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Detoxifying the Body with Naturopathy Diet, Hydrotherapy and Herbs

by Sharmala Bandaranaike(more info)

listed in detoxification, originally published in issue 31 - August 1998

Naturopathy is a system of medicine that is based on the utilisation of the healing power of nature. This underpins nearly all the therapeutic techniques in alternative medicine. Acupuncture, herbs or botanical medicine, the manipulative therapies, homoeopathy – all these techniques rely upon the ability of the human body to heal itself. And it will, if it is coaxed, needled, unburdened and pointed in the right direction.

The name 'naturopathy' was coined around the turn of the century by an American doctor. Its therapeutic approach and principles represent the essence of a broad, holistic attitude to health and disease. The principles that the early practitioners came up with hold good, even to this day. Man was seen as an integral part of nature and the universe.

They recognised that his health depended upon maintaining harmony within himself. The means of achieving this were present in the basic essentials of life itself – clean air to breath, light, clean water, balanced nutrition, movement and exercise, sufficient rest and efficient elimination cleansing. In simple terms it is a lifestyle medicine. In fact, the science of medicine was born when man discovered how these principles, when applied, could help to aid recovery from illness and in staying healthy and strong.

In practice, naturopaths advise on lifestyle changes, dietary changes or methods of purifying the body with occasional fasting, hydrotherapy treatments, exercise programmes in conjunction with specific remedies, acupuncture or osteopathy (manipulative therapy) or specific herbal or homoeopathic remedies.

Fasting is the best way to detoxify the body and a suitable approach for treating a variety of ailments because of the physiological and mental well-being which it can achieve. Fasting involves a very individual approach and it is prescribed to the individual's constitution.

In my experience there are several approaches to detoxification:

1) Water fast – flushing out the system by drinking water all day.

2) Vegetable juice. Drinking 2-3 glasses of vegetable juice per day is a good way to detoxify the liver and is suitable if you have any digestive problems. In between the juice drink plenty of water.

3) Fruit juice and herbal teas.

4) Fruit Fast – This approach involves eating 2 or 3 pieces of fruit at each meal time.

However, I do not advise consumption of many bananas on the detoxifying fruit diet.

When undertaking a fast the following symptoms may be experienced: headaches, bad breath, nausea, coated tongue, dizziness, skin rash, offensive urine. These vary from person to person but usually disappear after the second or third day of the fast.

Steambaths and saunas assist the detoxification process through the skin by peripheral dilation, increasing body temperature and inducing perspiration. These also help to relieve any chest congestion.

Within the framework of naturopathy the hydrotherapy treatments are very important. Hot helps to relax the muscles and release tensions whilst the cold helps to stimulate the muscles and reduce inflammation.

Sitz Bath

The Sitz bath is a partial immersion bath of the pelvic region and feet. The patient is seated in porcelain hip baths placed end to end, one filled with hot water and one with cold. This treatment is used for chronic pelvic inflammatory disease, vaginal infection, haemorrhoids, prostatitis and chronic urinary tract infection.

The patient sits in the bath with the pelvic region in the hot water and their feet in the cold water for 3 minutes. The procedure is then reversed, i.e. bottom in the cold water and feet in the hot for 1 minute. Two alternating sets of hot and cold follow.

Scottish Douche

This treatment involves the use of alternative streams of hot and cold water sprayed along the paravertebrals of the spine. This results in a general toning of the spinal nerves with a resultant reflux reaction to all cells of the body. Strong cold jets applied to the spinal areas provide a particularly strong tonic to the sympathetic nervous system. This therapy improves circulation in the neck, shoulders and lower back.

Constitutional Hydrotherapy

This treatments involves the application of a cold wet sheet to the whole body with hot packs to the neck and lumbar region and the soles of the feet. This therapy is an immune stimulant, improving peripheral circulation and increasing the metabolic rate. It is also a suitable treatment for infections of all kinds.

Therapeutic Baths

The addition of a bath salt or herb to a bath of water for total body immersion. See Table 1.

Table 1
Therapeutic Baths

Relaxes muscle and body tension and lowers blood pressure.Stimulates the thyroid function and metabolism. Used for skin conditions and also to assist detoxification.

Increases blood pressure, produces heat and helps to stimulate circulation. Used for arthritic and rheumatoid conditions.

Relaxes muscles and body tension. This treatment is used to treat chronic inflammation of muscles, joints and nerves, circulatory and skin complaints. It is especially effective for those suffering from eczema.

Relieves chest congestion by dilation of bronchioles in lungs. Assists chest and lung conditions.

Soothing bath which reduces itching and relieves dry skin.

Throughout the ages man has kept a close and harmonious relationship with the environment. His well-being, or more likely his very survival, depended upon it. In the scheme of things abundant vegetation has played a vital role, supplying him with his food, building materials for his shelter, fabrics and colourings for his clothing and, very importantly, his medicine.

It is therefore understandable that botany and medicine have, for all practical purposes, been synonymous fields of knowledge. The Shaman or Medicine-man, usually an accomplished botanist, represents probably the oldest professional man in social history.

Most of the medicines, as well as the foods, which we now use from the plant were not discovered by the sciences of modern sophisticated societies but by trial and error over the millennia. Archaeology tells us that some of today's most highly valued drugs have a heritage from pre-history. Quinine from the cinchona bark, morphine from the opium poppy, digitalis from the foxglove, ephedrine from the Chinese herb ma-huang (Ephedra sinica) and many others. Nowadays, with a better understanding of complex chemical structures, man must acknowledge the high sophistication nature presents to us in plant medicines, and there is ample indication that there are still potential healing riches which plants can provide. If only we can mend our ways instead of playing what has been described as "molecular roulette" with synthetic substances in the "ivory towers" in the hope that a good or at least useful substance will turn up which won't lead to medical disasters.

We should not be unfair. The debt to the plant kingdom as the original source of complex modern medicines is today more and more readily acknowledged. However, the health industry should give even more attention to the study of botanicals and how they heal. The available wealth of empirical knowledge built up throughout the centuries could provide a very good basis for us. A great many useful lessons could be learnt from the Orient. In China for instance, there is an interesting merger taking place between traditional and modern western medicines, intensive efforts are being made to learn how to more effectively utilise the therapeutic value of this country's vast herbal riches.

Nowadays, knowing much more of the biochemical sophistication of many herbs, there is no justification for thinking that the use of herbs means going back to the 'Dark Ages' in medicine. Guidance from popular books or asking the advice of a sympathetic older pharmacist or a herbalist, will allow the use of herbs for many minor ailments in a satisfying and effective way. It encourages us to take back a degree of responsibility towards our own health and at the same time, offers us an opportunity to raise our awareness of being part of our vital, living environment.

Table 2
Examples of Healing Herbs
Dandelion  stimulates the liver
assists the digestive process
gall stones specific
Echinacea Immunostimulant
Golden Seal Menorrhagia, a tonic for dyspepsia, gastvitis
mucosal inflammation
used topically in eye baths


  1. Rashi said..

    It is a good way to cure the body by using natural resources

  2. glovan said..

    kindly send news letters to this email address. thanks

  3. rajesh kumar said..

    i m doing naturopathy three year program therefore i like to know more and more and learn from u and ur valuable experience to help other by good treatment to the patient this is my wish . pls consider me .

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About Sharmala Bandaranaike

Sharmala Bandaranaike is Senior Consultant at Tyringham Clinic, a residential naturopathic clinic in Buckinghamshire. She has worked there for a period of 12 years. She holds a diploma in Ayurvedic Medicine. She is a member of the British Acupuncture Association and obtained her Diploma in acupuncture in Sri Lanka and Peking. Tyringham Clinic, Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, MK16 9ER. Tel 01908 610450

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