Cleansing Herbs,
Super Healing Herbs for Detoxification


Cleansing herbs are the roots, barks, mushrooms, seeds and berries of various plants that help to "cleanse" and purify the body of internal toxicity accumulated from environmental pollutants as well as metabolic wastes produced from substances we ingest. 

Many health experts agree that most disease takes place in the body when the digestive tract and the liver is backed up and proper functioning is inhibited. 

A similar thing occurs when our kitchen sink gets clogged and we must release the material in the pipes that is blocking the flow of water.

Using liver herbs, together with intestinal cleansers, can work to directly release the burden of a toxic overload that can, over time, have negative repercussions on all our body systems and our state of metal health in general. 

Implementing a yearly detox ritual, using herbs, water fasting, green juices and/or other purifying superfoods, can be extremely beneficial to your overall health and well-being during the course of a lifetime.  Periodic fasts or cleanses help to facilitate the body's own healing mechanisms so it can naturally do what it does best, clean and heal itself! 

The Liver as Master Detoxifier

The liver is the root of stability for the entire body.  When it is functioning at its best so do all our other bodily systems.  The blood that runs through our veins is like a river system that affects all areas and organs of the body.

The liver is the "master detoxifier" and blood filtering center largely responsible for the condition of our bloodstream.  When we nourish it and keep it healthy our entire body feels the results. 

The liver is a major organ of our digestive system and processes every substance we eat and take in.  It not only purifies the body of metabolic wastes, but also of pollutants in the air we breathe.  In addition, our liver is also in charge of constructing various building blocks needed for proper hormone production and activity that keeps our reproductive systems healthy and strong.

Using Liver Herbs

We are all exposed to environmental contaminants on a day to day basis, so it is good take herbs, supplements and drink teas that help clean them out on occasion.  This helps the body to detox from potential poisons like pesticides, PCB's, dioxin, chlorine, automotive exhaust, radiation and numerous heavy metals that are unfortunately still in the water we drink, the foods we eat and the air we breathe.

We ultimately recommend making a liver purifying formula that is tailored to your own personal health goals or issues.   This could mean using more of one herb or another, but also increasing the dosage strength according to your own needs.

Types of Cleansing Herbs

1) Alterative Herbs
2) Chinese Herbs
3) Intestinal Herbs

Alterative Liver Herbs

Some cleansing herbs and roots come from a very important class of herbs in botanical medicine, called herbal "alteratives."  Alteratives are blood purifiers that "alter" the condition of the blood by assimilating nutrients and eliminating metabolic waste products.  They help to neutralize acidic conditions, aid protein absorption and are very high in nutritional content. 

As an alterative, they contain bitter principles that activate and stimulate the action of the liver.  This aids digestion, increases bile production and helps to break down fats into useable nutrients. 

Dandelion Root


Dandelion root (Taraxaeum officinale) is one of the top cleansing herbs used for the liver.  It is a gentle and safe natural detoxifier and blood cleanser used by humans for centuries as a remedy for all types of ailments from hepatitis to skin disorders.  It is a nutritious bitter root that cleanses the blood, tissues and lymph.  Dandelion greens and roots are wild edibles that grow in moderate climates all over the world.  Dandelion root tea can be a great addition to a juice fast for a way to accelerate the cleansing process.

Yellow Dock Root


Yellow dock (Rumex crispus) is a prolific wild edible plant, like dandelion, that grows in many parts of the world.  It comes from the family of "docks" (N.O. Polygonaceae) but is specifically characterized by its very yellow root, similar to turmeric or oregon grape root. The root of the yellow dock plant is rich in various minerals, especially iron.  This particular attribute helps to enrich the blood while simultaneously purifying it.  Yellow dock is also a liver cleanser that helps to clear the skin and aids in the digestion of fatty foods.

Milk Thistle Seed


Extracts and powders of the milk thistle seed (Silybum marianum) contain a flavonoid called silymarin that has protective effects on the liver.  Silymarin repairs the liver by stimulating protein synthesis and changing the outside layer of liver cells.  In double blind studies experts concluded that the silymarin in milk thistle is extremely therapeutic, stabilizing the cell membrane and accelerating the process of regeneration in damaged liver tissue.  Milk thistle is very powerful for chronic illnesses and liver ailments, such as hepatitis and cirrhosis.

Burdock Root


Burdock root (Arctium lappa) is a great nourishing root that works with the liver and lymph to purify the bloodstream of toxins.  It is high in iron, which enriches the blood and is great for strengthening the entire system.  It is one of the few cleansing herbs that you can often find fresh in the produce section of your local health food store.  As an edible root, you can steam burdock root with green leafy vegetables or use it in soups with miso for additional cleansing benefits.  Burdock root is called "gobo" in Asian countries where it is a frequently used vegetable.

Oregon Grape Root


Oregon grape root (Mahonia aquifolium) is another great cleansing herb for ridding the blood and tissues of toxins and waste products.  Tea made from the decocted root is also helpful for liver or gall bladder sluggishness and congestion.  It is perfect for skin disorders and those wanting to loose weight.  It aids in the digestion of oils and fats, in addition to having effects as a mild laxative.  It is often used with other alterative herbs in herbal formulas to enhance their medicinal properties.

Sarsaparilla root


Sarsaparilla root (Smilax officinalis) is a blood purifier and has been proven helpful for mercury poisoning.  It helps to detox the body by binding to endotoxins in the bloodstream.  The saponins in the root have been shown to be effective for clearing up psoriasis as well as reducing inflammation.  Sarsaparilla root tea is a common remedy used by herbalists to treat problems associated with severe swelling like gout and arthritis.  It is a pleasant tasting tea, most commonly used in the original "rootbeers", along with other cleansing herbs and spices, like sassafras.  Do you know that the original ingredients in "rootbeer" actually originated as a liver tonic?  (See our rootbeer liver tea recipe.)

Chinese Liver Cleansing Herbs

These are tonic herbs and mushrooms that help detoxify the liver and entire body while simultaneously improving the functions of the liver by nourishing internal tissues.  All of the Chinese herbs listed below have additional health attributes that work with one or more systems, but they are all well known for their powerful effects as liver tonics and cleansers. 

Schizandra Berries


Schizandra (Schizandra chinensis) is a blood purifier that promotes liver health and helps to enhance eyesight and beautify the skin.  The decocted berries are one of the primary cleansing tonic herbs used in TCM as they are known to safely remove toxins from the tissues and blood without any negative side effects.  A liver-protecting drug has been developed by the Chinese medical system called DBD that is made from schisandrin, one of the active ingredients in schizandra. It is used for treating liver disease (hepatitis) and is known to protect the liver from poisons. 

Reishi Mushroom


Reishi mushroom is another Chinese tonic known to have powerful shielding effects on the liver organ.  The ganoderic acid content in reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) acts as a antihistamine, increasing oxygen utilization and liver functions.  As a liver tonic it cleans the blood and helps guard the liver with its antihepatotoxic compounds, ganodosterone and triterpenes.  In studies it has been shown to stimulate the regeneration of liver cells and has had positive results for those with hepatitis.

Bupleurum Root


Bupleurum (Bupleurum longifolium) is one of the most widely used liver herbs in Chinese medicine and is a common ingredient in many patent formulas.  The root is used to cleanse and "cool" the liver and is usually prepared with blood building herbs to help to release toxic substances.  Bupleurum should not be taken on its own or be used for extended periods of time, usually not more than a few months.

Dioscorea Root


Dioscorea (Dioscorea opposita) root is an effective cleansing herb for the endocrine system as well as the liver.  Also called "wild yam root", dioscorea is an excellent digestive aid that contains the saponin diosgenin, which is a known progesterone hormone precursor.  Often viewed as a "female tonic" for this reason, it is commonly used in formulas specific to the liver and endocrine glands.

Intestinal Cleansing and Healing Herbs

There are certain cleansing herbs that work together with liver herbs to help balance intestinal flora, detoxify and rid harmful parasites from the body.  These are herbs that act as natural antiseptics that sanitize the tissues, cells and blood.  Many of these healing herbs work as mild laxatives that move things through the body and out via the stools.

Pau D'arco


Pau d'arco (Tabebuia impetiginosa or avellanedae) is the inner bark of the red lapacho tree and is indigenous to rain forest regions of South America.  It is a powerful antifungal and can be effectively used as a tea to eliminate yeast, parasites and candida from the intestinal tract.  The infused or decocted bark makes a delicious tasting tea all by itself or it can be used with other herbs or tonics.  It is a great herb to use for autoimmune disorders and also acts as an anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antimicrobial and laxative.

Black Walnut Hulls


Black walnut (Juglans nigra) hull is the actual "hull" of the black walnut, the outer protective casing that surrounds the shell.  It is most always used as a ground powder for medicinal purposes.  Black walnut oxygenates the blood to kill parasites with its unique composition of juglone, tannins and natural iodine.  It is an antiseptic, a germicide, a parasitic and a laxative.  Black walnut hull powder is often used with clove powder and wormwood powder to expel parasites from the body.

Turmeric Root


Turmeric root (Curcuma longa) is a commonly used Ayurvedic herb that acts as a digestive bitter, carminative, anti-inflammatory and potent detoxifier.  Turmeric is commonly used as a powder added to foods and is great for those with digestive weakness, skin issues, IBS, colitis or diarrhea.  The fresh root or tincture can be used for greater effectiveness at decreasing congestion in the lungs, throat, intestinal tract and stomach.  Turmeric's effect on reducing inflammation is discussed extensively in this article.

What is a Detox Healing Crisis?

When the liver organ is backed-up and burdened with waste material we tend to experience emotional states such as irritation and anger.  Sometimes,  when using cleansing herbs, we may feel these emotions surface for short periods of time as the body expels toxins.  In addition, liver herbs can stimulate rapid outbreak and elimination through the skin.  These healing crisis' are short lived, however, and are sometimes a necessary part of the cleansing process.

How to Use Cleansing Herbs

Cleansing Teas - Infusions or Decoctions


One of our favorite ways to take cleansing herbs are as a hot tea.  Jars of tea can be made, kept in the fridge for several days and used by themselves or blended alchemically into blended drinks, shakes, smoothies or soups.

Most roots and tonic berries, like schizandra, need to be decocted by simmering them on low for at least 20 minutes or longer.  You can strain the herbs out and drink the tea, or infuse other nutritive herbs like nettle and red clover into the hot water after you turn off the heat source.


Tinctures are always a quick and easy way to take your cleansing herbs and do not involve a lot of preparation.   Most liver herbs are available in tincture form or you can also make your own from fresh or dried herbs.

Herbal Powders and Capsules

Some people, for convenience sake, prefer to take their herbs as a powder or in capsule form.  You can often purchase many cleansing herbal formulas in supplement form. 

Alternatively, you can make your own by buying the herbs as a powder or grinding up whole root and herbs to make fresh powder blends.

The powder can be consumed in water, added to hot drinks or blended foods.  For greater potency we always recommend decocting or tincturing the root powder first to help release more of its medicinal properties.


Most cleansing herbs should not be used when pregnant or breast feeding.  Consult the advice of your health care provider before using liver herbs for serious medical health conditions or when taking prescription medications.

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