How To Detox For Your Body (According To Ancient Traditions)

mbg Contributor By Adriana Ayales
mbg Contributor
Adriana Ayales is the founder and CEO of Anima Mundi Herbals. Her apothecary and herbal expertise has been featured in The New York Times, Glamour, Vogue, Travel + Leisure, and more.
How To Detox For Your Body (According To Ancient Traditions)

Detoxing is an ancient process that dates back as far as written history can inform us; predating Roman, Greek, Native American, Indian, and Rainforest Tribal culture.

Detoxing with herbal medicine supports cleansing and purification. Whether done as a devotional fasting to the Gods or a technique to rid the body of illness, detoxing has always been celebrated for its sacred ability to connect the mind and body to the Universal way.

Detoxing is a very personal experience that requires you to dive within the deepest parts of yourself and demolish all toxic waste—physical and metaphysical. Many effective techniques are still sound ways to rid the body of toxins. Let's get our feet wet with how a few of these traditions work.

There are so many styles of purging and detox that it is of vital importance to find the one the fits you and matches your life in this moment. Remember that in order to detox safely, you must have an awareness of yourself before you jump in and potentially harm yourself.

1. Cleansing in Native American cultures

Native American cultures use a series of purification rituals to induce visions, cleanse the mind, and heal the body. Sweat lodges served as the main sources of purification, and Native Americans used them to engage in deep healing.

Today, depending on their leader, sweat lodges feature dry herbs alongside the dry rocks of the lodge. Many leaders also use tea before and after the ceremony to increase the detox. Smudging is an essential component of Native American (and Shamanic) detoxing, used to cleanse the body energetically so it can receive visions. Smoke from white sage, juniper, cedar, and resins are used to rid the body of negativity and excessive toxicity and purify the surrounding air.


2. Cleansing in Ayurveda

There are two main approaches to eliminating toxins within Ayurveda.

Panache Karma

These are physical elimination rituals often done with purgatives or medicated enemas. I can't say enough how powerful medicated enemas can be when safely administered.



A less intense cleanse, palliation is thought to help neutralize the toxins in the body. Depending on your body type, you can fast to stimulate your GI tract or add pungent herbs to your diet that invoke heat to stimulate a digestive "fire" that burns away toxins. If needed, sunbathing and other heat therapies can help release all the junk.

3. Cleansing in Shamanic culture

Many native rain-forest cultures practiced traditions heavily based on herbal dietas, limpias, and plant medicine ceremonies.



Dietas are strict herbal and food diets that can go for seven-plus days, up to months, or even years. These diets are meant to cleanse the body from toxic stagnation, emotional imbalance, and spiritual confusion. Many traditional procedures require these herbal diets to be done in isolation or with very limited sensorial stimulation to really dive deep and get down to the core. The meal plan is very simple—usually free of sugar, salt, oil, gluten, fermented foods, dairy, meat, and alcohol.


Limpias are essential emotional and spiritual cleanses that use fresh herbs in baths and smudges. Specific fresh herbs and flowers are used for specific people depending on the condition they are looking to heal, whether it's a broken heart, trauma, or physical pain.


Plant medicine ceremonies

Our ancestors relied on nature for all their needs; fresh plants, flowers, and berries composed their daily medicinal routines. For this reason, traditional tonic herbs and superfoods still have a special place within most cleansing regimes. This basic connection to our source grants us the power to heal ourselves and thrive. We must invite these rituals back into our lives to remember that we do have the power to heal ourselves. To live in a state of purity and balance is a basic state to our humanness.

Here is one of my favorite herbal cleansing recipes. I often drink this formula before preparing for a more intense, active detox, but it can also be used on its own as a gentle liver, gallbladder, and digestive cleanser.

A "Rainforest Cleanse" Tea


  • 3 teaspoons Chanca Piedra powder
  • 2 teaspoons moringa powder
  • 1 teaspoons Pau D’ Arco
  • 1 teaspoon nettles (powdered or a handful of fresh leaves)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-grated turmeric (sub with 1 teaspoon powdered)
  • ¼ teaspoon Boldo leaf powder
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon Quassia Bark Powder (optional for an extra kick)


1. Infuse all the herbs in about 1 liter of water, and allow it to infuse for about 10 minutes.

2. Shake really well to activate the chemistry, and drink slowly.

3. Drink the whole liter on an empty stomach in the morning.

Keep in mind

For truly effective results, do not consume any oils, dairy, meat, or spicy foods for the day that you want to actively cleanse. Many tribal peoples around the world devote one day a week to cleansing in order to keep up basic maintenance in the body.

Additional therapies to pair with the tea

  • Heat therapy from a sauna, steam, or sweat lodge can help magnify the effect of these herbs.
  • If you are in an active cleansing period, consider incorporating enemas to assist in elimination. Sometimes the organs release the toxins faster, but our body needs extra assistance in removing them from the system entirely.

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