The Healing Crisis




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"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease."
- Thomas Edison

September 29, 2003

Dear Readers:

Over the past few weeks, we have received a number of questions concerning cleansing reactions -- what they mean and how to deal with them. In answer to these questions, I'm reprinting an article Jon wrote some time ago that talks about the Healing Crisis. I'm guessing that most of you have not read it previously.

The Healing Crisis
AKA: The Cleansing Reaction, The Detox Reaction, and The Herxheimer Reaction
Jon Barron

The Healing Crisis was originally observed while administering antibiotics during the treatment of syphilis, but was later identified during the treatment of other illness and in a wide variety of natural healing programs. It is characterized by a temporary increase in symptoms during the cleansing or detox process. Reactions may be mild or they may be severe. You should expect it and work with it. It is an indicator that the cleanse is working.

There are several causes:

The body must go through an elimination process to achieve good health. There will be ups and downs. You do not go immediately from disease to good health. This elimination process is what we call the "healing crisis." The healing crisis is the result of every body-system, in concert, working to eliminate waste products through all elimination channels and set the stage for regeneration. The end result: old tissues are replaced with new. 

There are three distinct categories of Cleansing Reaction

  1. When any treatment or cleansing program causes a large scale die-off of bacteria, a significant amount of endotoxins (toxins within the bacteria itself) are released into the body. The more bacteria present, and the stronger their endotoxins, the stronger the cleansing reaction. 
  2. When any treatment or detox causes the organs of the body (particularly the liver, which is a storehouse of drug and poison residues) to release their stored poisons and toxins, a cleansing reaction may occur.
  3. Any program, such as fasting or the use of weight loss herbs which causes a rapid breakdown of fat cells (which are a storehouse for toxins), can be accompanied by a detox reaction.

Specifically, we can now see that a variety of cleanses and/or products can initiate a detox reaction.

  • Category 1
    • Intestinal Cleansing and Detox Programs can obviously trigger a die-off of bad bacteria in the intestinal tract and colon. 
    • Likewise, use of the probiotics will cause a die-off of bad intestinal bacteria (as much as 3 1/2 lbs worth) as new beneficial bacteria take their place. 
    • Digestive enzymes when first introduced can literally eat up colonies of bad bacteria, thereby releasing their endotoxins.
    • And use of immune enhancers and pathogen destroyers can produce die-off, not only in the intestinal tract, but throughout the entire body.
  • Category 2
    • The liver is the primary processing and storage organ for drug residues and poisons in the body. The primary purpose of the Liver/Gallbladder detox program is to flush those toxins out of the body. The bottom line is that this makes the use of this program one of THE most important for improving your Baseline of Health, but also the program most likely to cause a healing crisis.
    • Use of an herbal blood cleansing program can likewise initiate a Herxheimer reaction
  • Category 3
    • Rapid weight loss, when fasting for example, can also produce a healing crisis as toxins previously lodged in the fat cells are released into the blood stream


The healing crisis will usually bring about past conditions in whatever order the body is capable of handling at that time. People often forget the diseases or injuries they have had in the past, but are usually reminded during the crisis. Reactions may include:

  • Increased joint or muscle pain
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Extreme fatigue and/or its opposite, sleeplessness
  • Nausea
  • Sinus congestion
  • Fever (usually low grade) and/or chills
  • Frequent urination and/or urinary tract discharges
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Skin eruptions, including: boils, hives, and rashes. Note: skin eruptions are often misdiagnosed as allergic reactions, resulting in the premature cessation of the cleansing program.
  • Cold or flu-like symptoms
  • You may think that you actually feel worse or that the treatment is not working at all during a cleanse. Do not despair. These are all signs that your treatment is working and that your body is going through the process of cleaning itself of impurities, toxins and imbalances. 
  • Such reactions are temporary and can occur immediately -- or within several days, or even several weeks, of a detox. Symptoms usually pass within 1-3 days, but on rare occasions can last several weeks. 

If you are suffering from a major illness, the symptoms you experience during the healing crisis may be identical to the disease itself. A cleansing, purifying process is underway, and stored wastes are in a free-flowing state. Sometimes discomfort during the healing crisis is of greater intensity than when you were developing the chronic disease. This may explain why there may be a brief flare-up in one's condition. Often the crisis will come after you feel your very best. In fact, most people feel a surge of energy during the first few days of a cleanse. It is at that point that your body dumps toxins into the blood stream for elimination. Thus the healing crisis. Do not be upset. It means your body is eliminating the toxins. Go as slowly as your body needs to so that your elimination is gradual and comfortable. 

With a more serious condition there may be many small crises to go through before the final one is possible. Everything must be considered and given its proper place in the build-up to a healing crisis. You should expect it and work with it.

Easing Your Way Through the Healing Crisis 

  • Drink plenty of fresh water (especially water), juices, and herbal teas to flush the body of toxins.
  • Use colon stimulation formula to make sure that you are eliminating waste promptly. Symptoms frequently disappear immediately after a good bowel movement.
  • Use ground flax seed daily to absorb toxins and to help speed their transit through the system.
  • On occasion, a good enema or colon-irrigation can provide relief.
  • Sometimes, rest is the best therapy.
  • And, on rare occasions, a reduction of the dosage or temporary cessation may be required.

# # #


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Kristen Barron



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