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Sunday, August 20, 2017

By Barbara Quinn, The Monterey County Herald (TNS)

Let’s just say it feels very good to get back on track when the holidays are over. Why else would I be checking out the detox tea in my daughter’s cabinet on New Year’s Day?

“Detox” generally refers to the process of removing toxins (poisons and other harmful substances) from the body. And need I mention that we humans have a pretty powerful detoxifying system in place, even without detox tea? The liver is the body’s most dynamic detox unit; it removes harmful substances from our blood and zaps and neutralizes chemicals and other substances (such as alcohol) that would otherwise cause damage. Also partnering with the liver to detoxify our bodies are the kidneys and intestinal (digestive) tract. Keep these organs healthy and they work overtime to protect us from dangerous toxins.

Just for fun though, let’s see what’s in this detox tea that might be good for my holiday overloaded body:

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum). Sure enough, ground up seeds from this plant might help protect the liver from toxic chemicals and drugs. There is conflicting evidence, however, whether or not milk thistle can actually help heal a liver damaged by excessive alcohol.

Peppermint oil (Mentha piperita). According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), peppermint oil may ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). And herbal combinations of peppermint with milk thistle have been found to relieve heartburn (acid reflux) according to the US National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Dandelion (Taraxacum) Yep, the same plant we dig out of lawns in the summer has been used for hundreds of years to treat upset stomachs and a variety of other health problems. Unfortunately, there is not enough scientific evidence to determine if dandelion is an effective detoxifier.

Sweet Fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare) Fennel seed oil has been shown to be effective in reducing colic symptoms in breast fed babies. Not a lot of evidence for its detoxifying effects, however.

Parsley leaf is an edible green that is high in vitamins A, C and K. It’s also a good source of antioxidant substances that reduce inflammation in the body. Parsley is also high in potassium and phosphorous — nutrients to avoid in excess for some people with kidney disease.

Due diligence is always in order before ingesting any dietary supplement that claims to have a medical benefit. I like to check the evidence from trustworthy sites such as Medline Plus from the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (nlm.nih.gov) or the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (ods.od.nih.gov).

(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at barbaraquinn88@yahoo.com.)

©2016 The Monterey County Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Judit Klein via Flickr