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Herbal Cleansers

Help Your Body Deal with Waste and Toxins

A variety of herbs have been traditionally used to support the body’s innate ways of dealing with wastes and toxins. Sometimes, they’re referred to as “bitters”, “blood cleansers”, “laxatives”, or “diuretics”. Let’s take a closer look at some of these herbs, some examples of toxic compounds, and how your body cleanses and detoxifies.

Meet the herbs:

Blessed thistle (Cnicus benedictus), a relative of milk thistle, supports the liver with its bitter properties, which stimulate liver function and prime the whole digestive system.

Burdock (Arctium lappa) is a traditional cleansing herb used for its bitter and diuretic properties.

Kelp (Laminaria digitata) is a seaweed and source of minerals like iodine. It’s very soothing to the intestinal tract and promotes growth of probiotics there.

Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella) has both bitter, liver-stimulating properties and a diuretic effect.

Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva) is a nutritious, gruel-like powder made from the bark and is soothing to the intestines and stomach.

Turkish rhubarb (Rheum palmatum) is a bitter herb with laxative properties.

Red clover (Trifolium pretense) is traditionally used as an expectorant and cleanser for skin conditions.

Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) is a nutritious vegetable in the Cruciferous family that supports liver detoxification and has diuretic effects.

Quality and benefits:

Herbs should be selected based on several criteria: identity, detected levels of pesticides, heavy metals, and microbiologicals, and marker ingredients that indicate potency. The Natural and Non-prescription Health Products Directorate (NNHPD) approves cleansing herbs like these with health claims like “traditionally used in herbal medicine as a diuretic, diaphoretic and alterative to help remove accumulated waste products via the kidneys, skin and mucous membranes”. Our bodies do a great job processing and removing wastes and toxins, but sometimes we could use some support.


The Canadian government investigates chemicals for their possible health risks, including exposure levels, accumulation with time, and if these amounts could pose a risk to health. Safety assessments for new chemicals are typically completed within 5-60 days. As a result, certain chemicals are either banned or limited in the amounts that can be used, although it can be slow removing those that are found to be unsafe. What toxins, you might ask?  Let’s take a look at some examples.

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) are fire retardants once used on furniture and carpeting. Deemed toxic to wildlife in 1999, the government felt human exposure was too low to be a risk to health until 2008 when regulations finally came into force to eliminate their use. The safety/toxicity of the fast-tracked replacements for PBDEs is not well-known yet though.

Triclosan, an antibacterial ingredient in soaps isn’t considered a human health risk, but is now limited in Canadian products. The US FDA recently revoked its GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status and is reviewing its safety. The state of Minnesota has banned it and Canada is reviewing how to limit it getting into the environment.

Bisphenol A, used in making plastics and resins, was banned from baby products and infant formula can and cup linings by Canada in 2008.

Pthalates are found in many plastic products. Canada, the USA and the EU have created stricter limits on the amounts that can be in some consumer products due to concerns over human health.

Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) in smoked or barbecued meats have been linked with higher rates of stomach, pancreatic and colon cancer.

Tetrafluoroethylene (TFE) is used in non-stick cookware to create the non-stick coating, and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is used as a manufacturing aid. Higher cooking temperatures release more of these, so Health Canada recommends 350°C or 650°F maximum.

Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) is in some stain repellant/fabric protector products and is carcinogenic to wildlife. Canada banned the ingredient in 2009 and US manufacturers stopped production in 2000.

Many of these persist in our bodies for some time, but exposure studies have found that younger volunteers had lower amounts of banned chemicals than older volunteers.


Our kidneys and liver are the organs that do the heavy lifting in dealing with wastes and toxins that we take in from food and the environment. They “clean the blood”, break down and neutralize wastes and toxins, and send them on for elimination via the colon and urine.

The liver processes fat soluble toxins and the kidneys remove water soluble toxins. The kidneys remove metabolic waste products like ammonia, urea, creatinine, and uric acid, as well as certain drugs and environmental toxins. The kidneys essentially function as a filter – to allow waste products out and to reabsorb things like protein, glucose, minerals and water that the body can reuse. Drugs and environmental toxins first go through the liver for processing, where some are rendered water soluble, making them easier for the body to remove.

Diuretic herbs stimulate urine production by the kidneys in order to help remove accumulated fluid and waste products. They tend to either increase bloodflow to the kidneys or reduce water reabsorption. They sometimes also have antimicrobial or soothing (demulcent) effects. Using diuretic herbs may mean you’ll need to rehydrate a little more than usual. If you have any kidney disorders, it would be wise to check with a healthcare practitioner before cleansing.

Flor·Essence® is a traditional Ojibwa formula of eight herbs that work together as a gentle, whole body cleanse to assist the body in removing wastes and toxins. Flora has been making Flor·Essence® since 1992 and it’s now available in over 25 countries, with millions of bottles sold. http://www.florahealth.com