The Master Cleanse is a method of detoxification typically used to energize, promote weight loss and remove harmful toxins from the body. Developed in the 1940s by Dr. Stanley Burroughs, it involves replacing solid food with a mixture of everyday household ingredients including water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. The cleansing regimen also calls for a daily salt water flush--an Ayurvedic method of cleaning out the gastrointestinal tract--and nightly laxative tea.

Numerous websites and books tout the Master Cleanse’s health and weight loss benefits. However, the Harvard Healthbeat states that in terms of scientific proof, there is an absence of data in the medical literature regarding the diet’s effectiveness. As with any diet, consult a medical professional before starting the Master Cleanse.

Make the salt water flush by dissolving the salt in the water. Drink this solution every morning to help remove mucus and waste from the digestive tract. The flush usually induces elimination within 30 minutes to an hour of consumption, says Peter Glickman, author of the book “Lose Weight, Have More Energy and Be Happier in 10 Days.” Wait at least a half an hour before drinking the Master Cleanse solution.

Combine the filtered water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper in a glass. Fresh lemon juice contains enzymes that help break down old waste, explains Glickman. Meanwhile, the maple syrup provides minerals and sugar for energy, and the cayenne pepper accelerates detoxification by breaking up mucus and enlarging the blood vessels.

Drink six to 12 glasses of the mixture throughout the day.

Drink one cup of laxative tea every night. Glickman recommends organic teas that contain senna, an herb that promotes intestinal contractions. If the cramping is too strong, mix 1/2 cup pure senna tea with 1/2 cup warm water.


Follow the Master Cleanse for at least 10 days, recommends Glickman. Meanwhile, Burroughs states that a “clear, pink tongue” is the best indication of a successful, complete cleanse. (REFERENCE 2)

Side effects of the Master Cleanse may include food cravings, irritability, headaches, fatigue and “hot” bowel movements. These symptoms are temporary and tend to disappear as the diet progresses. (REFERENCE 2)

When breaking the cleanse, gradually introduce solid foods into your diet over a period of three days. Start with orange juice for the first and second days, and add vegetable soup for dinner the second day and during meals on the third day. You can resume your normal diet on the fourth day, says Glickman.


Weight loss on the cleanse is primarily achieved through laxative-induced fluid loss and a decrease in carbohydrate intake, states the Harvard Healthbeat. Once you resume a normal diet, the weight will likely return. (REFERENCE 3)

According to the Harvard Healthbeat, the salt water flush and laxative tea “can cause dehydration, deplete electrolytes and impair normal bowel function.” (REFERENCE 3)

Frequent cleansing may lead to metabolic acidosis, a disruption of the acid-base balance in the body that can result in death. (REFERENCE 3)