Detoxifying with Essential Oils

Open an alternative health magazine, read the signs in the windows of a spa or health food store, check out the website of your local health practice – chances are you’ll see “Detoxifying” treatments offered – from foot baths, to FAR infrared saunas, through to cleansing diets and aromatherapy massage. Every culture features traditional practices that help our human bodies detoxify – sweat lodges and saunas, cleansing fasts and herbal teas, hot springs and mud baths.

These traditions build on the ways our bodies already work to detoxify. Our bodies continuously eliminate toxins through our digestive, urinary, integumentary (skin), circulatory, respiratory, and lymphatic systems. Traditional detoxification treatments are designed to enhance these built-in mechanisms. And it seems that human beings have always sought out and devised ways to cleanse the body of unwanted by products of foods, especially cooked and smoked foods, the remnants of stress and fatigue, occasional encounters with natural toxins (forest fires? volcanic eruptions? radioactive meteorites?) and sporadic bouts of deliberate intoxication (fermented beverages, kava kava, yohimbe, peyote, marijuana etc.)!

We are designed to process toxins that are naturally occurring, but since the 20th century, human bodies are increasingly bombarded with new toxins from denatured foods and drinks, regular use of intoxicants such as alcohol and marijuana, pesticides, cigarettes and herbicides, petroleum by-products, air, and water pollutants. Fatigue, constipation, gas, bad breath, low immunity, hormone imbalances, menstrual, menopausal and fertility problems, skin problems, poor circulation, mood swings, depression, frequent infections and mucus build-up all can be signs that the body needs extra help to detoxify.

Like herbs, essential oils can be potent plant helpers in the detoxification process. Traditions correctly identify detoxifying plants and quite a few appear regularly in our diets and folk remedies such as lemon, grapefruit, apple cider vinegar, ginger, bitter greens and hot peppers. Detoxifying foods need not be taken as essential oils; in fact, never ingest an essential oil unless prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner. You can take a tablespoon of lemon juice in warm water each morning to help the liver detoxify, for instance, and it is neither necessary nor advisable to use a few drops of the essential oil Citrus limonum instead.

The foundation of any detoxification program is drinking filtered water (never plastic bottled!) and herbal teas – 3 litres a day is what I recommend to my clients! Drink enough water so that your urine is clear and barely coloured so that you know your kidneys are not being forced to recycle your urine in order to maintain your blood pressure. Be sure to eat a variety of green, raw and naturally fermented foods each day.

The body eliminates up to 1 pound of waste products every day through the skin. It makes good sense to keep the skin open and able to release waste products efficiently.

The body eliminates up to 1 pound of waste products every day through the skin. It makes good sense to keep the skin open and able to release waste products efficiently. Perspiring has many functions, chief among them the elimination of waste, so it makes sense to exercise daily, use deodorants instead of anti-perspirants and enjoy sauna and steam baths whenever you can. In fact, the body relies on simple exercise like walking half an hour a day in order to circulate lymph in the lower half of the body. Brushing the skin of the whole body towards the heart from bottom to top is a simple practice that removes dead skin cells and increases lymphatic circulation. I prefer using a salt or sugar scrub in the same way, then soaking in a nice bath in the dissolved scrub.

Basic Sugar Scrub Recipe

Ingredients Measure
Sea Salt (finely ground Dead Sea salt Maris sal is best)
and/or Sugar (fair traded evaporated cane juice is best)
2 cups
Raw Honey 3 tsp
Carrier Oil
Castor Oil, Grapeseed Oil, or Almond Oil
3~6 tbsp
Vegetable Glycerin
or more honey if you want a more fluid scrub
for colour: Clay
or Alkanet Root Alkanna tinctoria for red, Carrot Root Infused Oil Daucus carota for orange etc.
1 tsp
for scent: any Essential Oil 10 drops
per cup of dry material

Eastern traditions hold that toxins are effectively eliminated through the feet, so try regular foot baths with favourite essential oils.

Instructions
Mix the oils and honey into the sea salts or sugar.

Directions for Use

  1. Wet your body.
  2. Stand up in the bath and take a handful of the salt mixture at a time and scrub your entire body, using circles up and into your lymph nodes at the back of thighs, the groin, the armpits, the neck and towards the heart. Let the mixture fall into the tub.
  3. Soak for 20 minutes to refresh and rejuvenate, longer to relax.

Eastern traditions hold that toxins are effectively eliminated through the feet, so try regular foot baths with favourite essential oils. Finally, a good 20 minute soak in a bath allows your body to sweat out waste products while you relax. Add fresh, homemade bath salts to increase detoxification and relaxation.

Basic Bath Salts Recipe

Ingredients Measure
Epsom Salts
Magnesium sulfate heptahydrate and/or
½ or 1 cup
Coarse Sea Salt
Maris sal and/or
¼, ½ or 1 cup
Baking Soda
Sodium bicarbonate
¼, ½ or 1 cup
optional: (organically grown/non GMO) Corn Starch ¼ – ½ cup
optional: Citric Acid for fizzing effect ¼ – ½ cup
optional: Oatmeal
to soothe dry, rashy or irritated skin
up to ½ cup
for colour: Clay
or Alkanet Root Alkanna tinctoria for red, Carrot Root Infused Oil Daucus carota for orange etc.
1 tsp
flowers: Chamomile, Lavender, Rose, Malva, or Calendula Petals up to ½ cup
for scent: any Essential Oil 10 drops
per cup of dry material

Instructions

  1. Choose how much of each, and which, ingredients you want to use.
  2. Blend all ingredients one at a time starting with the largest quantity.
  3. Bottle: ideally, bath salts should be kept in a sealed glass jar away from light.

A good 20 minute soak in a bath allows your body to sweat out waste products while you relax. Add fresh, homemade bath salts to increase detoxification and relaxation.

Directions for Use
Pour 1 cup of bath salts into the running water per bath and swish until dissolved. If more bath salts are desired, add up to 2 more cups of plain sea salt or epsom salts. You can even feed your epsom salts (not sea salt!) grey-water to your plants, vegetables, and lawn for greener grass and big, healthy vegetables.

Precautions
Omit the epsom salts if you have high blood pressure or a heart or kidney condition.

Selected essential oils are used by holistic aromatherapists as powerful agents to assist the body in ridding itself of toxins. The blood and lymph circulate essential oils that are absorbed through the skin to all parts of the body.

Selected essential oils are used by holistic aromatherapists as powerful agents to assist the body in ridding itself of toxins. The blood and lymph circulate essential oils that are absorbed through the skin to all parts of the body. Essential oils are not simply scents, but rather are chemically complex and their constituents have a direct effect on the body, mind, and spirit. If you are lucky enough, you can receive regular massage through an aromatherapist, or exchange massage as part of a detoxification regimen. Start with weekly massages, then maintain your inner and outer bliss with monthly massage.

Detoxifying Massage Oil Recipe (5% Essential Oils)

Ingredients Measure
Essential Oils
choose from: Tangerine, Lemon, Lime, Grapefruit, Orange, Juniper Berry, and Cypress
30 drops in total
Good Quality Vegetable Oil
such as: Almond, Grape Seed, Sesame, or Hemp
2 tbsp (30 mL)

Instructions

  1. Add the essential oils to the vegetable oil.
  2. Mix in a glass bottle, and use ASAP.

Select essential oils that you enjoy, and that detoxify the systems of the body that you need to work on most urgently. Try new combinations without regard to convention, and switch blends every two weeks in order to maintain effectiveness and prevent sensitization.

(A Few) Detoxifying Essential Oils

Remember the ancient rule of thumb “as above, so below”; botanicals that help rid the body of toxins also help dispel negative thoughts and emotions.

A note about citrus essential oils: All are detoxifying, but as a rule, none should be worn on the skin in daylight because they may be sun sensitizing.
Cypress Cupressus sempervirens is diuretic, acting to tone the blood and lymphatic vessels, and decongest the lymph.
Lemon Citrus limonum stimulates white blood cells to defend the body against infection and is effective against viruses like the ‘flu. Detoxifies through the blood and liver.
Grapefruit Citrus racemosa is diuretic, anti-fungal and speeds up lymphatic circulation and the elimination of toxins. Detoxifies through the skin, urinary tract, liver, gall bladder and lymphatic system.
Fennel Foeniculum vulgare dulce is diuretic, and aids digestion and elimination, expelling parasites. Detoxifies through the skin, kidneys and the digestive tract.
Fir Balsam Abies balsamia is antiseptic, anti-cancer and detoxifies through the adrenal glands.
Frankincense Boswellia carterii gently regenerates tissues and the nervous system through its relaxing effects.
Juniper berry Juniperus communis is anti-viral, diuretic, and can help reduce cellulite by eliminating toxins from fatty tissues and expel uric acid from the system. Detoxifies through the kidneys, skin and urinary tract.
Palmarosa Cymbopogon martini cleanses the digestive system at a cellular level. Detoxifies through the nervous and digestive systems.
Patchouli Pogostemon cablin is known by tradition to act on the glands to detoxify skin and strengthen the immune system through its profound stress relieving properties.
Peppermint Mentha piperita is powerful against infections and their toxic residues, but never use it in a bath or directly on mucous membranes. Detoxifies through the respiratory and digestive systems.
Rose Rosa damascena is gentle and so relaxing that it is said to balance hormones and stimulate the immune system solely through its action against stress and its by-products.
Rose Geranium Pelargonium odorantissium or graveolens enhances circulation, balances hormones especially in menopause, and fights yeast while protecting helpful bacteria. Detoxifies by toning the liver, pancreas and spleen.
Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis increases circulation. Detoxifies the respiratory system and clears mucous.
Ylang Ylang Cananga odorata is powerfully relaxing, and detoxifies through the nervous and digestive systems.

Most importantly, take the opportunity of a self-directed detoxification program in order to thoroughly enjoy yourself – the taste of clean water, the textures and colours of fresh foods, the satisfaction of moving the body, and the sensory delights of homemade essential oil treatments. When it comes to toxins, the rule is: Reduce, Relax, Refresh and Relish!



Recommended Reading and Sources:
Aroma Web online
Gray, Bev, Aromatherapy Detox With Essential Oils by Bev Gray Source: alive #269, March 2005 www.alive.com
Price, Shirley, Practical Aromatherapy: how to use essential oils to restore health and vitality. Thorsons, 1983.
Benham, Jan, The Creamy Craft of Cosmetic Making with essential oils and their friends, The Aroma Shoppe, 1996.
Benham, Jan, The Baby Boomers Beauty Bible, The Aroma Shoppe, 2004.

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