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The Role of the Parasympathetic Nervous System in Detoxification

By Jodi Cohen

A person holding a small bottle of essential oil with a label that reads "vibrant blue oils respiratory" next to an open glass jar containing a yellow liquid, possibly a balm or salve, on a marble surface.

The Parasympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system controls your ability to detoxify, and eliminate toxins.  When your body activates the “Fight or Flight” Survival state of your Sympathetic Nervous System, all non-essential functions, including Detoxification, is effectively turned off.  In order to detoxify, your body needs to be in the “rest and digest” parasympathetic state.  You literally cannot detoxify when you are under stress

Your vagus nerve, which triggers the parasympathetic response, connects your brain to all of your organs of detoxification.  Stimulating the vagus nerve and activating the parasympathetic state turns on the following detoxification functions:


Your vagus nerve initiates in the brainstem, where it directs your organs of detoxification to move toxins out of your system.


Your vagus nerve runs alongside your lymphatic vessels and can enhance or detract from congestion that impacts lymph flow.  As you know, your lymphatic system, including lymph nodes and the vessels that connect them, filters and moves waste products, including pathogens, infections, toxins and metabolic waste out of the cells for elimination.  Healthy vagus nerve function, in the parasympathetic state, enhances the flow of lymph supports the body’s ability to detoxify.

Your vagus nerve also regulates your immune response, which involves your lymphatic system, which permeates every part of the body through a series of lymphatic ducts and nodes that carry waste to the circulatory system for elimination.

Blood Flow:

Your parasympathetic nervous system helps increase blood flow to your organs of detoxification so they have more energy to operate effectively. Your sympathetic “fight or flight” nervous system increases blood pressure  and routes blood flow to muscles, lungs, and other areas essential for moving away from perceived danger.  Research found that over time, chronic activation of your sympathetic nervous system and change the shape, size, and organization of blood vessels. (Study) Healthy blood flow helps carry toxins to the liver for elimination.


Your Liver plays a huge role in the detoxification effort, filtering pathogens, viruses bacteria, parasites and toxins from blood and neutralizing the chemistry of the toxins so that they are more easily removed from the body.  Your liver is also responsible for the synthesis and secretion of bile, which functions as the vehicle carrying many toxic substances into the intestines for elimination.  The liver is innervated by the parasympathetic nervous system which helps regulate and support your metabolism, blood flow, bile secretion and detoxification functions. (Study)


After your liver processes toxins, the waste molecules are transported in your bile through your gallbladder to the intestines for excretion. As long as toxins flow in the right direction, they can be eliminated.  If the flow of bile is inhibited, toxins cannot be efficiently removed.  Your sympathetic nervous system slows digestion and inhibits gallbladder contraction and emptying.  By way of contrast, your parasympathetic nervous system supports optimal bile flow to enhance detoxification.


Your intestines physically break down your food, so you can digest, absorb and assimilate your nutrients and also eliminate the waste.  In the parasympathetic state, blood is routed to your gut to help optimize these processes.   The parasympathetic state also supports healthy bile flow to carry toxins through the gut for elimination.  It is important to take binders to ensure that toxins are eliminated through bowel movements and not reabsorbed.

It is estimated that 25% of detoxification processes occur within gastrointestinal tract. For example, most toxins enter the body within foods and beverages we consume. Intestinal permeability or leaky gut allows greater entry of undesirable compounds into the body, many of which can produce “toxicity” symptoms once they reach a certain threshold. In addition, leaky gut allows these potentially toxic compounds to by-pass the processes of detoxification that would normally be carried out within the gut cells.

Regular and healthy bowel movements are a critical pathway for the toxins to leave the body.  Poor waste elimination is often correlated with toxins being reabsorbed into the body, often known as re-toxification.  The Parasympathetic state helps support healthy digestive motility and trigger bowel movements critical to the elimination pathway which allow for nutrient absorption and trigger the muscle contractions to allow food and waste to move through the digestive tract.


Your kidneys detoxify by filtering toxins out of your blood and removing waste products through urination. Sympathetic nerve receptors are abundant in the kidneys, and sympathetic over activity can disrupt your balance of sodium and water.  The parasympathetic state supports healthy hydration and blood pressure to ensure toxins are eliminated and do not recirculate through your body.  Read More about essential oil support for your kidneys.


Your lungs help you detoxify by releasing gaseous wastes, such as carbon dioxide.

Your lungs also help support and regulate your oxygen supply, drawing oxygen from the environment into blood and releasing carbon dioxide from the blood to the atmosphere. Your lungs also help expel toxic materials such as carbon dioxide and heavy metals from the body. Breathing plays an important role in detoxification because it helps the body return to a relaxed Parasympathetic state, when the body’s detoxification systems are most active.


The skin is your largest organ and a major elimination pathway and is innervated with sensory parasympathetic fibers.  Your skin detoxifies by first of building a barrier for toxins to enter and then using sweat to eliminate them. Your sweat glands act as a key channel helping to support any toxic overflow from the liver or kidneys.  For example, skin reactions like acne, rosacea, psoriasis or rashes are often an indication that the liver and kidneys are processing more toxins than the body can handle, so your pores will start to pitch in to sweat things out.  Epsom salt baths support healthy detoxification.


Parasympathetic Blend Supports Detoxification

Parasympathetic® blend can activate the vagus nerve to trigger the parasympathetic state when topically applied behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone. Parasympathetic® not only drops you into the parasympathetic state where detoxification occurs, but the blend’s key ingredients of Clove and Lime also helps you support your liver’s ability to transform toxic molecules into less toxic ones and help your body eliminate them.

Research shows that the limonene found in Lime essential oil is known to stimulate the production of glutathione, an antioxidant that serves as a natural chelator that can bind to environmental toxins like heavy metals, pesticides, mold toxins, and other pollutants, which may trigger autoimmunity. (Study) Glutathione also helps protect cell mitochondria, enhance tissue recovery, and modulate the immune system.  Unfortunately, most nutritional supplements of glutathione are not absorbed well and do not raise glutathione levels within the cells, so Lime oil’s ability to help stimulate the production of glutathione inside the cells contributes to the Parasympathetic® blend’s ability to support detoxification.

Parasympathetic® blend also helps to support brain detoxification and supports the detoxification of the vagus nerve.  Read more here.

Another key stressor and toxin creator is an impaired digestive system.  If you are not absorbing and assimilating your nutrients, it puts another stress on the body and the undigested food particles add to the toxic burden.  Stimulating the parasympathetic response also helps to stimulate the optimal digestive cascade, including your ability to eliminate toxins. When the flow of bile is stagnant or slowed, your gut shifts towards a state of dysbiosis, where unfriendly flora dominate, and constipation is common. The toxins from pathogenic bacteria then block detoxification pathways in the liver as well. Parasympathetic® blend helps to promote optimal  digestion, absorption and assimilation and elimination.  What’s more, healthy gut bacteria can help to break down toxins. Supporting the parasympathetic state and optimal gut function can boost your resilience to toxins and keep the directionality of your detox flowing.

Finally, Parasympathetic® helps to calm inflammation by releasing the anti-inflammatory neurotransmitter Acetylcholine.  Chronic inflammation impedes detoxification, so stimulating your vagus nerve with Parasympathetic® to can help reduce inflammation and support optimal directionality of detoxification.


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About The Author

Jodi Cohen

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.