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The Detox Challenge

Phase 2

Detoxing and cleansing the body is nothing new. People have been doing it for centuries for religious and cultural reasons. Detoxing can be traced as far back as 400 B.C.E. when practitioners of ayurvedic medicine often recommended diets that cleansed the body of impurities by eliminating various food groups and emphasizing a plantbased diet. Further, in a 2008 Newsweek article Michael McCullough, a psychology professor at the University of Miami, noted that in some religions, fasting is associated with enlightenment and atonement. “It’s a way of resetting one’s moral clock, of starting with a clean slate,” he said.

Today, detoxing and cleansing the body is seen as a way to cleanse the body of impurities both ingested from the foods that we eat and the environmental toxins that can harm the body. “Unfortunately, the world will continue to become more toxic before it gets better,” said Alberto Trujillo, national educator for Flora, Inc. in Washington. “Governments and policymakers will not make the necessary changes to reduce the toxic output of industry across the board, until the financial burden of toxin related diseases significantly impact health care costs.” 

As consumers realize that they probably don’t eat the ideal diet and that the environment can have an effect on the body, they are becoming more open and accepting of detoxing and cleansing. And with mainstream media attention from the likes of health experts such as Dr. Oz, the category grew and flourished for some time.

“Cleansing has always been a strong category in our stores,” said Trent Hurley, owner of No Name Nutrition Markets, which has two locations in Omaha, NE. “We know that if the body is full of toxins, nothing functions well. Over the years we have taught many of our customers that we typically do a spring-cleaning cleanse and a fall detox cleanse. Many have adopted our lifestyle of cleansing twice a year or more”, he said.

However, Brenda Watson, founder and president of Florida-based ReNew Life Formulas noted that SPINS and Nielsen reported that the cleanse/detox supplement category has been flat for the last two to three years. “As the leader in the category, we set off on a mission to find out why,” she said. “During the past year, from consumer and retailer feedback and research into sales and product trends, we discovered that there is a lot of confusion in this category mainly from various diet products linking weight loss to colon cleansing, cleansing from juicing alone, and other unusual cleansing fads.” 

According to John Holladay, product development director for North Carolina-based Gaia Herbs, the supplement market for items called a “cleanse” have been declining slightly for several years. “However, in the herbal supplements space, cleansing and detoxification remains the second largest dollar category behind immune support,” he said. “Also, the concept of cleansing remains strong when you consider that liver health and digestion are critical components to detoxification.” 

“Today, customers seem to be more aware of the role that detoxification can play in their overall wellness than in the past,” added Raeah Sunn, product manager for Vitaminlife stores with locations in Woodinville and Redmond, WA. “Whether this awareness is due to media attention such as Dr. Oz or availability of information on the internet, more of our customers are aware of the general assault of multiple chemical exposures in our environment (air, food and water, personal care and household products, etc.) as well as the hazards of a convenience-based diet of more processed food intake.”

Lindsay Reinsmith, founder and CEO of California-based Kaeng Raeng Inc., noted that the mainstream media is now “buzzing” about gut health and healing, with media outlets like NPR and Time magazine covering the topic. She also noted the importance of a change in diet. “Switching to a healthier diet that is loaded with unprocessed, nutrient dense foods (like raw fruits and veggies) is the first step to healing your digestion,” she said. “As your body is able to release toxic build up, probiotics, like those found in Kaeng Raeng Cleanse, can help restore the correct balance of bacteria in the digestive system.”

This past year, the company reformulated the original Kaeng Raeng blend to include pea protein rather than soy in the formula. Kaeng Raeng also launched a vegan, natural bodycare line to aid in detoxification and elimination. And new in December 2014, Daily Green Energy offers consumers an easy way to get their daily servings of greens and extend the benefits of the cleanse program.

So Many Options

In addition to cleansing and detoxing the body of chemicals, some use a detox or cleanse to jumpstart changing their diet. “It is important to understand the detrimental things we put into our body on a daily basis such as fast food, alcohol consumption and pollution,” said Charlsea Foley, product manager of Californiabased Health Plus Inc. “A person could cleanse to combat these challenges, or to start a diet and maintain regularity.” 

While we know why it is important to cleanse and detox the body, the variety of detox and cleansing products available on the shelf may overwhelm consumers who are wondering where to start. According to Peter Finkle, quality assurance director, for Yerba Prima Inc. in Oregon, a wholebody internal cleansing program can be used by most people as an occasional “tune-up” for all the elimination systems of the body, and therefore support overall health. “If someone has irritation in the digestive system or colon, he or she should not use an internal cleansing product that contains stimulant laxative herbs. In this case, he or she should use something very gentle such as Daily Fiber Formula, psyllium husks or bentonite.” 

In addition to Daily Fiber, Yerba Prima offers whole-body internal cleansing programs such as Women’s Renew internal cleansing and Men’s Rebuild internal cleansing that can be used once or twice a year for about a month. The Great Plains Bentonite can be used every day if someone has exposure to toxins in their daily life, or for two to four weeks as a detox support when needed, according to the company.

“There are many different types of cleanses and it truly depends on your preference and what benefits you are seeking,” added Health Plus’ Foley. “For example, our Super Colon Cleanse is a proprietary blend with many different herbs, however, it is formulated with a stimulant laxative (senna) which should only be taken for 10 days at a time. On the other hand, if someone would like to take something daily to help maintain the digestive tract and cleanse long term, our Every Day Cleanse would be better.

The Every Day Cleanse is a combination of herbs to help support the liver, kidneys and colon, and is meant for everyday use. It is important to research any cleanses you may be interested in taking and understand what type of a cleanse it is.”

ReNew Life’s best-selling total-body internal cleanse is a 10-time Vitamin Retailer Vity Award winner.

CleanseSmart is a two-part, 30-day, deep, comprehensive program that provides targeted support for the channels of elimination— the organs and organ systems designed to filter and eliminate toxins from the body (liver, lungs, lymphatic system, kidneys, skin, blood and bowel),” the company stated. “CleanseSmart’s Morning Formula helps support detoxification from the organs, cells and bloodstream, and the Evening Formula is designed to help hydrate the colon and help promote regular elimination,” Watson explained.


The detox and cleansing category offers just about every delivery format that a person can think of: capsules, liquid, teas, etc. And while retailer Sunn noted that the majority of customers prefer the capsule or tablet form, the Vitaminlife stores carry a very diversified selection of products that can support detoxification and cleansing, including teas, body and face cleansers, loofas and body brushes, clays, castor oil packs, greens, probiotics, homeopathic detox formulas, cleansing kits, water filtration devices, etc. “Our store carries more than 60-plus specific supplemental formulas in capsule, tablet and powder form providing a very comprehensive selection to choose from,” Sunn said.

Gaia Herbs’ best-selling cleansing product is Supreme Cleanse 12-Day Kit. Supreme Cleanse is designed to support gentle detoxification and assist with elimination. It supports the natural role of the liver, a healthy lymphatic system, digestion and elimination using only plant-based ingredients. The company also recently introduced a Liver Cleanse herbal formula in Liquid Phyto-Caps. Liver Cleanse includes herbs traditionally used to deliver antioxidants and promote bile production to support detoxification,” Holladay noted.

According to Flora, Inc.’s Trujillo, the most effective and easiest method is to incorporate an herbal tonic or tea. “Many people take herbal tablets and capsules, but a liquid already has extracted and concentrated phytonutrients that can have an instant affect on the taste buds and trigger the flow of digestive fluids including bile,” he said. “This is a very important aspect of liver detoxification.” 

Flora’s Flor-Essence is a gentle detox for the whole body based on a Native American blend of eight herbs. It is formulated to support all of the organs of detoxification to purify the body and place it in a balanced state of health. Flor-Essence supports the body’s process of removing unhealthy, sick and old cells, Trujillo noted.

David Winston, RH (AHG), president of New Jersey-based Herbalist & Alchemist, Inc. (H&A), explained that tinctures are beneficial because they extract the phyotchemicals in herbs exceedingly well, are very stable and have a long shelf life. “A small one- or two-ounce bottle can easily be carried in a purse. And studies have shown that the alcohol enhances the absorption of the herbs by about 30 percent,” he said. “It is also easier to take a small amount of an unpleasant tasting liquid which could be put into juice or other beverage or followed by something pleasant tasting that having to take a large quantity of an often bitter tasting tea.”

H&A recently repackaged David Winston’s Restorative Cleansing Protocol, which begins with a oneweek Deep Cleanse and Detox, followed by a second week Rebalance Cleanse and Detox. The four Protocol formulas enhance the normal eliminatory processes of the body. Unlike harsh laxatives, irritating diuretics and strong cholagogues (substances that stimulate emptying of the gallbladder and flow of bile), the herbs that are included in this protocol work via multiple eliminatory pathways as a healthy and safe way of supporting excretion of metabolic wastes, while improving digestion, nutrient absorption, circulation, cellular regeneration and immune function, according to the company.

Education is Key 

Many consumers rely on the knowledge and expertise of their local natural product retailer to make sense of the things that they don’t fully grasp. This is extremely evident when it comes to the detox and cleansing aisle of the store. In turn, these retailers rely on manufacturers to give them the tools needed to assist customers the best they can.

“In an effort to get back to basics, we embarked on a retailer partnership program called Cleansing & Detox Made Easy, which included a handy merchandising and education kit designed to lead consumers to easily choose the cleanse that’s right for them while shopping at a health food store,” said Watson. “We also included tools for the retailer to help keep employees educated and to help employees better assist their customers in choosing ReNew Life cleansing and detox products, including more frequent trainings through ReNew Life’s Conference Training Program. We also created a new consumer site, www.renewlifecleansing.com, as an online resource.” 

H&A’s Winston said he also believes that education is one of the best ways to support retailers. He hosts a monthly Herbal Salon online for customers, where he provides details on a selection of formulas addressing health conditions, explaining why the herbs were chosen, what they do, and how they work with each other. In addition, Gaia Herbs created an online Cleanse Support Center to help consumers who are using the company’s Supreme Cleanse 12-day kit.

“Education is the key,” said Trujillo. “If people had a better idea of the dangers of toxins and how they compromise overall health, cause premature aging, deteriorate brain function and vision, as well as contribute to hormonal imbalance, digestive problems, cardiovascular disease and cancer, true detoxification products would be hard to keep on the shelf.”

“Everybody’s bodies are different and no two people are the same. It would be easier if everyone had the same issues and we only had one product that worked for it all the time, but that is not the case,” concluded retailer Hurley. “Some people want a total body cleanse, some are after a good liver cleanse, while others want to get rid of parasites. We have products to help achieve their goals. As long as the suppliers support us with literature, in-store trainings, samples and the products themselves, we can have a successful partnership!”

Clearing up Confusion

Most consumers don’t know how long or how often they should detoxify and cleanse their bodies. Vitamin Retailer asked article respondents: At what frequency should detox and cleansing be used?

“There are many different cleansing products on the shelves for example Health Plus’ Colon Cleanse is safe to be taken daily as a fiber supplement but, our Super Colon Cleanse is a stimulant laxative and should only be taken for 10 days. Frequency really depends on a person’s specific health goals.” 

– Charlsea Foley, Product Manager, Health Plus Inc. 

“A cleansing program that includes a total body cleanse, a liver detox and microbial cleansing if needed, is recommended seasonally or twice yearly, depending on the individual’s needs.”

– Brenda Watson, Founder & President, ReNew Life Formulas 

“A real detoxification product can be used regularly to support the daily process of detoxification. A colon cleanse laxative type product should only be used when absolutely necessary for voiding the colon. Laxatives are not part of a health program and should not be use regularly. They irritate the intestinal lining, dehydrate the body and rob the body of electrolytes and nutrients, in addition to disrupting important intestinal flora balance.”

– Alberto Trujillo, National Educator, Flora, Inc. 

“Occasional use is most appropriate and should be coupled with diet and lifestyle changes. After the cleanse period, we suggest daily use of dietary bitters or our Bitters Formula to keep the healthy function of the eliminatory system.”

– David Winston, RH (AHG), President, Herbalist & Alchemist, Inc. 

“Depending on your environment, we would recommend a whole-body cleanse one to four times a year. As important, if not more important, is daily support of the organs of detoxification and elimination such as the liver, kidneys, lymphatic system and digestion. We offer herbal supplements, which support all of these functions, yet it’s critical to understand that none of this is a replacement for a healthy lifestyle. Exercise keeps your lymphatic system pumping. Eating healthy foods high in fiber supports healthy digestion. Staying away from excess alcohol and drugs helps maintain a healthy liver. Our industrial environment does enough to harm our bodies; we shouldn’t add to that damage ourselves.”

– John Holladay, Product Development Director, Gaia Herbs 

“A whole-body internal cleansing program like Women’s Renew internal cleansing or Men’s Rebuild internal cleansing can be used once or twice a year for a month or so as a health “tune-up.” A bentonite product like Great Plains Bentonite can be used every day if someone has exposure to toxins in their daily life, or for two to four weeks as a detox support when needed. A dietary fiber supplement like Daily Fiber Formula can be used every day to support colon health.”

– Peter Finkle, Quality Assurance Director, Yerba Prima Inc. 

“Although each individual person’s detox needs are different, we recommend conducting a three or six day detox once every quarter (four times per year). Two of our newer offerings, Daily Green Energy (available December 2014) and Detoxfoliant, are designed to extend cleanse benefits and used daily or as desired.”

– Lindsay Reinsmith, Founder & CEO, Kaeng Raeng Inc.

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