3 Ancient Herbal Cleanses That Show The Deeper Meaning Of Detoxing
Detoxing with herbal medicine 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.
When viewed through a cultural lens, detoxing becomes less of an opportunity to lose weight and more of a tool for spiritual cleansing and purification. Many cultures through time have considered fasting a devotional act and prized it for its sacred ability to connect the mind and body to the Universal way. Here are just a few examples:
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.
These are physical elimination rituals often done with purgatives or medicated enemas.
A less intense cleanse, palliation is thought to help neutralize the toxins in the body. Depending on your body type, this fast can stimulate the GI tract or add pungent herbs to your diet that invoke heat to stimulate a digestive "fire" that burns away toxins.
3. Cleansing in Shamanic culture
Many native rain-forest cultures like those I have studied with 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.
The bottom line.
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. As such, it should always be done with care, respect, and understanding.
Adriana Ayales is the founder and CEO of Anima Mundi Herbals based in Brooklyn, NY. She studied Central and South American tribal herbalism with plant medicine teachers in Costa Rica, the Amazon and California before studying classic Western and European herbalism. Ayales authored the "Healing Tonics" cookbook and has been featured in The New York Times, Glamour, Vogue, Travel Leisure, and more. She is committed to supporting the preservation of indigenous lands and their local economies through her fair trade business.