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These gentle botanical detoxifiers work with your body to “clean house”.

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Holistic healing systems share a core concept that is critical to success in almost all natural therapies: practitioners are concerned about making sure that the body eliminates its metabolic wastes, and that new harmful substances do not enter the body and wreak havoc.

At the most basic level, health maintenance is relatively simple: Give the body what it needs, and don’t let it have much of what it what it doesn’t need, and body will efficiently run itself. Failing that, imbalances occur, and harmful substances to which you are exposed may not get eliminated quickly or efficiently enough. Cleaning out poisons that build up in the body—safely, naturally and effectively—can result in renewed strength and vitality.

When the body is weighed down with harmful materials, normal physiological mechanisms begin to function imperfectly or become dangerously disrupted, resulting after a time in chronic illness. Furthermore, the capacity of the body to absorb and distribute nutrients becomes severely limited. The body’s ability to heal itself is degraded.

Of course, prevention and clean living is the first resort, but what if the damage is already done? There is something you can do—detoxify.

Herbal detoxifiers are called “alteratives.” While the definition of an alterative is somewhat vague, basically they are remedies that normalize metabolism to assist the body in elimination through the kidneys, liver, or lungs. Many classic alteratives, or “blood purifiers” are now being found to be potent antioxidants, or to have other free radical quenching action.

The simple dandelion has been used for centuries by herbalists the world over, who have long held this common lawn weed in high regard. Dandelion is major herb in at least three ancient herbal traditions—Western, Chinese, and Ayurveda, used to treat conditions including jaundice. This root is bitter, and due to its high mineral content, a bit salty.

Though this cleansing herb is common in natural healing, the science has just started to roll in. A recent Korean test-tube study found that dandelion extract inhibits oxidative stress and inflammatory responses. Another recent paper reports that a water extract of dandelion reduced oxidative stress and liver injury. An Israeli study testing dandelion root extract shows similar results. Human studies on dandelion are hard to come by, but one interesting 2011 test-tube experiment concluded that dandelion root extract presents a potential non-toxic alternative to conventional leukemia therapy. Take 5 grams per day in capsules or enjoy a cup or two of dandelion root tea each day.

A member of the daisy family, burdock root is rich in antioxidant flavonoids and plant compounds called bitter glycosides, and its high levels of lignans (phytochemicals) and inulin (fiber) have shown anti-inflammatory activities, explaining its use in quelling skin inflammation, for which it has a long history of use. It is often used by herbalists to assist in removing accumulated wastes in skin and kidneys. Several studies have supported traditional use, indicating that burdock root has liver-protective and anti-inflammatory activities. Recently, building on past research, a 2011 paper from Brazilian scientists found extracts of the root had strong free radical scavenging activity.

Burdock root is cultivated as a food in Japan, where it is called “gobo.” Resembling a long brown carrot, it is prepared in cuisine much like a carrot. In the United States, it is available as a supplement. Take 425 mg per day. The dried herb can also be brewed as a tea (¼ ounce per cup). Drink 1 cup per day.

Radishes are another cleansing plant. They garnish your salad, but do much more. Radish, a member of the cabbage family, is known the world over for liver detoxification. The black radish is regarded as a stronger remedy, but the common red radish also excels as a dietary cleanser. Other radishes, including daikon, are used in their respective cultures. Radish relaxes the smooth musculature of the bile ducts, allowing freer bile flow and is a good choice in cases of chronic constipation. A recent paper in the Journal of Food Science concluded that in rats eating a high radish diet, significantly higher levels
of detoxification enzymes were found. In supplement form, follow label instructions, and enjoy radishes as a food, or add to juice blends.