Warning! Herbal Colon Cleansers May be Harmful!
Health-conscious consumers are more than willing to spend valuable time and money on natural means of maintaining their health. And many of these consumers subscribe to the philosophy that good health begins in the bowels.
As a result, the natural health supplement industry has recently been flooded with numerous infomercials on natural health, herbal colon cleansers, and detoxifiers. They may be natural, but are they really effective? And more importantly, does buying “natural” necessarily mean buying safe?
According to the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, and similar organizations, many herbal colon cleansers could be more than just ineffective. They could be putting consumer health at serious risk.
While there are a handful of safe herbal cleansing products on the market, most manufacturers choose to include cheap and potentially dangerous ingredients in their formulations. Popular herbal ingredients to be especially wary of include Psyllium, Cascara Sagrada, and Senna.
A lot of other potentially dangerous herb combinations make their way into herbal cleansers, so be sure to research each individual ingredient in any herbal cleanser before putting it into your body.
A better option would be to choose a non-herbal cleansing product with a well-documented safety record. In addition to being more effective than their herbal counterparts, oxygen-based cleansers, such as Oxy-Powder®, are much gentler on the digestive tract and carry virtually no reported health risks.
Psyllium is one of the most common herbal ingredients used in colon cleansers and especially in over-the-counter fiber laxatives. There have been numerous reports of serious allergic reactions following the ingestion of psyllium products. These reactions include labored breathing, skin irritations or hives, and potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis. Long-term use of products containing psyllium may also negatively affect absorption of certain essential vitamins and minerals including iron.
Perhaps most ironically, obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract has also been regularly cited in studies of patients taking psyllium products. These studies seem to suggest this problem is especially common in individuals who are prone to suffering constipation.
Oxygen cleansers, on the other hand, actually convert solid waste into a gas or liquid which makes it impossible for them to cause any sort of intestinal blockage. And because oxygen cleansers are usually made from magnesium compounds, they can help reintroduce some of the essential minerals that Psyllium cleansers strip away.
It’s difficult to comprehend why any intelligent person would purchase a “bowel cleansing” product with a tendency to cause bowel obstruction or constipation rather than a safe, proven oxygen cleanser.
The name Cascara sagrada is used generically to describe the aged bark of several species of Buckthorn shrub. It’s used as a key component in many colon cleansing products.
Some supplement marketers attempt to sell Cascara under the radar by disguising it as part of a “proprietary blend” or by listing it as less easily recognized “buckthorn bark.” These same companies will sometimes make fine-print disclaimers about their products containing this dangerous ingredient, presumably to protect themselves against potential lawsuits. It’s unfortunate they’re not so willing to protect the health of their customers.
In 2002, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned cascara and its derivatives from use in non-prescription laxatives due to lack of supportive evidence they were either safe or effective. The FDA however failed to protect consumers from manufacturers who include cascara in “dietary supplements.”
Oxygen cleansers like Oxy-Powder® are made from minerals instead of plant byproducts, which means they carry a significantly lower risk of of contamination and have a more predictable effect on the body than cleansers made with Cascara or other herbs.
Senna is produced from a tropical flowering plant and is a popular ingredient in “diet” or “cleansing” teas as well as body cleansing supplements. Senna has also been the subject of numerous consumer complaints stretching as far back as 1987.
Between 1992 and 1994, there were at least four recorded deaths of otherwise healthy young females who reportedly used senna-containing teas for extended periods. However, further investigation in these cases was unable to yield sufficient evidence to ban the substance, at least for the time being.
Both Cascara and Senna are forms of Anthraquinones–naturally occurring compounds are found primarily in plants and select insects. In addition to their newfound popularity as ingredients in dietary cleansers, they have historically been used in the commercial manufacturing of dyes and pigments.
Anthraquinones work with intestinal bacteria to cause bowel contractions. According to the National Institutes of Health, common side effects of Anthraquinone-based stimulant laxatives include brownish urine, severe abdominal cramping, diarrhea and vomiting. They also have a tendency to strip away good bacteria which normally assist the body’s digestive process, from the intestines.
If abused, Anthraquinones can also cause electrolyte imbalances and potassium loss, and because electrolytes play an essential role in creating nerve impulses that help to facilitate proper muscle function, unbalanced potassium levels can trigger irregular heartbeat and other potentially life-threatening conditions.
What to Look For Before Buying an Herbal Colon Cleanser
The majority of herbs used in these products are sourced from countries like China or India and, in order to turn a profit, these companies are using very low grade herb powders or solvent extracted herbal derivatives which may be contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides, insecticides and other toxins. In most cases herbs are also irradiated when shipped internationally, which tends to greatly reduce their effectiveness.
Make sure you ask any company from which you purchase cleansing supplements if they have documentation regarding the source of their herbs and a certificate stating that their product is free of herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, heavy metals, fumigants and also contains non-irradiated ingredients. Also try to make sure they use pure vegetable capsules, as opposed to those manufactured with toxic glues and binders, or gelatin capsules with animal-source byproducts and toxic preservatives.
It’s a good idea to avoid cleansers that contain questionable or hard-to-digest non-nutritive substances such as magnesium stearate, silicon dioxide (common sand), food glaze, methylcellulose, carnauba wax, apple pectin or any other “flow” agent or filler. Ideally, all of the ingredients utilized in a natural colon cleanser should be organically certified, wildcrafted, or at the very least, free of harmful contaminates.
A Better, Safer Option
While the facts surrounding herbal cleansers may seem disheartening to consumers seeking natural options for maintaining their health, safe alternatives are readily available. Unlike herbal or other over-the-counter laxatives, oxygen-based cleansers thoroughly cleanse the walls of the colon and intestines without dangerous or unpleasant side effects.
There are several reputable options for oxygen cleansing, but Oxy-Powder® is considered to be the best. It works by releasing nascent oxygen (ozone) into the bowel using a magnesium carrier. Simply put, specialized oxygen molecules are locked in place by being bonded to specific forms of magnesium. Gastric juices breakdown these bonds and allow the oxygen to escape into the intestines where it gently breaks up lingering waste.
Oxy-Powder® has several other notable advantages over other cleansers. In addition to fully utilizing modern technology in its manufacturing and development, Oxy-Powder® also boasts a stronger formula in lab testing than other products, and it comes in a convenient vegetarian capsule (unlike many other oxygen cleansers which come as a loose powder and must be mixed with water).
This information is in no way meant to dissuade consumers from using natural herb-based health products. In most cases, natural supplements are a great alternative to synthetic drugs, and herbs are about as natural as it gets. But they can be just as potent (and potentially dangerous) as pharmaceuticals. So please, do yourself and your body a favor and thoroughly research any herbal cleansing product before adding it to your diet.
California Morbity (1998)
“Adverse Reactions Cause the Department of Health Services to Require a Label Notice on Foods and Dietary Supplements Containing Ingredients with Stimulant Laxative Effects”
Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration
21 CFR part 310, [Docket No. 78-036L]
Centre National De La Recherche scientifique –
[Psyllium-associated anaphylaxis and death: A case report and review of the literature]
MedlinePlus – Laxatives (Oral)
MedlinePlus – Herbs and Supplements:
Psyllium (Plantago ovata, Plantago isphagula)
MedlinePlus – Stimulant laxatives