Clients often inquire about cleansing at this time of year, and are ready to grit their teeth and power through some program to emerge “renewed” on the other side. But this willingness to push the body for a short period of time in hopes of a big-pay-off is not an ideal approach for many of us, and can have unintended consequences in a cleanse as in life.


Recently a client inquired about a cleanse for liver support, and also observed that a lot of her joint problems showed up following a month-long cleanse she had completed the previous spring. Her program had included a week on strict whole foods only (no meat or dairy), 10 days on water with lemon and cayenne a little maple syrup (The Master Cleanse), 5 days on vegetable juices, another week on strict whole foods. And, during this time, Dr. Shulze’s 5-day colon cleanse.


The timing of onset of her joint pain suggested to me that her liver had trouble keeping up with the tissue detox induced by the lemon/cayenne, veggie juice, and colon cleanses. Debris the body cannot clear tends to collect in joints as dust collects in corners. (Other natural “collection points” that can become stressed are lymph and endocrine glands, the central nervous system, and the heart.)


Any of this sound familiar?

Add to last year’s experience that this spring she is depleted and stressed by long-time multiple and sometimes conflicting demands, with cycle changes signaling the hormonal fluctuations of peri-menopause.

Add to this her constitutional type: small-boned, with a highly responsive nervous system, light and interrupted sleep, highly variable and easily-depleted energy stores, readily affected by cold and wind, a tendency to worry, feel spacey and scattered, and prone to feeling a detox “high.”

A better “cleanse”  for a stressed-out mind and body

focuses on nourishment, building up.

A Nourishing Powder (e.g. Shatavari, Ashwagandha, Bacopa, Cinnamon) is a good foundation for such a stressed system, a blend that is calming and restorative to adrenal, mood, sleep, and cognitive functions, and tonic for the reproductive system.


With this nourishing, building support as the base, here are 4-steps for a  low-effort light cleanse:

  1. If you know that you feel better when you eliminate certain foods from your diet, and can do so without creating stress or a sense of deprivation, then do that.
  2. Drop a slice of fresh lemon into the water you already drink during the morning.
  3. Whatever bitter green you like, throw a handful into your morning smoothie or prepare as one of your veggies for 4-5 lunches/dinners a week.
  4. Through the early spring, drink a cup a day of a blend of nettle leaf, dandelion root, and celery seed that can be brewed up with your favorite green tea.

A few considerations if you have a different body type, health status, life demands

  • Are you the last one to put on a coat as the temperature drops, easily get irritated or overheated, can eat anything, have a tendency to heartburn, itchy or inflammatory conditions, recover quickly from illness? Your cleanse best leans towards a routine that you can embrace without irritation, avoiding foods and beverages that provoke more heat, and including those that are cooling and hydrating.
  • Or do you have a body type that tends toward heaviness and lethargy, as well as stamina, accumulations of fluid? – whether as lots of respiratory mucous or edema in hot weather, and deep sleep with trouble waking in the morning. Your cleanse best leans towards foods and herbs that are warming and somewhat stimulating to get things moving, and incorporates some vigorous exercise.
Dandelion embodies the pushing up and out energy of spring.

Regardless of body type, consider the state of health of your body’s primary systems of elimination.

Any of these functions that are symptomatic may need its own particular form of attention both during and after a cleanse:  your whole digestive tract, including liver and gallbladder; urinary and respiratory tracts and lymph system. And your secondary systems of elimination: skin, sweat, sebaceous glands and tears; sinuses and reproductive fluids.



If your health is vigorous and stable, you can take on a more challenging or just a longer cleanse.

If you are depleted, managing one or more chronic medical conditions that are easily destabilized, tred lightly, choose nourishing support, and search out professional guidance.

And when you plan your cleanse, also plan for the weeks and months after the cleanse

It is all too easy to come off a cleanse feeling just super, energized and light: the clean out worked! – and then stumble over the harder work of cleaning up our act.

So as you plan your cleanse, consider how you want to use the opportunity that such a “reset” gives you – what change or two are you ready to take on that will leave you with less to clean out next spring?

If you are ready to turn your whole life around,

and have the foundational health to do so,

more power to you! 

But embrace with kindness whatever modest steps that are within

your reach, willingness, and energies.

For more about herbalism  

For more about an herbal consult with Sara

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  1. Sara, thank you for the wisdom of this. I appreciate the reminder to respect and nourish my self in response to the individual needs of my body, rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all attitude.

    • It’s a journey for each of us – to listen to the ways the body speaks to us, or squawks at us, telling us what it needs!

  2. Sara,
    How refreshing to read that cleanses can be individualized based on individual body needs. I learned so much from this post. Thank you!

    • Glad you found the post helpful, Ginny. There is another aspect to cleansing that I found myself deciding to hold for another post, and that is the sense that so many women have that our bodies are somehow toxic, have been poisoned by our emotional or material environment. There is plenty of science to back up the hormonal and metabolic changes stemming from our physical environment. And in your work with survivors of sexual trauma at, I wonder if you have encountered, as I have, women who have turned to strenuous cleansing as one effort to move on from their trauma?

      • Sara, in response to your comments and question: I have not yet seen women who have turned to strenuous cleansing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is happening since we as women might try anything over-the-top to manage our pain: addictions, food, shopping, etc. It makes perfect sense to me to feel that my body, also, might have been “poisoned” by the trauma, though I might refer to it through a lens of shame. Thank you for bringing up this to up and to my attention. I’ll be pondering how to approach this topic with future clients. I so look forward to any future post of yours, Sara, on this topic!

      • I’m not quite sure how to say this; you made it extremely easy for me!

        • That’s great, Randy – thanks for letting me know.
          Welcome, and how did you find your way here?

  3. Dear Sara, I agree with Nikki, this request to take spring a little easier, instead of forcing feels very right to me. I probably fall in to the vigorous and stable group, and even so, I learn more, lighten more, feel better when I am softer with my self care in stead of more rigorous. I will brew up the tea you suggest and let you know how it goes. We are lemon and ginger and honey drinkers in the morning here. xoxoS

    • Suzi, I agree with the group in which you place yourself. All that rising up, and creative fire! This is a constitutional gift that provides a wonderful foundation for an active life, one that can also take in, digest and assimilate a lot, when tempered with cool-downs (or temper will flare!)

  4. Sara, this is an excellent post–I learned a lot from this! As someone who’s never done a cleanse but has been very curious about them, I found this really helpful.

    • So glad you found the post helpful – if you do decide to try a light cleanse, please let me know how it goes.

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