Toxins—they’re everywhere. From external environmental toxins to internal toxins made from incomplete digestion, Ayurveda takes regular detoxification seriously. Here, the Council Of Maharishi AyurVeda Physicians weighs in on the best approaches to safely detox, including the best herbal formulas to accompany your cleanse.
Q: What Ayurvedic herbal formulas support detox?
A: Maharishi Ayurveda offers a range of detoxification products. For all types of toxins, the first and foremost treatment is to improve elimination. Organic Triphala Rose is an excellent herbal formula for supporting regular bowel movements. Taking two to five tablets of Triphala before going to bed will help purification. Organic Genitrac helps flush out ama from the genitourinary tract. It targets the genitourinary channels to help eliminate toxins through the urine. Elim-Tox and Elim-Tox-O are both effective in removing toxins from the liver, blood, sweat glands and elimination system.
For example, Elim-Tox contains Indian Sarsaparilla (Hemidesmus Indicus), Sandalwood and Neem Leaf to enhance purification of toxins through the sweat glands and skin. Other herbs support elimination through the urinary tract by balancing lubrication (Shleshaka Kapha) and the downward energy in the body (Apana Vata). Another group of herbs contained in Elim-Tox—including Rose Petals, Licorice Root, Turpeth Root (Indian Jalap) and Tinospora Cordifolia (Indian Tinospora)—support elimination of toxins by lubricating the digestive tract and supporting the process of elimination through urine and stool.
If your immunity is low due to toxins, Elim-Tox-O is another product that is effective. It contains an excellent detox herb: Tinospora Cordifolia. It supports the liver, the most important organ for detoxification. Elim-Tox is faster acting, but if you have a Pitta imbalance, Elim-Tox-O is better because it first pacifies the reactivity of Pitta dosha before flushing out the toxins.
Q: Are herbal formulas effective in removing amavisha & garavisha as well?
A: Amavisha and garavisha are deep-seated toxins. Many of the same products that eliminate ama like Elim-Tox-O, Organic Genitrac and Organic Triphala Rose will also be helpful. More specific herbs may also be recommended by an Ayurvedic expert. It takes great care and expertise to remove amavisha from the body, because amavisha is reactive.
If the wrong method is used, it could cause the channels or tissue where it is located to become inflamed, or the skin to break out. If you feel that you have amavisha, consult an Ayurvedic expert who can take your pulse and determine which organ, channel, or body tissue the amavisha is located in, how long it has been lodged there, and whether the amavisha has mixed with Vata, Pitta or Kapha. By knowing this, they can pacify the reactivity first, and then purify the toxins.
For garavisha, it's also important to be tested to determine the specific environmental toxin that is causing the problem. Then the Ayurvedic expert can design a specific treatment program including a specific diet and daily routine to remove that particular toxin.
Q: Are there other types of Ayurvedic detoxification programs available?
A: Maharishi Panchakarma—the gentle but intensive purification program that includes massage, mild internal cleansing, and steam baths—can be extremely effective in ridding the body of all three types of toxins.
At Maharishi Vedic Medical Centers (such as The Raj in Fairfield, Iowa) both an Ayurvedic expert and a medical doctor prescribe and oversee the Panchakarma treatment. This is very important, because together they can determine whether there is ama, amavisha and garvisha; the quantity of toxins in the body; where they are located, and whether they are solitary or mixed with each other.
The situation becomes more serious when amavisha and garavisha are mixed in an organ, tissue, or channel, because that combination can become carcinogenic and create chronic illness. All of this needs to be taken into account when prescribing a detoxification and treatment program.
Q: Can mental & emotional stress cause toxins to build up?
A: Emotional imbalance is often associated with an imbalance in Pitta dosha, and results in toxins in the form of Pitta-charged ama and amavisha. For high-Pitta people, agni is always high, which is generally a good thing. But if that person is under emotional stress (or is eating food or living a lifestyle that aggravates Pitta), the strong Pitta quickly goes out of balance, creating a reactive kind of ama.
Those who experience mental stress also create more ama, because mental stress throws Vata out of balance. When Vata is out of balance, digestion becomes uneven, meaning that it is sometimes high and sometimes low, and creates ama. People with a Vata body type or imbalance are especially vulnerable to this type of stress and this cause of ama. Mental and emotional imbalances can also be caused by toxins.
When any kind of toxin—ama, amavisha, or garavisha—clogs the mental channels of communication, then the heart and mind no longer work in coordination with each other, because the channels of communication between them are blocked. This creates mental and emotional imbalances.
Toxins in the mental channels might cause lack of confidence, confusion, anger, difficulty in making decisions, constant changing of decisions already made, desperation, mental weakness, and even minor changes in personality.
Q: Many people feel that heavy, toxic feeling more in the Spring than any other time. Why is that?
A: The toxins don't build up more in spring, but rather the toxins that are already in the body start to display their symptoms then. The reason is that if you don't follow the proper seasonal diet and routine during the first two months of winter (November and December), the body can accumulate more toxins then. The channels become clogged, and at the same time, because of the cold temperatures, ama and amavisha get stuck or "frozen" in the walls of the channels.
At this point there will not be as many symptoms of ama. But during the second two-month period of winter, January and February, there is a slight warming effect, because the sun is starting to gain in strength and is moving toward its zenith in June, even though it's still cold out. By the time spring comes and it really is warmer outside, the frozen amavisha and ama start to melt, and as they flow into the body's channels, the channels become flooded with toxins.
The toxins will flow to the sinuses, the lungs, or the joints—wherever there is an empty space. Your joints may feel stiff, your mind dull, or you may feel tired or heavy. Your immunity may be weakened, and you may become sick with a cold, the flu, allergies, asthma or bronchial infections.
Because these toxins are naturally melting in spring, it's the best time to detoxify. The body is already in the mode of eliminating toxins, so it's a good time to support the body in that role. To detoxify in the spring, I'd recommend that for two to three months you take Elim-Tox or Elim-Tox-O; take Organic Triphala Rose or Herbal Cleanse; drink plenty of tea for detox; follow the ama-reducing diet; and follow the ama-reducing Ayurvedic routine.
If you can undergo Maharishi Panchakarma only once a year, spring is the best time. All of these measures will help you to clear your body of toxins at this optimal period, paving the way for better health for the rest of the year. If you have environmental toxins, spring is the best time to remove them from the body's channels, organs and tissues. This is because the body is already engaged in flushing out toxins and lubricating the channels, so it will be easier on the body to remove these reactive substances.
Q: Why is the liver so important in detoxification?
A: One of the main functions of the liver is to filter out toxins, so only pure nutrients and pure blood reach the other parts of the body. The nutrient fluid (Rasa Dhatu) and the blood plasma (Rakta Dhatu) pass through the liver and are purified by it. Everything you take in through the digestion gets processed by the liver and then transformed into blood.
So the liver filters toxins and holds them so they don't get passed on to the rest of the body. This includes all three kinds of toxins—those created by the body and the environmental toxins such as pesticides and chemicals in food.
But if the toxins build up and are beyond the capacity of the liver to purify—or if the liver is weak—then the toxins are passed on to other parts of the body. That's why every detoxification program of Maharishi Ayurveda starts by strengthening the digestive system, so the liver does not get overloaded.
Q: Can you prevent toxins from building up by cleansing your liver?
A: That's a good question. Cleansing the liver causes toxins to be eliminated through the large intestine, so it's important to supplement any liver cleansing by cleansing the bowel as well. This brings up a very important point. In Maharishi Ayurveda, we never recommend a partial detoxification program.
All of the recommendations made earlier—including the diet, lifestyle tips, Maharishi Panchakarma and our herbal detoxification products—contain three important steps. These are: strengthening digestion, cleansing the liver, and cleansing the bowel. If any one of these steps were left out, the toxins would not be completely eliminated and further imbalances would be the result.
The first step is to strengthen digestion. An ama-reducing diet and dietary habits are recommended to strengthen the digestive fire (agni) and prevent ama, amavisha or garavisha from mixing with the nutrient fluid and the blood plasma. Then the liver will not be overwhelmed and can perform its function of filtering out toxins.
Secondly, the liver must be cleansed. The liver itself should be cleansed each spring, so it has more capacity and flexibility in filtering toxins. That's why Elim-Tox and Elim-Tox-O are recommended, as well as eating more leafy green vegetables and small amounts of spices such as turmeric*. All of these cleanse the liver.
Finally, a detox program includes cleansing the bowel. That's why taking Organic Triphala Rose or Herbal Cleanse is an important part of a home detoxification program. You can keep your elimination running smoothly on a daily basis by eating prunes and figs cooked with an apple for breakfast. A healthy elimination means having a bowel movement once or twice a day.
* Important note: If there is any history of garavisha or amavisha in the liver, or if there is a blocked channel in the bile duct, turmeric can cause problems by detoxifying too quickly for these conditions. If these conditions are present, check with your physician first before adding turmeric to your diet.
The bottom line: To take care of toxins, try following the Ayurvedic diet and routine suitable for your body type and imbalances throughout the year, as well as an ama-reducing diet and daily routine or structured detox program in spring to strengthen digestion, and cleanse the liver and bowel. Herbal formulas designed to help flush toxins are big supports for the body during detox.