Herbal Detoxification

excerpt from Wightridden: Paths of Northern-Tradition Shamanism

mortar and pestleThe northern-tradition deities who are called upon for dealings with herbs are Iduna (for domestically-grown "crop" garden herbs), Gerda (for both herbs grown in the walled garden and those grown outside of it), Eir (for healing herbs), and Mengloth (ditto). For those looking into herbal detoxification, it would be wise to have some kind of relationship with, or a least do some serious propitiation of, at least two out of four of those ladies. One of the gardener goddesses and one of the healer goddesses is advised. Those who work more with the Aesir will likely prefer Iduna and Eir; those who are Rokkatru can work with Gerda and Mengloth. The Vanatru types can take their pick, although they may prefer Gerda as she is after all married to Frey.

Herbal detoxification is less short-term and drastic than fasting or heat purification; it requires taking the herbs for a long time and is less about immediate gratification. That means that it works better as part of a long-term spiritual discipline than a quick "I need to purify myself in less than three days for this upcoming ritual". While herbs can be taken during fasting, drink them in tea or in a tincture made of nutritive apple cider vinegar. Don't take gelatin capsules; they don't break down well in an empty stomach.

The first sort of detoxifying herbs are the sweating-promoters; in essence, they mimic the effects of the sauna on a very low level. They include cayenne, ginger, and peppermint. The second sort includes bloodstream detoxifiers, which vary depending on whether you're aiming at the liver, the kidneys, or the respiratory system. If you go researching modern herbal detox methods - on the Internet, for example - you'll find about a million combinations, most of them from sites claiming miracle cures and selling products. Instead of doing that, I'm going to list here some herbs that were actually grown by the ancient northern Europeans and that can be used for a gentle detoxification. Make them up into a tea or a vinegar tincture (there's no point in attempting to nourish the liver with an alcohol solution that irritates it) and drink it once or twice a day.

Northern-Tradition Detoxification Herbs

Milk Thistle - sacred to Sigyn, good liver support during times of physical extremity
Burdock - sacred to Farbauti, blood cleanser par excellence
Yellow Dock - stimulates bile, cleanses liver and bowels, detoxifies skin
Dandelion - sacred to Sunna, increases bile flow and detoxifies the liver
Mugwort - the first of the Nine Sacred Herbs, stimulates bile flow and detoxifies the liver
Nettles - another of the Sacred Nine, clears uric acid and other waste from the body
Cleavers - sacred to Gerda, cleanses the lymphatic system
Parsley - one of Odin's herbs, reduces free radicals and tones the kidneys
Marshmallow - sacred to Eir the Healer of Asgard, soothes mucous membranes
Slippery Elm - reminds us of Embla the first woman, also soothing to membranes
Mullein - Loki's plant, clears out the respiratory system, stimulates fluid production
Agrimony - Angrboda's herb, clears the urinary, respiratory tracts and helps diarrhea
Garlic - Thor's plant, blood cleanser and detoxifier
Juniper Berries - the classic recaning herb of the Siberians, beloved of the Dwarves of the Four Directions, clears acids from the system and cleanses the urinary tract

As with all things herbal that are being used for ritual or spiritual purposes, one should ideally have some kind of relationship with the actual plant spirits (see the chapter on the Path of Sacred Plants for more information on that) and have asked for their blessing when harvesting the herbs (if you did that yourself) and preparing the tea or tincture. Having the plant spirits as allies means that they can direct the energies of the plant matter in a more focused way than you can, and increase its ability to act. If you aren't a plant-shaman type, have another spirit-worker who does that sort of thing make up your tea or tincture, propitiate the spirits on your behalf, and bless it for you. Information on the medicinal uses of the old northern-tradition herbs will be in our next forthcoming book, The Northern-Tradition Herbal.

Another easy and quite ancient purification is to soak in a salt water bath, using about a cup of sea salt to the average tub of bathwater. Bathing regularly in the ocean is even better, but may not be possible for reasons of location or climate.