The History of Detoxification

The History of Detoxification

May 19th 2017

Detoxification is probably the oldest medical modality known to man. All Indigenous Medical Traditions begin their healing processes with detoxification, cleansing or purification. Here is the history of some different types, and the elements they included. Many are still practiced today.


This type of medicine originated in the Hindu culture in the lower parts of India. It talks about a detoxification called Panchakarma ("Pancha" means five and "karma" means treatment). It outlines a process to prepare the body for detoxification, and then five methods to remove Doshas or toxins. They include:

  • Vamana (Emesis)
  • Virechana (Purgation)
  • Niroohavasti (Decoction enema)
  • Nasya (Instillation of medicine through nostrils)
  • Anuvasanavasti (Oil enema)

The term Panchasodhana also included Rakthamoksha (Blood letting). After the elimination of the most serious toxins, the process of palliation was administered to neutralize them. This included fasting to stimulate digestion or by adding products to stimulate “digestive fire” to burn away toxins in the intestines. Pungent herbs, exercise, and sunbathing were also included in this process.

Native American

Native Americans have practiced detoxification for centuries Their detoxification process primarily relies on three components:

Sweat Lodges: These are small buildings, some temporary, some permanent, where rocks are heated and then water is poured over them. Similar to a sauna, the heat and sweat help purify the body, but sweat lodges also involve spiritual aspects and spiritual cleansing as well.

The rituals, chants, and overall experience are extremely important to this holistic approach to cleansing. In modern practice, often dry herbs are used with the rocks, and tea is used before and after the ceremony to enhance detoxification.

Fasting: Fasting is common in many detoxification practices, and aids the body’s digestion. The body burns off glucose and then begins to burn fat, which contains toxins, so they are also burnt off. This results in detoxification, and also the release of endorphins after a few days.

Prolonged fasting has also been shown to help rebuild cells in the immune system. It often benefits cancer patients according to some studies, as fasting gets rid of the old cells that can be damaged by chemotherapy, and strengthens the immune system before more toxins are introduced to their system.

Smudging: This is the practice of burning herbs to clean the air around a person or in a room to purify it. Sacred herbs like sage are burned in a clay bowl or waved through the air. When those herbs are burned, they release negative ions, which act as mood enhancers.

Smudging is more than just a physical cleansing. It too involves a spiritual aspect of cleansing for a person or a place. Many times if you have had an argument or you have moved into a new home, smudging can help clear the air and spiritually cleanse the space.

Shamanic Culture

Shamanic culture is often misunderstood by Western cultures, but is simply a culture structured around the idea that a Shaman is a person who enters a trance-like state in a ritual to enter and interact with the spiritual world. It was first applied to outside observers of the Turks and Mongols, but became a more generic term, used to refer to spiritual practice in several parts of the world. In the Americas, it was primarily applied to rainforest tribes in South America.

These cultures use three different elements in detoxification: dietas, limpias, and plant medicines. In many ways, this is similar to many detoxification plans we have today.

Dietas: A dieta, or diet, is a strict diet of herbs and simple foods that can go on from seven days to several weeks. Essentially, this diet cuts out things like sugar, gluten, salt, oil, fermented foods, dairy, meat, and alcohol.

Limpias: Limpias use smudging just like the Native American cultures do. It also involves baths using herbs and flowers. Specific formulas are used to help with specific issues, from spiritual and emotional ones to physical ailments.

Plant Medicine Rituals: Many things we consider “super foods” were everyday parts of ancient cultures. Berries, herbs, and various plants were combined in a ritualistic manner to create medicine to heal. The formulas and properties of these formulas were often passed down for many generations.

For Greece to Rome, from ancient Jewish culture to East India and beyond, detoxification has been a part of spiritual and physical healing. The idea behind it is to achieve balance: the right balance of nutrients and water in the body, and the right balance of emotions and reason in the spirit.

Detoxification is a method whose ultimate result is purification and/or cleansing. Many parts of the detoxification process practiced by ancient cultures are a part of modern processes as well. We utilize detox in modern times to reset the body, remove impediments to the healing process, eliminate heavy metals, and even as a method to assist in the elimination of chronic infections.There are many different types of detoxification methods. For more information on them, visit our blog at

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