Try This Detoxifying Spa Treatment After Your Holiday Binge

Want to detox after the holidays? This is the most relaxing way. (Photo: Exhale Spa)

No matter how good we are the rest of the year, the holiday season is when our cravings take over and good intentions and willpower evaporate in favor of overeating and eggnog. I’m guilty (my latest obsession: white chocolate and peppermint–covered pretzels). Beyond stringent healthy New Year’s resolutions and a crash juice detox, there’s a natural, quicker way to start pushing all that naughtiness out of your system.

The Acu-Organ Detox ($150) is available at Exhale Spa in most major U.S. cities. As the name infers, this is no traditional massage or facial. The “acu” part refers to acupuncture, the holistic ancient Chinese medicine technique of inserting thin needles at specific points of the body to affect change in another. The other part of the 60-minute treatment to reboot a sluggish digestive system? An abdominal massage using warm castor oil.

More than pampering, I’m into things that actually work, with real results. I couldn’t wait to try something that promised to release and eliminate toxins and enhance my organ function. Especially at this time of year, I’d love to feel less bloated and fatigued.

Lying face-up, the acupuncturist Elisa Angelone first brought me “into the present moment” with bergamot oil at a couple pressure points around my head. Then she went from my lungs to abdomen, pressing gently in certain areas for any tenderness or tightness. Those are indications of “an imbalance,” she explained. “Somehow the energy isn’t flowing through here properly, whether it’s food congestion or inflammation or irritation in the tissue.” Ideally, the whole belly area is as soft as a baby’s when the organs are working properly. Nothing should be hard — no, not even if you have a six-pack.

When I did feel a tight or tender spot, Angelone asked me to take note of what it felt like, then moved to my arm or ankle and rubbed a precise area to see if it was alleviated. That was where she would place a super-thin needle — so thin I could barely feel it, after taking a deep breath in and slowly letting it out as she popped it in. Acupuncture works to move the energy along, so in this way she was targeting my digestive system. I had more congestion and tightness on my stomach. (Probably all the pretzels.) As Angelone explained to me, acupuncture actually strengthens my body’s ability to naturally cleanse itself of unwanted toxins. It reboots those innate functions of the liver, colon, kidneys, and intestines that get overwhelmed thanks to toxicity and lifestyle.

The second part of the treatment was a “cleansing” hot castor oil abdominal massage. “It’s like the acupuncture finds where the blocks are and the castor oil seeps in there to help it move along,” says Angelone. Made from seeds, castor oil is the only oil that actually diffuses through the skin into the organs and tissue where it acts as a slight irritant to stimulate the movement of fluids, circulation of blood and lymph, and encourages peristalsis (aka waste removal). I was surprised at how soothing the stomach massage was. The pressure was fairly deep as she massaged in a continuous clockwise direction — the natural direction of the colon — to move congestion.

At some points I felt stomach-growling sensations as she slid her fingertips around, going under my ribcage a bit and into my lower abdominals. After a while, she applied a heat pack with water to further infuse the oil into my belly. Once the pleasant, warm sensation had spread out from my core, she massaged the area again, with more warm oil and the same deliberate pressure.

Angelone removed the needles and told me that some clients feel as if they’ve had a colonic in the way things start moving along. They also see clearer skin, and a difference in their hair and cravings. Ultimately I felt invigorated, lighter physically, and clearer mentally, yet with a roaring appetite. “It’s a really helpful treatment to get your system back in balance — it’s completely natural and that’s really beautiful,” said Angelone. “And it’s also great for starting the New Year with a clean body.” The Acu-Organ Detox works even better alongside a complementary cleanse, which similarly gives the body a chance to do its own job, which is to detoxify, rediscover its homeostasis, and return to a clean, balanced state. I know I felt more harmonious — and inspired to eat less processed food so I can keep it up.


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