Dealing with Environmental Toxins

To listen to a radio broadcast on this topic go to the following link: .

herbal medicine

Cascade Falls, Colorado

I consider this post a collaborative effort of several herbalists. Much of this information was gathered by Dixie Pauline,

Information was also contributed by:

Karen Rae Ferreira at Gaia Sophia Center,

Greta Montagne of Gentle Strength Botanicals and Massage Therapy, 707.834.0617

Karyn Sanders of Blue Otter School of Herbal Medicine (you are already on this website)

Claire Bohman,

And, of course, my own two cents.

Many thanks to all involved for getting this information out to the public in a timely manner!

For those of you not living in Northern California, this article was written in response to a leak of toxic gas and the subsequent fire that resulted from a Chevron refinery in Richmond, California last week. Many of you live in areas where you could be impacted by similar environmental toxins so do read on.

In such toxic releases the first strategy is to limit your toxic exposure as much as possible. Get inside, close your windows and doors, change your clothes, take off your shoes. Taking off your shoes in your home is a good idea all of the time. So many toxins and germs get tracked into your home via your shoes. This is especially important in households with children, pets and anyone else who sits on the floor. Bring your pets and plants inside if possible.

Also, check out the Center for Disease Control’s  information on responses to toxic contamination, . You can look up specific toxic substances and how they impact the body, depending upon what type of environmental toxin you are dealing with.

Anytime we are dealing with environmental issues it is important that we give special care to the more vulnerable members of our community; children, elders, people with chronic illness and our animals.

plant medicine

Food is Medicine

Remember to eat good quality foods. Now is a good time to motivate toward cleaning up your diet. Avoid the usual culprits; artificial anything, sugar, long names that you couldn’t begin to pronounce, high fats, alcohol, MSG, smoking. Rely on simple, whole foods; clean, nutritious and delicious. Eat organic as much as you can.

Increase you intake of anti-oxidents, green tea, lots of fresh veggies and fruit (try for all colors of produce), cilantro, miso, seaweed, Celtic and Himalayan salt. Cook with burdock root and medicinal mushrooms such as shitake and oyster.

Generally speaking

You want to limit the toxins in your environment that you do have control over and especially what you take into your body. Besides your food this includes: soaps, shampoo, lotion, cosmetics, household cleaning products, laundry detergent; you get the idea.

Sweat, whether from exercise or a sauna. Epsom salt and baking soda baths will also help pull toxins out of your body. Since I brought up sweating, don’t forget to drink lots of water. Nettles tea will also help replace lost minerals and alkalize the body.

The main areas of the body that we want to focus on for this particular toxic event are three Ls; liver, lungs and lymph. I’ll address each of these below.

Exposure to toxins generally heats someone up. For this reason, I’ve stayed away from recommending many herbs that are warming and sticking to those that are cooling to neutral.


Our liver has many important jobs and one of them is dealing with toxins; both in storing or excreting them as well as cleaning the blood. So, when you have had a toxic exposure you want to support your liver. In addition to cutting out the bad stuff, see above, add in some supportive herbs.

burdock root – neutral in temperature, good as tea or tincture, supports the liver, cleans the blood and pulls toxic waste from the intestines; increases peristolsis (it is important not to be constipated when you are trying to detox

dandelion root – cold in temperature and more stimulating to the liver; increases peristolsis, mildly laxative, cleans the blood; good as tea or tincture

 milk thistle seed – warming but I included it here because it is so good at protecting the liver and helping it to regenerate; tincture or grind over food


Many people’s lungs took a hard hit from exposure to this toxic fire. The many people with asthma to start with are especially vulnerable.

mullein leaf – great lung tonic; good for wet or dry cough; tea or tincture

 licorice root – moistens the lungs and good adrenal support; contraindicated with high blood pressure; tea or tincture

marshmallow root – very moistening and soothing to irritated mucous membranes; best as cold infusion; this is gloppy, so you may need to mix with juice, yogurt, oatmeal…

elecampane – warming and drying to help with a wet cough; tea or tincture

passionflower – a wonderful aid to the nervous system that also opens the bronchi, making it easier to breath

botanical medicine school

Cascade Falls, Colorado


Our lymphatic system plays another key role in cleansing our blood and detoxifying the system. Cleavers and red clover are both good, gentle lymph cleansers and can be taken as tea or tincture.

You also want to further support your deep immunity with the medicinal mushrooms, astragalus and chlorella. I’d avoid the other blue-green algaes for now as they are more heating than chlorella and you want to cool your system down.


Last, but not least, remember all of the good self care that you already do. Keep it up and encourage your loved ones to do the same. It is a wonderful way to express your love to someone to support their self care…without nagging, that only creates stress.  Remember that your self care includes how you take  care of yourself emotionally and spiritually, in addition to the physical.

Be well!