Natural chelation is the process of removing toxic heavy metals from the body using natural means rather than man-made methods. Many heavy metals occur naturally in the body in small amounts, and are necessary to maintain good health. Repeated exposure to heavy metals can increase their levels in the body to the point where they are no longer metabolized, however. The heavy metals then build up in soft tissues, and the resulting condition is called heavy metal toxicity.
Heavy metal toxicity can cause reduced mental and central nervous system function, low energy levels, and damage to the blood, lungs, kidneys, and liver. There are 23 heavy metals that most concern doctors by causing heavy metal toxicity. Just a few of these are arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.
Natural chelation uses plant-based substances in an attempt to flush heavy metals out of the body. The three main components of natural chelation are alpha-lipoic acid, cilantro, and chlorella. All three components are available as supplements, although they can also be found in therapeutic concentrations in a vegetarian diet.
Alpha-lipoic acid is a fatty acid that occurs naturally in cells, and converts glucose into energy. The body's supply of alpha-lipoic acid is replenished naturally through the consumption of green vegetables, although a larger dose is provided via supplement for natural chelation. According to proponents, alpha-lipoic acid's occurrence in cells allows a therapeutic dose to be absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, where it "traps" heavy metals, and prevents them from settling in the soft tissue, where they can cause cellular damage. Along the way, it is also said to help replenish the body's natural antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, and CoQ10.
Cilantro is a culinary herb, the leafy part of the coriander plant. When used as a part of natural chelation therapy, cilantro is said to attack heavy metals in the body's tissues and central nervous system. It is believed to act as a reducing agent, changing the metals' charge, which the allows the heavy metal to diffuse down the concentration gradient. Cilantro also lowers blood sugar, and has been known to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
Chlorella is a single-celled freshwater algae, named for its high concentration of clorophyll. When taken as part of natural chelation therapy, the fibrous material in chlorella is believed to bind the heavy metals in the gastrointestinal tract. From there, the heavy metals are eliminated.
The benefits of chelation therapy for other than medically-diagnosed heavy metal poisoning are debatable. Many people believe that natural chelation can be safe and effective. Studies are ongoing to determine if this type of therapy does offer any health benefits.