by Carol Willis, Wellness Manager
Springtime arrives in a few weeks. With spring comes the urge to give our home a thorough cleaning, and doing the same for our bodies might be a good idea as well. Somehow it seems like the natural thing to do after the long winter.
The Co-op has a good selection of internal cleansing kits and weight management products in the supplement department. I mention these types of products together as they are often quite similar. My purpose in this article is to take a look at some of the ingredients and their functions. First we will categorize some of the herbal ingredients and then get acquainted with some of the other ingredients so you can make an informed choice.
Internal cleansing formulas
These usually contain herbal bitters, laxatives, mucilaginous herbs, carminatives, diuretics antispasmodics, anti-inflammatory herbs, liver tonics and adaptogens.
- Bitters stimulate the flow of saliva which contains the first digestive enzyme that our food meets and they also stimulate the flow of bile: artichoke leaf, dandelion leaf and root, black cohosh, yellow dock, blessed thistle, angelica, gentian, turmeric, chicory root, bitter orange.
- Stimulating laxatives increase peristalsis (intestinal movement): cape aloe, rhubarb, buckthorn, senna, and cascara sagrada fit into this category. Bulk laxatives aka fiber: psyllium seed husks, plantain, pectin.
- Mucilaginous herbs soothe the intestinal tract: Slippery elm, marshmallow, chickweed.
- Carminatives relieve flatulence: Fennel, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, dill, angelica, hops, chamomile, sage, peppermint.
- Diuretics help rid the body of excess fluids: Dandelion, burdock, nettles, cornsilk, juniper, hawthorn, uva ursi, parsley.
- Antispasmodics reduce spasms in the intestinal tract as well as elsewhere in the body: black cohosh, dill, wild yam, cardamom, celery seed, valerian, peppermint, St. Johnswort, chamomile, rosemary, skullcap, fennel, licorice, fenugreek, mullein, ginger.
- Anti-inflammatory herbs do just that, reduce inflammation: Turmeric, yarrow, licorice, chamomile, rosemary, clove, chickweed, marshmallow, fennel, black cohosh, irish moss, angelica, hawthorn.
- Adaptogens aid in reducing the effects of stress on the body: ashwaganda, eleuthero senticosus (formerly known as Siberian ginseng) gotu kola, American and Korean ginsengs, rhodiola, schizandra, reishi mushroom.
- Liver tonics: By some accounts the liver has over 500 processes to perform on a daily basis, so herbs to help keep the liver healthy are very important. Liver tonics include dandelion, burdock, chicory root, turmeric and milk thistle.
- Hoodia is a succulent plant from Africa that is an appetite suppressant, the chemical constituents in Hoodia send a message to the hunger center in the hypothalamus that you are satisfied and therefore not hungry. Is that a good idea? You will have to decide.
- CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is reported to reduce body fat while increasing lean muscle mass, having an affinity for reducing belly fat. Food sources of CLA include grass fed beef, lamb or eggs and it is also derived from safflower oil for inclusion in CLA supplements.
- Chitosan is a polysaccharide from the shells of crustaceans such as lobster, crab and shrimp. It is a “special” fiber similar to cellulose that manufacturers claim has the ability to bind with fat molecules and convert them into a form that the body cannot absorb. Further, vitamin C is often added to chitoasan in weight loss products to enhance its effectiveness.
- 7-Keto is a metabolite of DHEA, the most abundant steroid in the blood of adult humans. As with so many things, DHEA naturally declines with age. 7-keto supplementation is well tolerated and not converted to estrogens or androgens in the body. The claimed purpose is to help maintain lean muscle mass.
- Phase 2 is made from white kidney beans. It is the first carbohydrate blocker clinically proven to delay the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. It is included on the FDA’s GRAS(generally regarded as safe) list.
- Digestive enzymes naturally decrease as we age and unless we are eating sufficient fresh raw produce, we may benefit from supplementation.
I hope this information aids you in choosing either an internal cleanse or weight loss product. Still let me remind us all to seek the advice of medical professionals before starting on programs to cleanse or lose weight, especially if we have previously existing health conditions. Additionally remember there is no replacement for regular exercise and a well balanced diet.
Resources used in writing this article:
David Hoffmann, FNIMH, AHG. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press, 2003.