Full Body Cleansing: Beyond the Liver and Digestive System Part 2

When doing a cleanse, why just focus on the liver and digestive system?

It just makes sense to involve ALL of the eliminatory organs. This is part two of our focus on doing a full body cleanse. In part one, I covered the basics of cleansing and then we focused on the skin and respiratory system. This article will look at supporting the kidneys, lymph, liver and digestive system during a cleanse.


The kidneys help to maintain the body’s pH balance. They eliminate wastes from the blood, keep electrolytes in equilibrium, and maintain water balance and blood volume.

  • Drink plenty of water. I recommend drinking at least half your body weight of water in ounces every day. Probiotic beverages such as kefir and kombucha can be a helpful addition to any cleanse.
  • Make sure to avoid alcohol, sodas, coffee and caffeine.
  • Avoid juices unless they are fresh and low on the glycemic index. Cut all fresh juice with 50% water before drinking. To find out where a food is on the glycemic index, click here.
  • Herbs that are high in minerals help maintain electrolyte balance, which is essential for elimination, among other things. These include herbs such as nettles, red clover, alfalfa, raspberry, horsetail, peppermint, oat seed, chamomile, dandelion leaf & root, burdock and kelp.
  • Diuretics herbs help to flush the kidneys  and eliminate wastes through the urine. These include herbs such as nettles, dandelion leaf, goldenrod, burdock, cleavers, corn silk, couch grass, gravel root, juniper, nettles and parsley.
  • If you tend toward urinary tract infections or kidney problems, you might want to give your kidneys a little extra love during a cleanse. You can apply a bentonite clay pack (see Full body cleansing #1) or a castor oil pack over kidneys to help bring blood to the area and draw out wastes.

Castor Oil Pack:

Castor oil packs can be very healing for any organ. They encourage better circulation and lymphatic drainage, both essential in maintaining tissue (and therefore organ) health. They help to heal wounds, infections and stagnant conditions, as well as digestive and reproductive issues and inflammations.

  • Get an unbleached and un-dyed cotton or wool cloth. Wash and dry before using.
  • Saturate the cloth with castor oil.
  • Place the cloth over your lower back (or wherever you want) and cover it with a large plastic bag. Over the plastic bag, place a heating pad or hot water bottle.
  • Relax for 30 minutes to one hour.
  • Store it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator between uses.
  • The cloth only needs to be washed or disposed of when the oil starts to smell rancid, around every two weeks.
  • Castor oil packs should be done from 3 to 5 times a week.

mineral tea herbs

Mineral Rich Kidney Tea: This blend is highly nutritious, including lots of minerals. It supports gentle elimination. You can drink at least 3 cups per day during your cleanse.

  • Combine equal parts of the following herbs by weight:
  • Nettles, red clover, dandelion leaf, burdock root, horsetail and peppermint
  • To make the tea, use 1/4 ounce by weight of the herb per cup of water.
  • Boil the water and pour over the herbs. A tea pot, coffee press or canning jar works good for this.
  • Let steep  for 1/2-2 hours. Strain and enjoy.


The lymphatic system sorts through the fluid from our cells and is an integral part of the immune system. We can think of it as our filter system on a cellular level.

  • One of the best things you can do for your lymph is to eat good quality fats while avoiding rancid fats, margarine and fried foods. Omega 3 essential fatty acids are especially important for proper lymph function. Use a good quality fish oil that has been tested for heavy metals or fresh flax seed oil. Other oils that are highly beneficial include cold pressed olive oil and unrefined coconut oil.
  • Lymphatic massage, which incorporates a light touch, will significantly help lymph circulation.
  • Gentle exercise helps to move the lymph. Consider yoga, walking or swimming during a cleanse.
  • Dry brushing is excellent for encouraging lymphatic circulation. When dry brushing, use a soft natural bristle brush and always brush starting at the extremities and moving toward the heart. You can use essential oils in this process by first getting wet in the shower. Turn the shower off and add a few drops of essential oils listed below to your body brush. After brushing your entire body (but avoiding the face), wait for 20 seconds and then turn the shower back on and rinse well.
  • Rebounding or jumping on a mini-trampoline can stimulate lymphatic drainage.
  • Contrasting showers are a an invigorating way to move the lymph. The last minute or so of your shower make  it hotter  than usual. Then the last 30 seconds turn the water to tepid. When you leave the shower you shouldn’t be cold, but refreshed.
  • Herbs that move the lymph include burdock, calendula, cleavers, mullein, ocotillo, red clover and red root.
  • Essential oils for the lymph include cypress, grapefruit, orange, sandalwood, helichrysum, myrtle, lemongrass, tangerine, rosemary and cedar.
  • If you tend towards swollen lymph nodes, try to get a lymphatic massage during your cleanse and incorporate dry brushing into your morning routine.

      lymph oils  

Lymph Massage Oil This oil can be used to massage in a small amount directly over swollen lymph glands or behind the ear and down the neck for ear infections. For a full body lymphatic massage, dilute the oil in 3 ounces almond oil before use.

  • 1 oz poke oil or olive oil
  • 10 drops lemon essential oil
  • 10 drops geranium essential oil
  • 10 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 10 drops eucalyptus globulus essential oil


There is a reason that we often focus on the liver when doing a cleanse. It is one of the most important detoxifiers in the body. It helps “sort” the blood and makes bile, a waste product that is crucial in the digestive process.

  • Digestive Bitters are herbs that taste bitter and stimulate the digestive system and liver. They act as a wonderful tonic, encouraging proper digestion and can be used daily. Approximately 15 minutes before each meal, place 10-15 drops of a tincture of digestive bitters on the tongue to enhance the digestive process. Bitter herbs include dandelion leaf and root, burdock, green gentian, yarrow, wormwood, hops, goldenseal and Oregon grape root. Many herb companies make their own digestive bitters formulas as well.
  • Chologogues are herbs that stimulate bile flow in the liver and gallbladder. They include herbs such as goldenseal, Oregon grape root, dandelion root, artichoke and barberry.
  • Hepatics are liver tonics and strengtheners. They can help stimulate liver function. Hepatic herbs include burdock, dandelion, milk thistle, gentian, Oregon grape root, yarrow and yellow dock.
  • If you are a person that tends to have digestive or liver issues, using a bentonite clay pack (see Full body cleansing #1) or castor oil pack (see kidney section above) daily over the liver during a cleanse can be helpful.

liver herbs

Liver Flush: This formula is a delicious way to stimulate liver function and help the gall bladder flush. I notice for myself that liver flushes can leave me feeling irritable, so make sure you are gentle with yourself and others during this process.

  • 1 cup fresh citrus juice (avoid grapefruit)
  • 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • dash Ginger and Cayenne
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Drink this formula first thing in the morning. One half hour later, drink 2 cups of Mineral Rich Kidney Tea (see above). Wait another 1/2 hour and then eat your delicious, whole, organic foods that you have chosen for your cleanse.


When most people think of doing a cleanse, they think of the digestive system. Our digestive systems digest and absorb nutrients from foods. They also eliminate wastes via the GI tract and liver. It is great to give our entire alimentary canal an occasional break, either by eating healthy, organic, whole foods or doing a cleanse or fast. During a cleanse, I recommend the following.

  • Eat in peace and with intention and chew your food well. Try not to eat when you are nervous, rushed or stressed.
  • Make sure you are having at least 1 bowel movement every day. This should be a goal whether you are cleansing or not.
  • To add probiotics to the digestive system, you can slowly introduce lacto-fermented fruits and vegetables, such as live sauerkraut, beet kavass or kimchi. Check out Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon for more information.
  • There are several categories of herbs that can be useful for the digestive system during a cleanse.
  • Laxatives encourage parastalsis and movement of the digestive system due to either a stimulating or bulking action, thereby initiating a bowel movement.
    • Stimulating laxatives (contain anthraquinones): coffee, cascara sagrada, senna, aloe, rhubarb, yellow dock
    • Bulking Laxatives: psyllium, flax, fenugreek, slippery elm, marshmallow
  • Digestive bitters can be very helpful to encourage the proper functioning of the GI tract (see the liver section for more information).
  • Bentonite clay has a negative ionic charge that allows it to bind with anything in the GI tract with a positive charge such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins. Once bound, it is removed from your body through the digestive system.  To use bentonite internally, take one teaspoon of the powdered clay (make sure it is safe for internal use first) and mix it thoroughly in at least 8 ounces of water. This blend can be takne 1-3 times a day. You can use bentonite with the Digestive and Liver Cleansing capsules. Make sure to drink lots of water!
  • Psyllium seed is a natural bulking laxative that helps to improve bowel function and carry wastes out of the body via the GI tract. Mix 1 teaspoon psyllium in 8 ounces of water and drink 3 x a day. Make sure to drink this mixture quickly as it starts to thicken soon after it is mixed.
  • An enema is the act of instilling liquids into the rectum. Use warm, purified water or herbal teas when making an enema. Some herbs that work nicely include raspberry, marshmallow, fireweed, strawberry leaf and rose petals.
  • If you tend to have digestive issues, constipation or if you aren’t having a BM every day, you may consider having a colonic during your cleanse.


      GI herbs  

Digestive and Liver Cleansing Capsules:

These capsules are helpful for fasting or as part of a cleansing regime. Take 2 capsules 3 x a day, with 8-16 ounces of water.

  • 2 parts Oregon grape root
  • 2 parts psyllium
  • 1 part cascara sagrada
  • 1 part bentonite clay


From the time we are born, our emotions are intricately involved with our digestive systems. Think about how a baby feels as they are nursing: secure, loved and safe. It is no wonder that we can feel deprived when we are not eating, or when we are limiting our foods.  As you are doing a cleanse, it is helpful to pay attention to how you feel, especially any sense of loss or deprivation. Find other ways to take good, loving care of yourself such as journaling, doing artwork, dancing, taking a bath, going to see a movie, reading a good book, spending time with friends or getting a natural facial or massage.

I hope this article has given you some additional tools to think about when planning a cleanse. I wish you the best of health!

Did you like this article? We’d love to hear what you have to say in the comment section below. You may also be interested to read part one of Full Body Cleansing where I  focus on basic cleansing guidelines, the skin and the respiratory system.

© 2014 Elaine Sheff, Clinical Herbalist

IMG_3077Elaine Sheff has been studying medicinal plants since 1987. A Clinical Herbalist, she is a graduate of both the Rocky Mountain Center for Botanical Studies and the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine. She is passionate about the inherent healing connection between people and plants. Elaine has a longstanding clinical practice providing herbal consultations for individuals with health concerns. A best selling author, Elaine teaches herb classes throughout the United States and is the co-founder of Meadowsweet Herbs. She is a certified instructor of Natural Family Planning, a safe, effective birth control method used to avoid or achieve pregnancy.   You can often find Elaine in her garden, homeschooling her children, or cooking some delicious gluten-free meal.

8 Comments on “Full Body Cleansing: Beyond the Liver and Digestive System Part 2

  1. Very informative, Spring is definitely a good time for a cleanse.

  2. Can you do a castor oil pack and drink dandelion root tea on the same day?

  3. Can I use castor oil, coconut oil, fresh juice, chia, bentonite clay and psyllium during a intestine detox program of various days? No solid mater consumption.

    • HI Ricky,
      That question is probably better addressed by your own herbalist/naturopath/health care provider because they know your health history. One warning I would give is that castor oil can be quite a cathartic laxative.

    • Danielle, I wouldn’t recommend doing a cleanse when breastfeeding. Best to wait until the baby is weaned.

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