The body is like poetry in that the first reading of a poem means something different than the second and third time it is read. Each reading becomes more profound and, if it is a well-written poem, like our bodies, after great thought and reflection it will introduce us to new ideas. What has this got to do with chemical detoxification? As we continue to reread our bodies, we are finding how everyday chemicals are responsible for difficult and unexplained health problems.
In our modern world we are bombarded with synthetic chemicals: environmental pollutants, dry cleaning solvents, textile finishes or dyes on clothing, food additives, preservatives or colorants, pesticides, herbicides, synthetic hormones in our animal foods, water treatment substances, petroleum by-products in laundry and body care products, copy machine exhaust; and the list goes on. These can all potentially cause illness, as they may accumulate in liver, gallbladder and other fatty tissues over time (including those surrounding our nervous system and reproductive organs). These substances most commonly cause physical, psychological and neurological symptoms such as depression, headaches, confusion, upper respiratory reactions and tingling in the hands or feet. Chemical toxicity is often part of the diagnostic picture in attention deficit disorder (ADD) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Until the early 1980s, few health care practitioners recognized, much less treated, environmental illness or chemical hypersensitivity as it is sometimes called. The work of nutritional pioneers like Parris Kidd, Ph.D. and Stephen Levine, Ph.D. of Allergy Research Group (himself a victim from exposure to laboratory chemicals in biotechnology research in the 1970s) has established nutritional protocols for this illness which we can all benefit from. The sad plight of Gulf War veterans has been much publicized in recent years, helping to increase the public’s awareness of environmental illness. However, the conventional medical community has been generally slow to recognize the problem, except for those physicians specializing in orthomolecular medicine. Those of us who are interested in maximum health are encouraged to do a chemical detoxification several times yearly as a preventive measure, especially when many of these chemicals have been shown to damage cell structures and to be carcinogenic. Taking this extra load off can free the immune system and other body mechanisms to function better.
Traditional Herbal Approach
Traditional folk herbalism would address chemical toxicity by encouraging general detoxification of the blood, lymph, bowels, liver and kidneys. There are many herbs credited with these actions in traditional herbalism. Some of the more popular ones are alfalfa, condurango, red clover, yellow dock, burdock, chaparral, nettle, milk thistle, dandelion, echinacea, goldenseal, spikenard, licorice, reishi, cat’s claw, schizandra and fumitory. Herbs and plants high in chlorophyll, the green pigment, have a long history of use for detoxification as well.
Hanna created an Herbal Combination called Chem X with Black Tea, Condurango Bark, Red Clover, Yellow Dock, Paprika, Chaparral, and Spikenard. This formula helps your body’s natural response to the effects of modern day exposure in an industrialized world by cleansing the body naturally of unwanted daily toxins.
Scientific Research For Chemical Toxicity
Modern scientific research, perhaps reflecting conventional medicine’s lack of interest in the subject, has not yet looked into the detoxifying effects of many of these herbs. In instances where it has uncovered these properties, it appears to be a side note to having researched all of that herb’s other effects first. There are four basic types of tests that reveal relevant actions for environmental toxicity and chemical detoxification. Does it increase the clearance of toxins? Does it have free radical scavenging or other binding activity? Does it provide antioxidant protection in the meantime to prevent damage to cells until toxins are removed? Does it have direct liver protective and bile stimulant effects, the liver being the main organ impacted by chemical toxins? Antioxidant protection is especially important in protecting fats within the body from oxidation or rancidity which in turn may damage cell walls and other structures or cause cell mutations.
Tannins are a chemical class found in many plants that are known to provide detoxifying actions through chelation or binding, as well as antioxidant protection. Binding and antioxidant actions make toxin molecules less likely to do cellular damage and improve their clearance. Some examples of herbs high in tannins are black or green tea, condurango, willow, white oak, cinnamon, witch hazel and queen of the meadow. Chlorophyll has also shown chelating or binding action in scientific studies, though not through tannin content. Antioxidant protection is provided by non-tannin compounds in milk thistle, chaparral, thyme, rosemary and reishi. Red clover is high in molybdenum, a mineral known to bind toxins within the body.
Some herbs have demonstrated liver protective effects against environmental toxins or damage due to by-products from pharmaceutical drugs. Herbs providing this type of protection are maitake, Siberian ginseng, milk thistle, reishi, garlic, horsetail, gentian, licorice and astragalus. Camellia sinensis, the plant from which green and black tea is made, and shiitake have both demonstrated the ability to protect against damage from nitrosamines (cancer causing compounds derived from cured meats).
Increasing bile flow from the liver and gallbladder is another important modality in protecting the liver and improving elimination of toxins. Herbs researched for this action are milk thistle, goldenseal, Oregon grape root, scullcap, peppermint, rosemary, chamomile, dandelion, gentian and ginger. Herbs that have been shown to help regenerate damaged liver tissue may also be of benefit, including milk thistle, schizandra and reishi.
Chlorophyll’s traditional reputation has been verified by scientific research, showing that it can chelate or bind toxins and protect the liver against carbon tetrachloride damage and that it has antioxidant properties. High chlorophyll content in chemical analysis has been found in spirulina, chlorella, alfalfa, nettle, wheat grass and barley grass.
Some herbs with special qualities demonstrated in research are: psyllium for cleansing food coloring and additives; reishi for blocking the stimulant effects of caffeine; and the Capsicum species (including cayenne and paprika) for protection against damage from passive cigarette smoke.
Remember that many of the herbs we are speaking of here also have mild laxative and/or diuretic effects that will aid in the elimination of toxins. These actions both require increased water intake to be used properly and safely. Many of the herbs do have side effects or toxicity associated with them, so please consult your health care practitioner for guidelines in safe use. Full or partial fasting, skin brushing, saunas or steam baths and lymphatic massage are also recommended to stimulate the release and clearance of toxins from the system. If you have had serious exposure to any toxic substances, the guidance of a qualified health care practitioner is advised to help you detoxify at a comfortable and safe rate. Occasional, seasonal detoxification can provide extra insurance for those of us with minor exposure who want to take preventive action.<< read less