“Detox” is based on the naturopathic notion that:
Toxins damage the body in an insidious and cumulative way. Once the detoxification system becomes overloaded, toxic metabolites accumulate, and sensitivity to other chemicals, some of which are not normally toxic, becomes progressively greater. This accumulation of toxins can wreak havoc on normal metabolic processes .
A whole industry supplies consumers with products that are promised to eliminate poisonous substances from the body. The latest addition to the long list is Prince Charles’ ‘Duchy Original’ herbal detox tincture of artichoke and dandelion , which recently went on sale in Boots and Waitrose. Its sale raises several important points:
- The pathophysiology of ‘detox’ is non-existent.
- As a therapeutic approach, detox is implausible, unproven, and dangerous.
- Prince Charles and his advisors seem to ignore science and prefer to rely on ‘make believe’ and superstition.
- Detox promotions may contribute to ill health by suggesting we can all over-indulge, then take his tincture and be fine again. Under the banner of holistic and integrative healthcare he thus promotes a ‘quick fix’ and outright quackery.
If detox products worked, that would be easy to demonstrate. Simply take a few blood samples from volunteers and test whether this or that toxin is eliminated from the body faster than normal. But where are the studies that demonstrate efficacy? They do not exist, and the reason is simple: such products have no real detoxification effects.
- Pizzorno JE, Murray MT. Textbook of Natural Medicine. London: Churchill Livingstone. 1999, p 437.
- Duchy Herbals Detox Tincture. Duchy Originals Web site, accessed Feb 2, 2009.
Dr. Ernst is Director and Laing Chair in Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, UK and co-author of Trick or Treatment, The Undeniable Facts about Complementary and Alternative Medicine.