Herbal Detoxification

The herbal approach to detoxification is based upon the premise that the human body is a self healing and homeostatic organism, and that the therapist simply has to support normal processes. The body has a wonderfully effective and astoundingly complex mechanism for ridding the body waste and poisons. This can be helped by using basic, simple and safe herbs as long as the eliminative process are addressed as a whole and not just the colon.



This means that whenever such a program is undertaken, ensure that all organs of elimination are being helped at the same time. In addition always help the specific area of the body that you conclude has been under most toxic pressure. Examples would be the lungs in a tobacco smoker or the liver in someone with alcohol related problems. Details of how to work with detoxification in these examples and other specifics are given in the appropriate sections.



To summarize :


Support the whole process of elimination.

Specific support for overly taxed organs.

Alleviate symptoms and address any pathologies that are also present.


Actions & Elimination

There are actions whose physiological impact makes them especially indicated for the support of the different pathways of elimination in the body. Please review these actions.

  • Digestive system & colon: aperient/laxative
  • Kidneys & urinary system: diuretic
  • Liver & blood: hepatic, alterative
  • Lymphatic system: alterative, lymphatic tonic
  • Skin: diaphoretic, alterative
  • Respiratory system: expectorant, pulmonary, anti-catarrhal
  • Systemic Support: tonic, alterative, adaptogen, anti-microbial


This does specify which herb or even mention any remedy. The choice of appropriate plants is left up to the skill and insight of the practitioner. Using the actions model it is relatively straight forward to formulate a prescription that is effective in prompting the bodies eliminative work whilst also being uniquely suited for the unique individual.



Selection of Herbs with these Actions.

Selection criteria should take into account secondary actions as well as system affinity, as described in the basic model. However there is a need to tend towards gentle remedies when stimulating elimination. If overly active plants are used, then the effect may be one of intense elimination. This can be unpleasant & uncomfortable and of no added therapeutic benefit. Purging & Puking is not a healing crises, but rather the worst aspects of 19 th. century medicine.



Below are suggestions for herbs that effectively supply the actions whilst also being safe and mild. This is not a comprehensive list but simply examples to point the way.

  • aparient/laxative: Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus), Dandelion Root (Taraxacum officinale rad.)
  • diuretic: Dandelion Leaf (Taraxacum officinale fol.)
  • hepatic: Dandelion Root (Taraxacum officinale rad.), Beetroot
  • alterative: Nettles (Urtica dioica), Cleavers (Galiumaparine)
  • lymphatic tonic: Cleavers (Galium aparine)
  • diaphoretic: Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
  • expectorant, pulmonary: Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
  • tonic: A remedy that has a relevant system affinity
  • adaptogen: Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
  • anti-microbial : Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)

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David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH Written by David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH

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