Detoxifiers & Depuratives
A depurative is a substance that improves detoxification and aids elimination to reduce the accumulation of metabolic waste products within the body.
How Depuratives Work
Depuratives gradually improve the proper function of the body, increase health and vitality.
This is a large, complex group of remedies used throughout history for their general eliminative, detoxifying and cleansing properties. They may also be called “alteratives”, “blood cleansers”, “dermatologic agents” (when applied specifically to the skin), or “lymphatics” (when applied to lymphadenopathy or where there is lymphatic involvement).
They are a very special group of herbs which are generally so gentle they do not have a dominant channel of elimination, rather they exert their action by promoting non-specific cleansing of tissues and the bloodstream. They act to dislodge a congestive condition and nudge eliminations into whatever channel is appropriate at the time, e.g., increasing bowel activity, diuresis, tissue perfusion or lymph flow.
There is no one mode of action of depuratives. They generally act by enhancing the natural tissue cleansing processes of the body. Because the function of the digestive system is so important in maintaining the health of the whole body, and because modern life tends to overwhelm the normal channels of elimination (through dietary and lifestyle excesses, exposure to environmental pollutants etc) many are believed to act by improving digestion, appetite, assimilation and elimination. Inhibition of the channels of elimination result in accumulation of wastes which can cause inflammation and damage within the body.
Conditions Benefited by Depuratives Action
They are most commonly used for chronic disease processes, working on the hypothesis that an acute disease becomes chronic with the failure of the body’s eliminative functions – suppression of symptoms also suppress the eliminative capacity of the body.
Depuratives bring about gradual and often inconspicuous changes in the body as they resuscitate the eliminative processes and help restore balance within the body and return it to a state of health. Their gentle cleansing action is ideal for chronic diseases by preventing severe healing crises which may debilitate the person even more. In saying this, however, remember that when trying to move any from of congestion, there is some danger that the body may become overwhelmed. Always go in gently and remember the body has its limits for dealing with toxins, and you need to work with these.
Depuratives may be used safely in many diverse conditions as supportive remedies, but the primary clinical indication for their use is chronic inflammatory disease, especially when it affects the skin (e.g., eczema, psoriasis), the joints (e.g., arthritis) and other connective tissues.
Depuratives represent one of the only true therapies for long term cure of chronic skin problems, working to restore and maintain proper function to the organs of elimination thus cleansing the bloodstream of accumulated waste products and toxins related to poor diet, lifestyle and previous medical suppression.
So, there is no one action or active constituent common to all depuratives, rather they are tonics which may alter many different aspects of the body. Just to confuse the issue however, individual depuratives often have preferential activity on a particular organ of elimination, and different depuratives may have an affinity for supporting different body systems.
- Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs. St. Louis, MO: Churchill Livingstone
- Cutler, E.W. (2007). Live free from asthma and allergies : use the BioSET system to detoxify and desensitize you body. Berkeley : Celestial Arts.
- Schechter, S.A. (1990). Fighting radiation & chemical pollutants with foods, herbs & vitamins : documented natural remedies that boost your immunity & detoxify. Encinitas, Calif. : Vitality Inc.
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The dandelion first appeared in 10th Century medical journals written by Arabian physicians. British apothecaries were writing about the plant by the 16th Century and talking about its diuretic effect. By the 19th Century, the dandelion had also become a well-known herb in America and Europe.