What Is a Depurative?

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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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A depurative is an herb or other organic substance that is believed to be useful for bodily purification or detoxification. Purification and detoxification are common goals of many different diets and lifestyles that aim to remove toxins and other unhealthy agents from the body. In some cases, a depurative may be used as part of a detoxification program to cleanse the body of a drug such as alcohol, while in other cases it may simply be used to remove toxins that are believed to be present in the environment or in one's diet. It is not uncommon for natural depuratives to be used in alternative medicine practices, though the efficacy of using such substances to remove what are often poorly-defined or undefined toxins has not been scientifically demonstrated.

Practitioners of alternative medicine may recommend the use of depuratives for a variety of diets and lifestyles or as a way to combat many different ailments. Many individuals believe that, as a result of diet, environment, drug use, illness, or other causes, toxins tend to accumulate in the body. Depuratives and other treatments and lifestyle changes can be used to remove these toxins from the body, leading to an overall improvement in one's health.


The human metabolism itself actually produces a variety of different chemical agents that can cause cellular damage and other problems if they are not managed. While the body does have many defense mechanisms used to prevent or repair damage caused by such chemicals, these defenses can not always completely mitigate the damage. Depurative substances of various forms, particularly beverages with antioxidant properties, are commonly sold to prevent the damage caused by these metabolic by-products. While the efficacy of many of the products claiming depurative or antioxidant properties is untested, substances with antioxidant properties, such as tea, have been shown to promote good health.

In some cases, purification and detoxification are not actually intended to remove any specific substance from the body but to promote a general bodily equilibrium. This is particularly common when one is getting over an addiction, such as to alcohol or drugs, and wants to try to avoid some of the withdrawal symptoms. Many types of depuratives, tested and untested, are marketed toward this purpose, though there are also clinically-tested drugs that have been demonstrated to fight some withdrawal symptoms.

A depurative may come in many different forms. Some are prepared as herbal infusions to be consumed, such as tea. Others come in the form of fruit juices fortified with various substances that are supposed to have purifying effects. Some, called probiotics, use live bacterial cultures with supposed purifying and detoxifying effects. All of these are commonly sold online and at a wide variety of organic or health food stores, but they may be difficult to find elsewhere.


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