Everything You Need to Know About Herbal Detoxes

Updated on September 30th, 2020
herbal detoxes

Herbal detoxes are one of the most contentious health remedies. Most natural health advocates claim that they promote weight loss and rid the body of toxins. Meanwhile, health experts are skeptical of their purported benefits and point to the potential harm.

This write-up walks you through everything you need to know about herbal detoxes, whether they work, and any potential side effects [1].

What are herbal detoxes?

Herbal detoxes are usually teas or beverages containing multiple herbs. Despite lacking proper evidence, they’re used to eliminate toxins from the body and promote weight loss. While these detoxes’ duration varies, many are used short term, generally 3–14 days. Still, some detox drinks are prescribed as daily “support” for your body regularly.

Common ingredients

Most herbal detox products have natural ingredients that claim to promote liver health and weight loss, improve blood sugar levels, and flush out toxins from the body. The most popular ingredients include licorice, valerian root, cilantro, chlorella, coriander,  dandelion root, milk thistle, ginger, skullcap root, rhubarb root, burdock root, and juniper berry.

While some limited animal research studies have indicated that these ingredients have chelating properties, inferring they can bind to metals, there’s no proof these ingredients detox your body.

[Also Read: 6 Best Detox Teas for Weight Loss]

Do detoxes work?

Although herbal detoxes are a well-known health trend, most of their claims have little scientific backing and are overblown.

Removing toxins

Most detox product labels feature lengthy lists of natural ingredients. Yet, they fail to name which toxins will be flushed out from the body or prove their potency. Your body is already equipped with an intrinsic detoxification system.

Your liver, intestines, kidneys, and skin work nonstop to eliminate waste from your body via urine, feces, and to a little extent, sweat [2].

To date, no clinical research has shown healthy individuals have a pile-up of toxins in the body, nor that herbal detoxes improve your body’s ability to perform its regular functions.

[Also Read: Kidney Detox & Cleanse Naturally]

Effects on weight loss

Although individuals claim to feel better after a detox, it’s probably due to other healthy lifestyle behaviors, such as focusing on more nutrient-dense, whole foods and limiting processed food. Though you may experience some weight reduction, you will likely regain the weight once you halt the detox.

This is because many herbal detoxes contain diuretic ingredients that cause your body to expel water through feces and urine, leading to a drastic drop in water weight.

This kind of weight cycling can lead to disordered eating behaviors and thoughts, as you may feel demotivated when you regain weight once the detox is finished.

However, the excess use of herbal detoxes may lead to fat and muscle loss. Due to a spike in bowel movements, your body eliminates nutrients quicker than it’s absorbing them. This should be avoided because it is exceptionally unsafe.

Rather than depending on a detox to lose weight, opt for healthy lifestyle behaviors, such as exercising regularly, following a balanced diet, managing stress levels, and getting adequate sleep every night.

[Also Read: Detox Water Recipes to Loss Weight]

Other claims

Many herbal detox products boast various claims, such as that they regulate blood sugar levels, decrease acne and bloating, and improve energy levels.

However, no study backs these claims. If you have diabetes or another medical disorder, it’s essential to first speak to your medical practitioner. There’s no proof that herbal detoxes promote weight loss or rid your body of toxins. Your body already has an intrinsic detoxification process to expel waste through your feces, urine, and sweat.

Potential risks

Before you try an herbal detox, it’s essential to know their potential dangers.

Unknown ingredients

Many herbal detoxes are not regulated and may contain ingredients either not listed on the package or found considerably higher than indicated. This can lead to you overdose on certain ingredients, resulting in severe side effects or even mortality.

The United States’ USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) has taken action on many herbal detox products for their false claims, improper labeling, and harmful ingredients. Though most products claim to be natural, this does not mean they should be taken in large amounts or safe.

[Also Read: Natural Ways to Detox Your Body]

Side effects

Herbal detoxes with diuretics can increase your risk of becoming dehydrated and experiencing low electrolyte levels, which can be death inflicting.

For instance, a 67-year-old man reported trembling, nausea, and weakness after taking an herbal detox beverage containing juniper berries, uva ursi leaves, and many other ingredients for five days. He was treated at an ICU (intensive care unit) for deficient electrolyte levels.

A 60-year-old woman died in 2017 from liver failure after drinking a Yogi brand “detox” tea three times per day for fourteen days. The tea had 18 herbs that were believed to be responsible for the damage in her liver function.

In another instance, a 50-year-old woman died from multiple organ failure after ingesting an herbal Epsom salt detox, resulting in manganese poisoning.

What’s more, frequently using herbal detoxes can lead to severe nutrient deficiencies and weight loss, as your body isn’t given adequate time to absorb the vitamins, calories, and minerals in your diet.

At-risk populations

While herbal detoxes are usually not recommended, specific at-risk populations should specifically avoid them, including:

  • breastfeeding or pregnant women
  • adolescents and children 
  • people with underlying conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease 
  • those with kidney or liver disease
  • people with a history of an eating disorder or disordered eating 
  • People who are vulnerable to malnutrition or malnourished, such as senior adults
  • Before opting for an herbal detox, make sure to consult your medical practitioner.

Drug Interactions

Most herbs interfere with medication clearance in the liver, potentially increasing or decreasing your medications’ effects and posing serious health threats. Due to the massive range of ingredients used in herbal detoxes, you must talk to your medical practitioner before starting an herbal detox if you are taking any medications.

Bottom Line

Herbal detoxes are reputed due to their long lists of health claims, although they remain unconfirmed. Though it may be tough to resist to try an herbal detox, no substantiation indicates that it will help eliminate toxins from your body or help long-term weight loss.

If you’re looking to enhance your health, you’re better off adopting a healthy lifestyle, such as regularly exercising or eating a nutritious diet, rather than trying a potentially dangerous detox.

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