Blood cleansing herbs and alterative herbs impact a variety of eliminatory organ systems which are discussed in this article
We’re talking about blood cleansing herbs and alterative herbs, which help keep blood and lymph clean and clear from the build-up of toxins and inflammatory agents. This also includes the viscosity of lymph fluid itself.
The term “blood cleansing” comes from an older time when blood and lymph were not seen as being separate from each other. When people referred to blood-purifying or blood-cleansing herbs, they were actually talking about herbs that help to purify the lymphatic portion of the circulatory system. The lymphatic and circulatory systems work very much hand-in-hand, and although blood should always remain contained within the cardiovascular system, lymph has free reign to flow between the circulatory system, lymphatic system, and throughout all the extracellular spaces. We want circulation to be good both in the circulatory system and the lymphatic system.
The circulatory system takes care of itself because it is governed by a pumping heart. The lymphatic system, on the other hand, has no central pump to do the same for lymph. By keeping lymph moving and predominantly clear of toxins, we also keep blood clear of the same, and we also maintain a healthier and more efficient immune system. There is a large category of herbal medicines known as lymphatic remedies that directly help the lymph-immune system. Here are a few superior lymphatic remedies commonly found in the United States: red root, red clover, burdock root, violet leaves, cleavers, echinacea and poke root.
There is more that needs to happen when using blood cleansing herbs
There are also herb categories that indirectly help the lymphatic system. The largest category includes herbs known as alteratives. “Alterative” is an older medical term and refers to substances that help to keep our blood and lymph — and by extension our tissues — clean by supporting all of our eliminatory organ-systems to do their jobs better.
But let’s be clear. First and foremost, it’s up to you not to put bad stuff in your body. That means minimizing to eliminating processed foods and beverages with ingredients you can’t pronounce, and also minimizing habits that promote a toxic lifestyle. This includes the usual culprits, such as tobacco, alcohol, and other substances that accumulate toxins in your body … all of these have to be dealt with. Also, we’re taking in and having to contend with pathogenic organisms such as viruses, bacteria and fungi. Microorganisms are entering our bodies all the time. We also produce endotoxins as a normal process of cellular metabolism, and this has to be dealt with, too.
Understanding our eliminatory organ systems: Lungs, large intestine, lymph, liver, kidneys, and skin
Here’s a brief description of each organ-system’s eliminatory function:
- Your lungs are exhaling carbon dioxide and water vapor, among other things.
- Your large intestine is eliminating fecal matter.
- Your lymph is circulating and helping to keep your blood clean.
- The liver acts as the main processing and detoxing organ of the body.
- The kidneys are helping to excrete toxins from your body through urine.
- The skin is helping to release toxins through sweating.
The skin would rather not be a primary eliminatory organ, other than eliminating sweat and venting excess heat. It would rather that other eliminatory organs take the lion’s share of eliminating toxins.
There are herb categories falling under the larger umbrella of alteratives that align with these different organs. For instance, if you want to increase kidney excretion, the herb categories of choice would be diuretics and mineral salt herbs, because water likes to follow minerals, and in particular, sodium. If you overdo the sodium, as in adding too much salt to your food, then you will retain fluid. This can elevate blood pressure or cause edema.
If we’re talking about the large intestine, then for people who are not necessarily constipated but who want to make sure it’s functioning well, there are herbs known as aperients — bitter tonics, commonly — that aid in elimination. Bitter, aperient herbs do so by helping to normalize peristalsis. For people who are actually constipated, there are laxatives and stool-softening herbs.
If we’re talking about the lungs, then in addition to all the things we can do with exercise and hydration for lung health, there are herbs that help to keep the lungs tonified and promote strong expectoration. Expectorant and pectoral herbs (lung tonics) are on this list.
In regard to skin, herbs that help open pores and vent heat and moisture are called diaphoretics and sudorifics. Diaphoretics open up the vents and release heat, while sudorifics are more inclined to release moisture as well.
Bitterness and blood cleansing herbs
The organ most responsible for helping to keep blood and lymph clear of toxins is the liver. Liver health and function are best supported by herbs that fall into the taste categories of sour and bitter. Sour herbs help to cool and tone the liver, while many bitter herbs — known as cholagogues and energetically cooling — help the liver make and secrete bile. Bile, which is also bitter, not only supports peristalsis, but also helps in fat digestion and serves as the “urine” for the liver, dumping many toxins directly into the intestines for eventual elimination. Superior cooling, bitter cholagogues on this large list include dandelion root and leaf, burdock root and seed, artichoke leaf, gentian root and leaf, and milk thistle. There are also warming bitters — herbs that contain bitter principles as well as warming volatile oils — which aid liver function and digestion in multiple ways. Warming bitters are fewer in number than pure, cooling bitters, and include angelica, fenugreek, orange peel, turmeric, and calendula.
Diaphoretics as blood cleansing herbs
Diaphoretics are, with few exceptions, warming agents. Most are pungent herbs, and there are lots of them, including virtually all culinary spices, including the onion and garlic family when eaten raw, ginger, thyme, cinnamon (also sweet), black pepper, cayenne pepper, Szechuan pepper, and many more. Prickly ash berry and bark, a cousin of Szechuan pepper, is also on this list.
Many herbs that are not normally diaphoretic become so when administered hot. Most bitter herbs are normally cold in nature if taken as a tincture or a cold infusion. When administered hot — such as a hot infusion — many cold, bitter herbs flip and become diaphoretic in their effect. Interestingly, many of these same medicines when administered cold become diuretic in their effect. Either way, they are releasing excess fluids. There are also many diuretic herbs, and highest on the list may very well be dandelion leaf. Nettle leaf, parsley leaf, and most mineral-salt-rich, dark-green herbs are on this list.
If you want to have a heathy circulatory system and lymphatic system, then you must also attend to these other systems.