 10 herbs that I mentioned in my first blog on herbs, tinctures and essential oils to use for detox.

Mullein: best known for its use in bronchitis, this herb is a lung decongestant and tonic for the respiratory system (soothes inflammation). Pour a cup of boiling water over 1 to 2 teaspoons of the herb and let sit, covered for 10 to 15 minutes. Drink this 3 times daily.

Elecampane: this herb is used much like Mullein, and adds an anti-microbial property as well as being a digestive and appetite stimulant. Now this is not a typo: pour a cup of cold water over 1 teaspoon of shredded root and let sit for 8 to 10 HOURS. Heat up and drink very hot 3 times daily.

Licorice: because this herb has an effect on the endocrine system (certain chemical components have a structure similar to steroids), it is both very useful and must be used carefully. Licorice is helpful for adrenal gland support, bronchial issues, peptic ulcers, arthritis, various viral infections, and is a mild laxative. Take only 1/2 teaspoon of the root; add to 1 cup of water; bring to a boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. This sweet tasting herb should NOT be used in the following situations: pregnancy, breast-feeding, low blood potassium, or when high blood pressure from sodium retention is present.

Osha: this wonderful southwestern mountain root is useful for all respiratory and throat issues, especially at the first signs of illness, and to help clear the lungs after one has quit smoking. Excellent in children to help prevent middle ear infections, and for anyone to help restore the stomach after illness/vomiting.  Natives chew the root. For the less brave: take 1 oz. (weight) of the herb and let sit overnight in 32 oz. (volume) of water. Drink 2 to 6 oz. of this infusion as needed.

Yerba Santa: another southwestern herb used for asthma, bronchial infection and hay fever. A gentle expectorant, and some varieties are also good for bladder infections. Bring 32 oz. of water to a boil and pour over 1 oz. (by weight) of herb. Let sit 20 to 30 minutes. Drink 3 to 4 oz. 1 to 4 times daily. (Thank you, Micheal Moore, for info on Osha and Yerba Santa).

Elder Flower: a good-tasting remedy for inflammation of / heavy mucus and infection in the upper respiratory system. Pour a cup of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of dried flowers and let steep, covered, for 10 minutes. Drink 3 times a day.

Peppermint: this favorite herb is actually not so good for small children (can use a bit of spearmint instead), but excellent for older children and adults to deal with nausea and all digestive issues.  Also helpful in reducing fever, uterine cramps, migraines that are worse with indigestion, and tension in general. Most folks have this available in tea- bag form; however, many times they are old and have lost much of their potency. Take a heaping teaspoon of the herb, put it in your mug, and add a cup of boiled water. Cover the cup with its saucer (yup, that’s what they were originally for) and let steep for 10 minutes. Drink this as desired.

Prickly Ash: stimulating to the lymphatic and circulatory systems; excellent for chronic problems of the skin where there is poor circulation (varicose veins) and rheumatism (inflammation of muscles, joints, connective tissue).  Pour a cup of boiling water over 1 to 2 teaspoons of herb and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Drink 3 times daily.

Yarrow: this is an excellent herb to reduce fever by bringing the body to a sweat and breaking the fever. It also stimulates digestion, tones blood vessels, helps deal with urinary tract infections, and externally is used to stop bleeding.  Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 to 2 teaspoons of herb; let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Drink 3 or more times a day. Drink hot for fevers, and cool for internal bleeding. Some experts advise to NOT use if pregnant.

Barberry: major liver and gall bladder tonic (including inflammation and stones); also for enlarged spleen. Especially useful for debilitated people to both strengthen and cleanse the whole system. A  mildly laxative digestive tonic. Put 1 teaspoon of the bark into a small saucepan with 1 cup of cold water. Bring to a boil and steep for 10 to 15 minutes.  Drink 3 times daily. Do NOT use if pregnant.

Implementation, Part 2

April 1, 2011

Before I continue with the list of herbs, let’s look at storage of herbs, and some basics about tinctures.

Herbs need to be stored in airtight, opaque jars in a cool, dark, dry place. Light, heat and oxidation degrade the quality of herbs as their constituents evaporate, oxidize, and other otherwise lose their potency. Powdered herbs will only last about 6 months or so; same with tea bags! (They have a use by date stamped on the bottom…and yes, many of mine are past their prime). Whole dried leaves (the best way to home dry, as the more a leaf or root is pulverized, the more surface area is exposed to the air) can last a year; whole dried roots up to 3 years. Alcohol-free extracts (usually glycerites) last 3 or so years, and alcohol extracts or tinctures can last 7 (or lots more) years.

Any of the herbs from yesterday, today, or this weekend’s lists can be (used, made or bought as) tinctures. The dosages of store-bought should be on the label. If a range of doses is given, the middle dose is usually for a 150 lb. adult. If you are making tinctures at home, check out the books offered through Iris Herbal  HERE  to find a good text to help you make and use herbal tinctures correctly and safely. You can also call the Iris Herbal office (toll-free 877-286-2970) and talk to Cathy about buying single herb (or ready-made combinations and/or special blends) tinctures (with all the new FDA regs, this is no longer possible online through the shopping cart).

Nettles: a very versatile edible herb; it is an astringent good for discharges (especially hay fever, diarrhea, nose bleeds); a alkalyzing diuretic; and useful for arthritis & eczema. Pour a cup of boiling water over 1 to 3 teaspoons of dried herb and let steep, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes. Do 3 times daily.

Burdock: another very useful plant disparaged as a weed; it aids liver, gall bladder and kidney function, and is especially good for the treatment of systemic imbalance that manifests as skin problems (eczema, psoriasis, dandruff), arthritis and gout. Put 1 teaspoonful of the root into a cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Do this 3 times daily.

A note about dosages: before I continue, the amounts to make and use have so far come David Hoffmann’s The New Holistic Herbal and reflect a robust relationship between human and plant. When first taking any new herb, you may want to half the dosage and start with once a day, and work up to larger dosages. Sometimes taking herbs can exacerbate a symptom, often referred to as a “healing crisis” as toxins are discharged (and the body is supported in dumping metabolic waste). Some herbalists are gung-ho here and exhort the patient to press on. Since we are doing “gentle detox” my advise is to slightly back off, drink more water, go to sleep earlier, continue cleaning up your diet, and calmly persevere. Also, when a herb is specifically for digestion, take your tea  just before eating; otherwise, (in general) take the dose 45 minutes 1/2 hour before a meal.

Oregon Grape/Mahonia: this root is a bitter tonic for impaired salivary and gastric secretions (especially for difficult fat and protein digestion); is a stimulant to liver protein metabolism; and is an anti-microbial for both the skin and intestinal tract. Prepare like Burdock; take 2 to 4 oz. in the am and before retiring; do this for at least 2 weeks. (Thank you, Michael Moore).

Sarsaparilla: this alterative is good for systemic tonification, especially where there is chronic skin irritation and problems, rheumatism, herpes, gout and deficiencies in the adrenal and gonad hormone production. Put 1 to 2 teaspoons of the root into a cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Do this 3 times daily.

Yellow Dock: another wonderful weed! For all chronic skin eruptions and complaints, especially when accompanied by constipation; also for jaundice from liver congestion. Make and use as for Sarsaparilla.

Cleavers: excellent tonic for the lymphatic system; good for swollen glands, cystitis, and skin conditions. Pour a cup of boiling water over 2 to 3 teaspoons of dried herb and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Do this three times daily.

Red Clover: fabulous herb for children (childhood eczema, whooping-cough, mono) and for adults (chronic skin problems and infections, increases lactation). Pur a cup of boiling water over 1 to 3 teaspoons of herb; infuse for 10 to 15 minutes. Take 3 times daily. DO NOT use if PREGNANT.

Red Root: good for lymphatic congestion, especially accompanied by sore throat, inflamed spleen, and/or fluid cysts in sexual organs (male or female). Use like Sarsaparilla.

Echinacea: this is our premier anti-microbial herb; good for all infections anywhere in the body (use at first sign of upper respiratory problems). Also beneficial to tendons and ligaments (in chronic inflammation) and for any swollen areas on the skin (whether due to septic cuts or insect bites. For acute symptoms it’s easier to take a tincture (up to 40 drops per hour) and in chronic conditions, see Sarsaparilla.

Calendula: this flower is useful both internally: ulcers, mouth sores, indigestion with gall bladder pain and fungal infections; and externally: inflammation due to bruising, minor burns and sprains, as well as fungal problems. Pour a cup of boiling water on 1 to 2 teaspoons of the herbs and let steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Do this 3 times daily.

Herbs That Assist Detoxification

March 29, 2011

This blog topic could easily be a book…which means that although this won’t be comprehensive or in great detail, you will find the creme de la creme of the basics…call it “detox cliff notes”…

An herbal approach to detoxification is based upon the premise that our bodies are self-healing; that we already have an amazingly effective and astoundingly complex array of detoxification systems “built-in;” and that our job is to augment our innate abilities by:  first, support the whole body’s process of elimination (and not just the colon, which is what many pre-made cleanses do); second, apply specific support for overly taxed organs and third,  alleviate any symptoms (and address any pathologies that may be present).

For digestion issues and the colon, we want to assist the break down of food (try a simple herbal bitters recipe of Gentian, Ginger and Cardamom {used as a tea or a tincture; the last 2 are also available as essential oils and can be diluted and rubbed on the stomach} ; or you can use Anise, Fennel, and/or Cumin Seeds {chew the seeds, make a tea, use as tincture or essential oil} as both flavorings and to assist in digestion) as well as deal with constipation, or even slow evacuation (mild, safe, not too intense Yellow Dock and Dandelion Root; for more stubborn cases, try Cascara Sagrada).

For the kidneys and urinary system, we can use a gentle diuretic (increases the flow of urine) to move fluids out of the body, which is especially helpful in cases of edema (swelling) or to remove toxins more quickly. Herbs that do this without causing imbalance (unlike drugs, these herbs contain potassium; however, a little goes a long way) are Chickweed, Dandelion, Parsley and Nettle leaves. Notice that these are “spring tonics,” often considered weeds (well, maybe not parsley, but how many of us really eat it?), and are edible as “pot-herbs” (cooked like any greens), in salads, or used medicinally in the form of tea or tinctures (alcohol extract). Many folks recommend using the juice of half a lemon in warm water upon arising.

Hepatic herbs are those which assist the liver and gall bladder in their many functions:  Dandelion root, Beets (yes, the food), Turmeric ( the main spice ingredient in many curries) {all of these can be used as food, a simmered tea or as a tincture} and Milk Thistle seed, which is available as either a tincture or a standardized extract which comes in the form of a capsule.   Alteratives are what used to be called  blood cleansers and are the class of herbs that gradually restore the proper functions of the body which then increase health and vitality. These include Burdock, Oregon Grape, Sarsaparilla and Yellow Dock roots, Cleavers, Nettles and Red Clover, as well as seaweeds and garlic.  Essential oils that stimulate and aid the functioning of our liver include Angelica, Carrot seed, Chamomile, Cypress, Grapefruit, Lemon, Peppermint and Rosemary. They can be used individually or in various combinations as a massage oil or bath oil. {Infomercial: check out www.irisherbal.com offerings in health enhancement, massage and bath oils, as well as individual essential oils, and the essential oil info page which gives great detail on how to safely use essential oils}.

Lymphatic tonic herbs assist in the movement and drainage of our lymph system.  They include Burdock, Dandelion and Yellow Dock roots, as well as Red Root, Echinacea root and Calendula (usually taken as a decoction or simmered tea, or as a tincture). There are many essential oils that are useful in this category: Lemon, Grapefuit, Carrot seed, Coriander, Spruce, Frankincense and Laurel {infomercial # 2; check  HERE for 2 massage oils for the lymph system}.

For the  Lungs we can increase the flow of mucus (mucolytics) to help move out phlegm and ease breathing. For this I  find essential oils to be easy and effective, as either a salve or by vaporizing a few drops of essential oil in a pot of boiled water. Good oils for this include Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Laurel, Rosemary, Lavender, Camphor and Peppermint. In the herbal realm, we can use an expectorant (again, help loosen and expel mucus) like Mullein, Elecampane,  Anise seed, Licorice, and great southwestern herbs such as Osha  and Yerba Santa. Any of these herbs can be used as a tea or tincture.

When dealing with the skin, we have a few avenues open to us. We can use diaphoretics (aid the skin in the elimination of toxins through perspiration) which include Elder flower, Ginger, Peppermint, Prickly Ash and Yarrow (as teas, decoctions or tinctures) as well as the use of 2 herbs which address the skin/liver connection which are Barberry and Yellow Dock. Besides dry brush massage, alternating cool and warm showers (which stimulate the lymph and the skin) there are also the judicious use of saunas, steam baths (where we can add essential oils) and  hot springs, baths in our homes (where we can add bath oils, clay and/or apple cider vinegar)and sunlight (either the addition or removal).

WHEW!  In the next few weeks we’ll be exploring heavy metal detox, using supplements as part of our detoxification program, plus the emotional aspects of detox, and 2 guest blogs by Lisa Goodstein, DOM on the Chinese/Eastern take on this subject.

Internal Cleansing: Our Organs of Elimination

March 23, 2011

If fasting is about paying attention to what goes into our body (and any kind of detoxification program starts with what food we eat), then cleansing is paying attention to the other end of the equation: what comes out (or not), as well as what gets assimilated in between.

This week I’m going to briefly describe how 5 of our major organs are always involved with detoxification, which is just a part of life. We eat, we digest, nutrients are (hopefully) absorbed, and we deal with the by-products (wastes) of innumerable chemical processes throughout our bodies.

The colon hosts several pounds of friendly (ideally 85% of the total)  bacteria that are true workhorses: they help digest food, manufacture vitamins, and play a major role in our immune function. Our colons also do the heavy lifting of eliminating solid waste. Most problems in our colons (including constipation) develop when we are out of balance: too little fiber; too much “toy food” and not enough real food; too much sugar (which feeds the “bad” micro-organisms like Candida) and not drinking enough water.

Our kidneys filter waste from our blood in an amazingly complex dance. Good nutrition is essential for their job; too much animal protein (especially the poor quality of corn fed confined animals fed antibiotics) stresses the kidneys as they labor to remove excess uric acid. Sometimes lack of Vit. K and other nutrients can result in the back up of inorganic minerals, causing kidney stones. Again, we are talking about a healthy body in balance, and the health of one organ affect the health of all organs.

I recently read that if we had to build a factory to represent our liver, that physical plant would cover 2,000 acres! This is because our liver performs so many complex tasks: making antihistamines, cleansing blood, neutralizing and eliminating toxins, metabolizing fat, dealing with the cholesterol process, making and storing red blood cells, and helping with digestion, bile, our immune system and the balancing of hormones. No wonder out deeply toxic environment is putting such a strain on this precious organ. If we strive to lower the chemical burden, through eating organic real food and filtering out water, we will assist our liver greatly.

Our lungs provide us with a process that is constant from our first breath to our last: the bringing in of oxygen to the red blood cells, and the removal of waste products like carbon dioxide. A good practise is to slow the breath, breathing as deeply as possible, and completely exhaling the air, including that bit that seems to hold on at the bottom of our lungs. You may have to use your diaphram consciously to do that.

Not everyone realizes that our skin is an organ of elimination. And yet not only is it our largest detoxifier, it can act like another set of kidneys and cleanse up to a pound of impurities a day. Our skin also assists our lungs in respiration, doing about 15% of the intake of oxygen and release of CO2 that our bodies need. Our skin tone, elasticity, lack of or appearence of cellulite (which is toxic waste lodged in the skin’s fatty tissues, often due to a sluggish lymphatic system), and lack of or appearance of acne/excema, etc. are all indicators of our entire body’s health. Problems that show up on the skin can be caused by food senstivities, allergins, problems in our lymphatic system, an over-burdened liver, poor food assimilation (and that can be due sometimes to the lack of digestive enzymes), and auto-immune disorders.

Last but never least is our lymphatic system, which is not a discrete organ but a network of lymph vessals and glands throughout the body that helps detoxify and drain areas of our body that are not well perfused with blood. Many of us find as we age that our lymphatic systems get a little sluggish, perhaps due to not enough exercise (the ‘pump” of this system is our legs striding and our arms swinging). A 20 minute walk per day will help, and some folks like to do dry brushing as well (using a dry natural bristle brush, lightly brush your skin from the extremities toward your heart). This is especially beneficial before a shower as it helps remove dead skin.

Tune in next week for herbal specifics (tinctures, teas, essential oils) to assist our bodies’  in their daily detoxification. And happy Spring!


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