Supporting the body’s natural process of detoxification has been part and parcel of traditional medicine systems for centuries, though perhaps not in the intense ways we have become accustomed to approaching detox. Reflecting a deep understanding of the body’s capacity to remove toxins and metabolic waste that accumulates, traditional wisdom reveals ways to incorporate gentle detox support into our daily lives. While it’s true that our bodies have an innate ability to detox, the overexposure to toxins that characterizes our modern era can overburden this capacity. Thankfully, there is rich and effective guidance for participating in these processes of elimination toward the cultivation of vibrant health, gently and with attention to seasonal needs.
Some of the most popular TCM methodologies inherently support the body’s capacity for detoxification. Through the ancient art of acupuncture, we can stimulate specific points that directly support organs tasked with elimination and the metabolic processes of elimination, including through improved circulation. It’s a gentle way of supporting the body’s innate processes of neutralizing and eliminating toxins, removing obstructions, and helping to keep things flowing. Cupping is another practice that helps remove stagnated toxins from the Blood by increasing circulation and stimulating a localized immune response to the accumulated microbes. Gua sha is yet another traditional way to both increase circulation and promote lymphatic drainage that facilitates the removal of toxins.
By observing nature, we can intuit that Autumn is an especially important season for letting go, and it’s associated with the elimination pathways of the Large Intestine, Lungs, and Skin.
The Large Intestine represents one of the most crucial pathways of elimination and is the primary organ associated with letting go – both physically and emotionally. We can support the colon by eating seasonally – more cooked and warming foods during this time of year especially, so as to prevent the constriction of the intestines, as well as making sure we’re getting enough fiber to help regulate our bowel movements, which prevents toxin reabsorption. Proper hydration is also crucial as it supports peristalsis, allowing for the fluid and rhythmic elimination of waste out of our bodies. Some of our favorite food-as-medicine sources of electrolytes to promote proper hydration include Pine Pollen and Pearl. Additional support for gut health includes Rose and Turkey Tail, helping to prevent constipation while also supporting the Lungs.
The Lungs not only play a crucial role in the regulation of our overall oxygen and Qi into the Blood, but are additionally responsible for filtering and expelling airborne toxins, allergens, and molds. On an emotional level, Lung function can become compromised when there is unprocessed grief, which can lead to illness. We can support the Lungs and their process of elimination by connecting to our breath and practicing breathwork, as well as incorporating herbs that enhance Lung function. Such herbs include Tremella, Cordyceps, and Rhodiola.
The Skin is intimately connected to the Lungs and detoxification in TCM. Wei Qi or Protecting-Qi is the conceptual “shield” guarding our bodies that helps us maintain inner harmony despite changing external conditions, like exposure to toxins and environmental irritants. It circulates around the surface of the body in the subcutaneous tissues just below the skin helps prevent vulnerability to outside invasion by Wind, Cold, Damp, and other environmental ‘excesses’ that can cause disease. The Lungs both produce Wei Qi and govern the skin; it is the Lungs that supply this protective energy to the physical barrier that is our dermis so that it’s strong and able to deflect climatic or pathogenic entities that could otherwise penetrate and irritate the skin. We can support the skin’s detoxification pathways by cultivating internal warmth and sweating (think sauna and baths, which open the pores and promote toxin excretion) and incorporating herbs like Astragalus (particularly supportive of Wei Qi), as well as Schizandra (protects the body and the skin from external elements and pollution).
May all that you release now become compost to nourish your re-blossoming come Spring! For more supportive guidance on moving harmoniously through the Autumn season, read our blog post about the Wind Gate.