Detoxify Using Herbs From Your Own Herb Garden

By now you’ve probably heard that we’re living in a toxic soup. Over the last century, more than 80,000 chemicals have been developed, used and dumped into our environment…for us eat, drink and breath. Unfortunately we humans are now the guinea pigs in our own grand experiment and the data suggests a toxic problem.

Luckily, our bodies have an elaborate detoxification system built into every cell and a magnificent set of “organs of elimination” to help clear the toxins from our system. Let’s take a brief look at the challenge we face and explore the opportunities we have to turn the tide of toxic exposure and support our detox systems. And of course, it starts with food!

I’ve just planted my spring herb (and greens) garden in a steel horse trough outside my dining room window, and everything is taking off for a summer of good eating! I want to make sure you know how to use these plant powerhouses to clear an array of toxins from your body.

Check out my Top Twelve Tips to Limit Your Toxic Exposure and be sure to get my recipe for the Argentinian “pesto”, chimichurri. It’s a bright green puree of fresh parsley, cilantro, oregano, shallots and garlic that is teaming with antioxidants, chlorophyll and a range of compounds that support detoxification. You can make it in minutes and drizzle it over everything from eggs, potatoes, veggies and whatever you’re throwing on the grill this weekend. Yum!


The toxins in our environment include heavy metals like lead (in water), mercury (thimerosol used in vaccines and contact lens solution), cadmium (in cigarettes and batteries) and arsenic (in commercial chicken and rice), pesticides and herbicides, BPA (in cans), flame-retardants (in baby clothes and furniture), dry cleaning solvents, diesel and rocket fuel emissions, prescription medications and more.

Many of these compounds are stored in our fat cells and breast milk, and create a total body burden that can overwhelm our organs of elimination and erode our health. Consider that more than 230 industrial pollutants have been found in umbilical cord blood, including lead, mercury and PCBs.

At least 200 diseases, including many cancers, have been linked to environmental toxic exposures and they occur in all major organ systems: cardiovascular, endocrine, reproductive, liver, genitourinary, immunology, nephrology, respiratory, etc. So what’s the solution?


Your cells possess a complex and beautifully designed system to deal with toxins and support their elimination. Detoxification occurs in all cells of the body, but the organs of elimination bear the burden: the liver, kidneys, intestines, lungs and skin.

In Phase One detoxification, a series of oxidative enzymes increase the water solubility of toxins, preparing them for Phase Two elimination. Emerging genetic tests now allow us to detect genetic abnormalities in these enzymes and help predict response to toxins and medications. Throughout Phase One detox, free radicals are generated and antioxidants are needed to neutralize them. This is where fresh veggies and fruit come in!

In Phase Two detoxification, toxins are conjugated, or bound, to a molecule that converts fat soluble compounds into water soluble compounds, which can then be excreted through the kidneys and intestines. There are six major pathways for Phase Two detoxification that include glutathione conjugation, methylation, sulfation, glucuronidation, amino acid conjugation and acetylation. Whole, natural food provides us with the nutrients necessary to fuel these processes. Refined and processed, sprayed and genetically modified foods contain less of these essential compounds. Every individual has varying degrees of efficiency with this detox system, so do what you can to support these powerful biochemical pathways and organs of elimination!


  1. Eat fresh, minimally processed, organic foods (esp. eggs, dairy products, animal protein, beans, seeds and nuts, which concentrate toxins).
  2. Eat from the spectrum of brightly colored fruits and veggies, rich in the phytonutrients that support these processes. Get my Phytonutrient Chart here.
  3. Eat from the Clean 15 and avoid the Dirty Dozen.
  4. Drink at least 8 cups of purified water each day.
  5. Limit tuna and bottom feeding shellfish that concentrate heavy metals.
  6. Sweat! Vigorous exercise and saunas improve circulation and elimination of toxins through the lungs and skin.
  7. Reduce use of plastics, bottles and cans (lined with BPA, a known endocrine disruptor).
  8. Use safe cosmetics, free of parabens, phthalates and solvents.
  9. Avoid and remove mercury amalgams (“silver” dental fillings).
  10. Avoid living near known sites of chemical pollution, freeways, heavily sprayed and fertilized farmland.
  11. Avoid alcohol, refined and processed food, sodas and coffee, smoking and limit use of multiple prescription meds.
  12. Use supplements and herbs to bind toxins: garlic and onions, broccoli and greens, berries and citrus, herbs and spices, vitamins A, C, E, etc.


This couldn’t be easier. Get organic starts at your local nursery, a bag of organic potting soil and choose a sunny spot to plant them, whether it’s a planter on a deck, a raised-bed structure or an entire garden! Here are my favorites; each herb has its own unique set of phytochemicals, imbuing them with delicious flavor and super-healing properties!

Basil: antioxidant action, lowers cortisol, blood sugar and the stress response

Cilantro: acts as antioxidant, helps bind lead and protect the liver from damage by toxins

Chives: a member of onion family, contain sulfur compounds to support detoxification

Parsley: contains potent anticancer compounds, helps heal ulcers and ease constipation

Oregano: has antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiparasitic effects, especially in the gastrointestinal tract

Marjoram: helps fight cancer, reduce clotting and slow dementia by stabilizing acetylcholine levels

Tarragon: has a calming effect and relieves insomnia, helps improve appetite and flight parasites and worms

Thyme: supports glutathione production (antioxidant) to fight aging, protect neurons and reduce inflammation

Rosemary: contains powerful anti-oxidants that protect against HCAs (heterocyclic amines) created with high-temp cooking

Sage: extracts improve recall, prevent age-related memory decline and protects the brain by maintaining acetylcholine levels

Mint: soothes bowel cramps, fights nausea but also enhances mood and cognition

As always, use common sense. These are culinary herbs, so use them in cooking and teas but don’t go overboard. Now, let’s get into the kitchen and create some memorable meals that heal! Check back, as I’ll be sharing my favorite veggie and herb recipes all summer.

My mission is to feed you tasty bites of power-packed information and healthy recipes. Please let me know if you enjoy this recipe and blog post by liking or commenting below. A santé! (To health)!  

For more information or to schedule an appointment with me,
check out my work at the Marin Natural Medicine Clinic.

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