Cleansing and Detoxing: Is It Necessary and Safe? | Growing Up Herbal | Learn more about what toxins are, what the terms “cleansing” and “detoxing” mean, when it’s appropriate to cleanse or detox, what kind of cleansing and detoxing herbs can be used, and how to approach cleansing and detoxing with children in this post.

Have you ever wondered if you should use herbs to cleanse or detox your body from toxins? Adults often detox their bodies on a regular basis, but is necessary? And what about cleansing and detoxing for children? Is it necessary (or even safe) for them?

I bet if you do a quick Google search about cleansing or detoxing, especially for kids, you’ll find a wide array of thoughts, opinions, and how-to advice. Just enough to thoroughly confuse you, that is.

Unfortunately, this topic is not a simple one. There are a lot of different opinions on the subject from, “everyone should do a cleanse/detox every year, even children” to “children should never need to cleanse/detox.”

So which is right? Should you cleanse your body throughout the year? Should you use herbs to detox when needed? What about your children? Do they need these things as well?

In this article, I want to briefly explore the topic of cleansing and detoxing. We’ll look at what toxins are, define the terms “cleanse” and “detox,” talk about when it’s appropriate to cleanse or detox, what kind of cleansing and detoxing herbs can be used, as well as how to approach cleansing and detoxing with children.

First Things First: Two Kinds of Toxins

Dr. Alan Christianson says there are two kinds of toxins that are damaging to our health—those we flirt with and those we marry. Below is a chart that explains the difference in these kinds of toxins as well as how to approach each one.

TOXINS WE FLIRT WITH

TOXINS WE MARRY

  • These toxins enter the body and leave rather quickly.
  • Primarily acquired through the air (off-gassing, cleaning supplies, fragrances, etc.), our diet (pesticides), and what we put on our skin (cosmetics and other skin care products).
  • These toxins can be reduced by (1) minimizing exposure, and (2) speeding up elimination (urination, bowel movements, sweating).
  • These toxins embed themselves in body tissues.
  • Primarily metals and byproducts the body cannot further breakdown or excrete.
  • These toxins can be reduced by various methods such as improving diet and gut health, supporting liver detoxification with herbs, mushrooms, and other supplements, speeding up elimination, and chelation therapy.

(Christianson, n.d.; Econugenics, n.d.; Hyman, 2017; and Weil, n.d.)

Detoxing Versus Cleansing

Cleansing and Detoxing: Is It Necessary and Safe? | Growing Up Herbal | Learn more about what toxins are, what the terms “cleansing” and “detoxing” mean, when it’s appropriate to cleanse or detox, what kind of cleansing and detoxing herbs can be used, and how to approach cleansing and detoxing with children in this post.

While I can’t speak for all herbalists, I personally view “detoxing” and “cleansing” as two different things. While both are designed to detox the body of toxins or accumulations of substances that hinder one’s health, there are some distinct differences that I’ll explain below.

Cleansing

The body is designed to cleanse and detoxify itself, and it’s rare that it needs any help in the process. The liver, lymph glands, and kidneys all work to cleanse the body of toxins and cellular debris. This filtering process happens 24/7 without us even realizing it. If we have a healthy diet, we do our best to reduce environmental toxins, and we live a healthy lifestyle, chances are we will rarely need to assist the body in this cleansing process. 

With that said, there are times when one might want to use herbs or other supplements to encourage the body in cleansing. The first instance is to boost one’s energy levels and sort of reset the body. The second instance is when toxins or other substances have accumulated in the body and are interfering with health. Let’s look at each of these below.

The Spring Cleanse

Spring cleanses are common when a person wants to boost their energy after a long winter of rest and heavy, nourishing foods. This kind of cleansing calls for adjusting the diet by drinking more water and moving away from heavier foods like red meats (beef and venison), pasta and bread, dairy, and winter veggies and incorporating lighter foods like spring greens and vegetables, simple soups, lighter meats (chicken, turkey, fish), and less dairy and carbs. This kind of cleanse also incorporates gentle hepatic and bitter herbs to assist with liver detoxification

This kind of cleanse also incorporates gentle hepatic and bitter herbs to assist with liver detoxification (artichoke leaf, dandelion leaf and root, gentian, hops, and milk thistle) as well as herbs that clear elimination pathways in the body (ie: nettle or corn silk for urination, psyllium seed or Triphala for bowel movements, elder flower or ginger root for sweating). These herbs are often taken in low doses over a period of weeks or months. This Spring Tonic Herb Blend is perfect for children and adults alike as it is gentle and nourishing to the body, it can help increase energy, and it supports the liver in the detoxification process.

This method of gentle cleansing often results in losing a bit of “winter weight” and seeing an increase in energy.

The Organ Cleanse

Organ cleanses are common when a specific body system is sluggish or is showing early signs of disease. Some examples of this kind of cleanse would be parasite cleanses, gallbladder cleanses, and colon cleanses. With a parasite cleanse, parasites are impairing the normal function of the gut and causing problems, therefore, herbs are needed to encourage parasites to be removed. Gallbladder cleanses, on the other hand, can be used to purge the gallbladder of bile so it can be excreted from the body and new bile can be made. This decreases the likelihood that gravel or stones will be formed inside the gallbladder. 

With a parasite cleanse, parasites are impairing the normal function of the gut and causing health problems. Herbs (black walnut, cloves, garlic, wormwood, or other anthelmintics) are then needed to encourage parasites to be removed so normal function can resume.

Gallbladder cleanses, on the other hand, use fats, herbs (artichoke, gentian, mugwort, or other cholagogues), and a high fiber diet to stimulate the gallbladder to release bile so it can be bound and excreted from the body. New bile is then made by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. This process decreases the likelihood that gravel or stones will be formed inside the gallbladder leading to bigger problems. 

Colon cleanses are often used when bowel function is sluggish or when gut dysbiosis is present. These kinds of cleanses can range from gentle to harsh, but gentle cleansing is always preferred. Colon cleanses often use a combination of a bland diet void of meat, dairy, and sugar with plenty of fiber and liquids. Stimulating and high-fiber herbs (cascara sagrada, marshmallow root, Triphala, yellow dock, psyllium seed or husk) are also used. These cleanses are followed up with a healthy diet, probiotics, and inulin-rich herbs (fall dug burdock, dandelion, and echinacea roots).

You can learn more about these herbs and how they can assist in body cleansing via herbal monographs found in The Herbarium and Matthew Wood’s The Earthwise Herbal books — Volume 1 and Volume 2. You can find most of these herbs online at Amazon or  Mountain Rose Herbs.

Detoxing

Detoxing tends to center around those toxins we are married to (heavy metals) and often incorporates multiple therapies together to rid the body of toxins that are stored and bound in the tissues of the body. Persons with less than healthy diets and lifestyles or those showing signs of toxin accumulation or disease may want to detox their bodies occasionally.

Like cleanses, there are various methods of detoxing, some are more gentle and less invasive while others are stronger and highly invasive. The method one would need depends on the amount and kinds of toxins and the person’s current state of health, and it’s recommended to work with a medical professional or experienced herbalist when strong detox protocols are called for. 

So What About Cleansing and Detoxing For Children

Cleansing and Detoxing: Is It Necessary and Safe? | Growing Up Herbal | Learn more about what toxins are, what the terms “cleansing” and “detoxing” mean, when it’s appropriate to cleanse or detox, what kind of cleansing and detoxing herbs can be used, and how to approach cleansing and detoxing with children in this post.

When it comes to my personal thoughts on cleansing and detoxing for children, I’ve found that it’s rarely necessary unless there’s a reason for it such as parasites, gut dysbiosis, or signs of liver congestion. I prefer to focus on the following things to keep my children’s bodies in a healthy state so cleansing and detoxing isn’t necessary.

  1. Feed them a healthy diet. This will look different for each family, but the goal is to eat a real food diet that is free of processing and additives. Offer plenty of healthy fats, eat a variety of foods, and don’t skip the nuts, seeds, and green, leafy veggies.
  2. Drink plenty of water. Your child’s body needs water to function, but water is also a great way to flush toxins from the body on a regular basis.
  3. Increase probiotics in their diet. This can be via a supplement, but it can also be through cultured and fermented foods. Probiotics, the beneficial bacteria found in the digestive system, can help improve and regulate digestion and support your child’s immune system.
  4. Decrease environmental toxins. Toxins are everywhere, and it’s impossible to avoid them altogether. However, we can do our best to swap out toxic products in our life for non-toxic versions to minimize our child’s exposure to external toxins.
  5. Take deep breaths of fresh air. Teaching kids how to sit still while breathing calmly and deeply is something that will help them in more ways than health alone. If you can’t get outside in nature as often as you’d like, do things to improve the air quality of your home. Fresh plants, air purifiers, Himalayan salt lamps, and essential oil diffusers can all help.

The choice to use herbs to cleanse and detox yourself or your child is completely up to you and should be based on your personal situation. It’s also a good idea to discuss your thoughts with your doctor or your child’s pediatrician or other healthcare professional before starting any cleansing or detoxing regimen.So what do you think? Do you have thoughts or personal stories to share about cleansing and detoxing? If so, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

So what do you think? Do you have thoughts or personal stories to share about cleansing and detoxing? If so, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

REFERENCES:

  • Christianson, A. (n.d.). Toxins. [Podcast Transcript]. Retrieved from http://drchristianson.com/toxins/
  • Econugenics. (n.d.). Safe natural ways to remove heavy metals and toxins: Detox wellness guide. [PDF Guide]. Retrieved from http://www.econugenics.com/media/wysiwyg/PDF/EcoNugenics_Wellness_Guide_-_Detox_Health.pdf
  • Hyman, M. (2010). How to rid your body of mercury and other heavy metals. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/05/19/how-to-rid-your-body-of-mercury-and-other-heavy-metals-a-3-step-plan-to-recover-your-health/