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Traditional Detox Methods You Need to Know

by Elaine Clara Mah

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During the Olympics of 2016, US swimmer Michael Phelps came under the spotlight for something other than his gold medals. 

He became the subject of discussions as viewers wondered aloud what the round red marks all over his back were. As it turns out, he wasn’t the only one showing the marks. Many athletes from all over the world across all disciplines had them. 

Those round red marks were a result of a process generally referred to as cupping. Cupping is a traditional Chinese method of detox practiced in the East for thousands of years. This traditional method is said to detox the blood and generally promote the flow of energy in the body and balance the “ying” and the “yang”.

Cupping isn’t the only traditional detox method that has seen a soar in popularity over the years. Other traditional methods of natural detox have also increased in popularity, with many swearing by them.

Here are our picks of the top 5:


Acupuncture is practiced widely in China and various parts of Asia and is said to correct the yin yang balance in the body. Amongst others, acupuncture relieves pain as well as improves digestion. Acupuncture needles are inserted into several points in the body and are manipulated by hand or by electrical stimulation.

Acupuncture has also found popularity in the West, where more and more people turn to acupuncture for detox. As acupuncture corrects the imbalances in energy flow, the aim of detox acupuncture is to achieve the balance that will help stabilize the body’s organs, thus helping flush toxins out. 

» READ MORE: Benefits You'll Reap from Going on a Detox Retreat

Ayurveda (Kitchari/Panchakarma)

Known as the world’s oldest holistic system, Ayurveda is based on the idea of balance.

The Ayurvedic system promotes the balance between body, mind, and spirit to maintain good health. There are several detox treatments that are based on Ayurvedic principles, but two of the most common are the Kitchari Cleanse and Panchakarma.

Kitchari Cleanse

Kitchari cleanse

The Kitchari cleanse uses the Ayurvedic diet to cleanse the body of toxins. The Kitchari cleanse follows a mono-diet, which is consumed for three to seven days.

Kitchari means “mixture” and is usually a combination of rice and beans. Common beans used are yellow mung beans, although alternative types of beans are also acceptable. When done right, this cleanse is believed to help the digestive system rest and reset, ensuring all imbalances in the body are corrected.

» READ MORE: How to Best Prepare for a Detox Retreat


Panchakarma means “five therapies”. Panchakarma therapy is a detoxification treatment that combines five therapeutic treatments – Vamana (emesis), Virechana (purgation), Nasya (nose cleansing), Basti (enema) and Raktamoskshana (blood cleansing)– to eliminate toxins from the body.

Panchakarma diet is also based on kitchari and is generally combined with the cleanse.


Gua Sha

Gua Sha is an ancient technique involving the repeated scraping of the skin. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe that the repeated pressure on the skin will help break up any blocks and promote smooth blood circulation.

It is traditionally practiced in China and Vietnam but is also popular among Hollywood elites with celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Elle Macpherson swearing by it!

Traditional Sauna

This traditional form of detox is thought to have originated from Finland but finds many forms all over Europe. The word “sauna” finds its roots in ancient Finnish, referring to the traditional Finnish bath. The intense heat in a sauna causes one to sweat, which is a great form of detoxification.

Sweating in a traditional sauna is also believed to balance health problems such as hypertension, fatigue and discomfort. The sweat helps remove toxic agents such as lactic acid, sodium and uric acid from the body.

In the past, sauna benefits in Finland include it being a sterile place for childbirth. As such, it was very common for babies to be born in a sauna!

Detox Tea

A tea detox diet is an extremely popular trend today, so it might be surprising to classify it under traditional detox methods. But did you know, that the use of tea was first recorded in 59BC in China, where it was used for medicinal purposes? Over the decades, tea has played a role in most cultures across the world.

Today, though, tea has found a new role to play – and that is a form of detox. Black and green teas are rich in antioxidants, which help boost the body’s natural cleansing process. To help further the detox benefits of tea, special detox teas have been created, combining tea with other detoxing ingredients.

That said, most health practitioners agree that detox tea should be combined with the consumption of nutritious whole foods for you to be able to reap its maximum benefits.

Looking to detox your body? Why not join a detox retreat? Your body will certainly thank you for it!

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