The Master Cleanser by Stanley Burroughs

The Master Cleanser detox plan

I’ve fallen in love with the Master Cleanse detox. I’m gearing up to do it again next week (my fourth time through it over the past 18 months), and I can’t begin to praise it highly enough. I get a lot of weird looks, and besides those I receive in general, I seem to get even more when I talk about the Master Cleanse. Then there are the inevitable questions and comments:

“Oh, the lemon juice thing? With the maple syrup and cayenne?”
“My friend did that. She lost like 10 pounds!”
“Is that even safe?”
“Aren’t you, like, starving?!” (Also: “tired” or “grumpy”)
And my personal favorite, “Oh, there’s no way I could do that!”

Bullshit. Yes, you can. Countless people have, of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. Far more challenging than any physical struggles is typically overcoming the perception that you will encounter any. I’ve yet to feel hungry once during one of my runs with the Master Cleanse, and I actually feel a boost of energy while I’m on it. So, how is it done?

I based my version off the original Master Cleanse plan in Stanley Burroughs’ original volume, aptly titled The Master Cleanser. Yes, I’m going to tell you the main part you need to know, but I still recommend getting the book if you’re serious about giving this detox a try. It goes into far more detail, and Mr. Burroughs’ worldview is inspiring and beautiful, if not a touch nutty. (It’s like $7 on Amazon; give it a look at least.)

Now then, on with the story. The Master Cleanse is a detox. It is NOT a diet. Yes, you lose weight, but it is as a result of detoxing. Focus on cleansing your body and purging toxins, not dropping pounds. It is also NOT a fast. You are consuming about 700 calories a day, and you’re welcome to have more if you like. But it must all come from one source: the fabled lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne drink. “Ewwwwww yuck! That sounds terrible!” You know what? I actually really like it. And everybody who ever tries some of mine seems to be pleasantly surprised.

Every morning, I extract 3/4 cup lemon juice from fresh, organic lemons. To that, I add 3/4 cup of a Grade B organic maple syrup*, 1 teaspoon organic cayenne pepper, and top with 6 cups filtered water. (*This last time around, I actually did about 1/2 maple syrup and 1/2 raw agave nectar. The agave is less processed, less expensive, and it’s raw! Bonus times 3.) Shake ‘er up, and drink it throughout the day. I have a big container that I’ve drawn lines on with a Sharpie so that I can just fill to those rather than measuring out each time with a measuring cup. Saves time.

I do this every day…for ten days. I don’t die. I don’t faint. (In fact, I’m going to be continuing my training for the Chicago Half Marathon I’m running in Chicago in September.) The truth is, I feel great when I do this. And it’s because my body is getting rid of all the SHIT that piles up in one’s system over time. The lemon juice and the cayenne serve to loosen the toxins and waste kept within us, while the carbohydrates and the minerals in the natural sweeteners deliver your calories and nutrition.

Organic ingredients are a must, so that you aren’t replacing old toxins with new ones. As for the Grade B maple syrup, its mineral content is much higher than that of Grade A (since it is less refined), and to me, it tastes much better. And make sure it’s pure maple syrup, none of that corn syrup/table syrup crap they try to pawn off on you. (Yes, it is expensive. But you’re not spending anything on food for 10 days, so just get over it and pay. Or cut it with organic raw agave nectar like I do!)

And then there’s the question of pooping. Yep. “Do I have to be near a toilet 24/7?” Nope. You’re not eating anything solid, so your digestive system has little stimulation to wanna shove anything out the hatch. That’s why we have to help it out a little bit. Laxative teas, taken once or twice a day, will help expel all the toxins that the Master Cleanse is loosening in your body. (I recommend Smooth Move by Traditional Medicinals.) No laxative pills. No fiber pills. For maximum effect, there is also the salt-water flush. Well, we’ve finally stumbled across the one part of the Master Cleanse that I do NOT enjoy. But, it works wonders, and I force my way through it three times over the 10-day period.

Take 4 cups filtered warm water, and in it dissolve 2 teaspoons of fine sea salt. (I recommend Real Salt.) Now chug. It’s tough to do, and it’s best to try not to think about it. You don’t have to get it all at once, but get it all down within 15 minutes. Then, yes. You need to hang around a toilet for the next hour. When it’s ready, you better hope you’re ready! The salt water flush tastes disgusting, and is less than fun to force down, but you can tell it’s doing its job! You can opt for just laxative tea, but the salt water flush is ideal to work in if you can. (Which you absolutely can. Stop making excuses.)

“So, outside of lemon juice, maple syrup/agave, cayenne, herbal laxative tea, and salt, can I have anything else?” No. No solid food. Zero. Drinks? Water. Lots of water. No coffee, tea, soda (you should stop drinking soda anyway), alcohol, juice, nada. Just water. No gum. The chewing will stimulate your digestive system and make it think food is coming. When no food arrives, you will be hungry and cranky and tempted to quit. Don’t do it.

So let’s lay out the plan. You’re going to need (approximately):

  • 40-50 fresh, local, organic lemons
  • 3 750mL containers organic grade B pure maple syrup (again, feel free to substitute some organic raw agave nectar)
  • 1 small container organic cayenne pepper
  • 1 box (20 bags) herbal laxative tea
  • Finely ground sea salt

The night before the cleanse, do not ingest any solid food after 8pm. The following morning, start your day with a nice salt water flush. (Alternately, you can have a cup of laxative tea before bed the previous night.) Then, make your “detox drank” and keep your mind focused on the positive change you’ve chosen to make, and how incredible it will feel to overcome a challenge you (and plenty of others) didn’t think you’d be able to! Enjoy it throughout the day, while ignoring distractions, and having fun answering people when they ask what you’re drinking. At the end of the day, drink another cup of herbal laxative tea. Get plenty of rest, wake up, and repeat.

I drink two cups of the laxative tea each day, one in the morning and one at night, except for the three days that I opt to do the dreaded salt water flush. One to two “movements” a day is all that you should expect from it, really. At least, that’s been my experience.

One oddity you may encounter: a white, fuzzy coating on your tongue. Totally normal. Don’t even worry about it.

After the 10 days have passed, you should ease yourself back into solid food, starting with some freshly squeezed orange juice or a very light vegetable broth, working your way back up. Whatever you do, don’t gorge yourself, and don’t return to poor eating habits that you entered the detox to do away with in the first place. Ditch the high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors/colors. Forget that fast food exists. No powders. More fresh, local, organic produce. Educate yourself on the ramifications your diet can have on your health, and the planet’s! Especially if you eat meat!

“Can I do it for less than 10 days?” Yes, but why bother? You won’t give your body the chance to really dig deep and flush everything out. CHALLENGE YOURSELF. This really is 99% mental, and you can do it if you put your mind to it! I’ve read about people who’ve done it for 40 days. Crazy. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be one of ’em someday. But for now, I’m extremely happy with my little 10-day commitment every six months. I hope you’ll join me and make a step toward bettering your own health! YOU CAN DO IT!

Questions? Comments? Leave ’em in the comments section and I’ll be glad to answer ’em! And feel free to chime in with any experiences you’ve had if you’ve done the Master Cleanse in the past!