Toxins can affect our health in many ways. They can promote oxidation of important metabolic and structural molecules in our body. They can also react with these substances in other ways that alter their chemical properties. In addition, many toxins have the ability to bind to chemical receptors in our body, such as neurotransmitter and hormone receptors, and alter our body metabolism in undesirable ways. This latter group, those that can interact with hormone receptor sites, are often referred to as "hormone disruptors" and they are a particularly important and common group of environmental toxins that have been getting a lot of attention recently. They include numerous petrochemical products, components of plastics, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and many other chemicals that are used in industry, agriculture and medicine.
How is our Earth Mother supposed to support and heal us if we keep poisoning her?
Hormone disruptors are known to negatively affect the health of endocrine and other organs, and many of them are carcinogenic. They also have some other properties that are of particular concern. For instance, there is some recent research that indicates that at least some of them may have stronger actions in extremely dilute doses that are well below the accepted "safety limits" than in larger concentrations (see: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=low-doses-hormone-like-chemicals-may-have-big-effects).
Hormone disrupting chemicals are also known to produce epigenetic effects. This means that they can affect gene expression, turning on or off the action of genes in ways that alter the way they are supposed to be behaving. Animal research has demonstrated epigenetic effects from as little as a single exposure to a chemical and that the results can be passed on through multiple generations (see: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-chemical-exposure-that-keeps-go). If they can have such a profound effect after a single exposure, imagine what they might do when they are floating around in our body tissues and fluids for most of our life - not just one but hundreds or possibly thousands of them!
This is me doing my zombie hormone disruptor imitation!Lucky for us both the human body and the environment are extremely resilient. That isn't to say that they can take abuse indefinitely, but when I look at the level of abuse that we have inflicted on the Earth and that some people inflict on their bodies I am in awe of how much abuse living things, whether they are organisms or ecosystems, can take. It speaks to the incredible capacity of life to heal and regenerate!
This burdock (Arctium x nothum) is the hybrid between common burdock (A. minus) and great burdock (A. lappa).
The roots of all three are excellent for helping to eliminate hormone disruptors and other toxins from our body.
One day I hope to do a post on herbal detoxification. In the mean time you can find more information in my previous posts More Bad News Concerning Phthalates, More Bad News About BPA (and Friends!), and More Bad News About BPA, Postscript. One of them has a link to an article on detoxing that I wrote a number of years ago.