From Clean Green Drinks exalting the benefits of “clean insides”, the popularity of Amazon’s top sellers in the category of “Detoxes and Cleanses”, and celebrities endorsing their latest eating and cleansing programs, this ancient therapeutic practice that was initially based in the ancient Ayurveda medicine and rooted in naturopathic wisdom, is now officially mainstream. What isn’t well known is the part that essential oils can play in supporting our bodies in our toxic world.
The Detox and Cleansing Craze
Detoxing and cleansing are quite “in vogue.” Have you noticed?
Just google “detox” and you’ll have the distinct pleasure of sorting through 83 MILLION plus hits! (83, 700,000 to be exact.) Although this trend started years earlier, the craze is more recent.
For example, Shape magazine touted 2014 the “year of the cleanse diet” and provided a guide for the top detox diets at that time. Two years later, CBS News gave “Detox, cleanse, and juice diets” a slot in its “8 Diet Trends for 2016” blog.
The controversy surrounding “detox and cleansing” diets has validity. On the con side, there are several factors. One is that some programs and diets are written by authors who have no clinical experience. They are simply using trends and promises for weight loss to sell plans that may not be suited for everyone, have no scientific basis, or come at a health cost for looking good in trendy jeans. Furthermore, the lack of consensus on a precise definition of what “tox” is combined with the confusion of various techniques, modalities, and protocols are other reasons that many health experts are not excited about the “detox craze.”
On the pro side, therapeutic cleansing has been used for healing since ancient times. Many still report success with these traditional applications. Modern therapeutic-based practices of detox diets and cleanses also have evidence of support. Specifically, preliminary trials, surveys, and case reports have demonstrated clinical improvement in protocols that were designed by health care practitioners. Furthermore, there are thousands of studies on the benefits of dietary interventions for a variety of conditions. The most famous is probably the health benefits derived from the Mediterranean diet.
There is also the argument that our bodies are designed to detox and handle chemicals without our intervening. However, we have never been up against so many chemicals in our past history as we are today. Furthermore, at this time where are bodies need more nutrition to thrive, our food is less nutrient dense and more toxin exposed. Studies have also indicated that many people are actually lacking in the vitamins and minerals needed to function, much less optimally flourish. Furthermore, there is evidence that certain individuals, due to genetic variations, may need additional nutrients to assist their bodies’ detoxification processes.
I believe the more important considerations about detox diets and cleansing, over if it works, is doing it safely and making protocols individualized. This means using proper supplementation when any type of elimination diet is implemented in order to ensure nutrient needs are met. There is a need for generalized-baseline approaches that prevent more toxic exposure and provide nutrient-dense foods to support people from the increase amount of stressors encountered in our world. These programs, led by physicians and true health experts, could be a helpful start and provide relief for many individuals.
I discuss this aspect in my 8-minute video regarding how functional and naturopathic medicine practitioners approach detoxification (more properly termed “biotransformation and elimination). You can view it here.
Using Essential Oils to Support Detox
We don’t have to use this information of toxic exposures to panic or lock ourselves into a plastic bubble. We can use it be proactive. For example, I just wrote about how diffusing certain essential oils and their constituents may not only protect us from unwanted microbe exposure, but also support our lungs from getting damaged from environmental pollutants.
Furthermore, I’ve discussed the physiological, emotional, and biochemical effects of essential oils for immune health and digestive support (for elimination) in the past. We also know that modulating stress and emotions have benefits in promoting wellness and that essential oils, being aromatic as well as biochemical modulators, support the body in endogenous production of helpful compounds to balance our biochemistry.
Just this Saturday, I read an article by one of my favorite essential oils experts, Dr. Eric Z. It was on using essential oils to detox. He gave a very comprehensive overview of the toxins we are up against as well 11 essential oils that can act to protect us and modulate our risk from this chemical soup world. The importance of quality and sourcing was also noted. Let’s take a look at what he highlighted and I’ll chime in a few points as well.
Eleven essential oils were discussed in the article, along with their modes of action. These included:
1.Myrrh– an emulsion of myrrh was found to be protective in the immunotoxic effects of lead. Although, the essential oil that was referenced, this oil does have immune, inflammatory, and digestive supporting properties that can assist with protecting the body from toxins and supporting wellness.
2. Nees & Mart- an essential oil I wasn’t familiar with, but that has in vitro evidence of antioxidant and chelation potential.
3. Mint- there are many properties of peppermint that can support the body in detox, including its antioxidant properties.
4 Valerian Root– an interesting study on the antioxidant properties of valerian essential oils was mentioned.
5. Clove- a powerful antioxidant and potential metal chelator. I wrote about its antioxidant properties and other helpful uses here.
6. Rosemary- another chelator and a DNA protector, as evidence in one in vitro study.
7. Lemon- for its in vitro oxidative stress protection and other health actions.
Citral oils that include:
8. Lemon Myrtle – Backhousia citrata (90-98% citral)
9. Lemongrass – Cymbopogon citratus (75-85%) – which also has been shown to modulate phase II detoxification in vitro.
10. Lemon Teatree – Leptospermum citratum from Australia (80%)
11. May Chang – Litsea cubeba (65-74%)
How To Use Essential Oils for Detox?
There are several ways to incorporate essential oils into your wellness routine. For environmental detoxification, diffusing may be best. Some essential oils that are safe for consumption can be taken internally by putting a drop in a small amount of honey or non-dairy milk. Or, you can place a drop in one glass of water, just don’t overdue!
You can learn to use essential oils safely by viewing the safety guidelines on my database.
Other Detox Resources
For additional generalized hints on safely navigating a chemical soup world, see here.
Learn more about the safety of supplements and which to choose that may be right for you here. I even have a general category of detox supplement support from quality manufactures you can view by creating a free account at the link provided. (Of course, make sure you are using them wisely and your doc is aware.)
Now, let me know… what are your experiences with detoxing and cleansing?
Detoxification Diets. Diet.com. http://www.diet.com/g/detoxification-diets
Anderson CH. The Top 10 Cleanses of 2014. Shape. December 3, 2014. http://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/healthy-drinks/top-10-cleanses-2014
Voo J. What Is a Detox Diet? Fitness. http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/weight-loss/plans/detox/the-truth-about-detox-diets/
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Jirovetz L, Buchbauer G, Stoilova I, Stoyanova A, Krastanov A, Schmidt E. Chemical composition and antioxidant properties of clove leaf essential oil. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Aug 23;54(17):6303-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/16910723/
Viuda-Martos M, Ruiz Navajas Y, Sánchez Zapata E, Fernández-López J, Pérez-Álvarez JA. Antioxidant activity of essential oils of five spice plants widely used in a Mediterranean diet. Flavour Fragr J. 2010; 25: 13–19. doi:10.1002/ffj.1951. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ffj.1951/abstract
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Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin.
These studies are not specific for any essential oils brand, please check the original study for the source.
This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
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