Do you know definition of toxin? Toxicity? Detoxification?

Detoxification is the most stressed benefit of an infrared sauna that is used by promoters. But it appears to be also the most questionable benefit. I’ve decided to educate myself more about toxins, detoxification and eliminative systems of a human body.

The first step was to find clear and exact definition of the term ‘toxin’. Google search for ‘define:toxin‘ revealed a lot of definitions. Not all of them were in agreement. While most definitions of toxins agree that it is a poison of biological origin, which is harmful to a living organism, some of definitions actually stated that toxin is “a substance that is harmful to the body” (www.hepcfight.com/utilities/glossary.asp) or even “waste product in the blood or any substance that is poisonous” (http://www.kidneyoptions.com/medicalterm.html).

I’ve suspected that there are two definitions of toxin – one is specific, which is used in medicine and another, which is broad and unclear and used mainly by alternative medicine practitioners and promoters. I found support for this in Wikipedia article about toxins, which states:

A toxin (Gk. toxikon “(poison) for use on arrows,”) is a poisonous substance produced by living cells or organisms.

And later in article:

When used non-technically, the term “toxin” is often applied to any toxic substances. Toxic substances not of biological origin are more properly termed poisons.
Practitioners of alternative medicine often apply the term in a non-specific manner to refer to a broad category of harmful substances claimed to cause ill health.

Possibly, this usage of word ‘toxin’ was induced by another word, ‘toxicity‘, which definition is:

Toxicity (from Greek τοξικότητα – poisonousness) is a measure to the degree to which something is toxic or poisonous. The study of poisons is known as toxicology.

It creates a little ambiguity here. For example a chemical poison is toxic (i.e. has some degree of toxicity) but it is not a toxin (because it was not produced by a living organism).

My conclusion is that term ‘toxin’ when used in a non-technical way is more a label attached to harmful substances and wastes. The statement “toxins are harmful to your health” is always true, because if the substance is not harmful than it is automatically not a toxin. So, defined like this, the term ‘toxin’ has no practical value, except that a mystery that surrounds it can be used to push detoxification products on the market.

But from the point of claims made about detoxification effect of an infrared sauna, there is no need to distinguish between biological and chemical poisons and wastes. So, instead of looking for an answer to the question “Can an infrared sauna provide detoxification?” I decided to start looking for an answer to “Can an infrared sauna help my body to remove in direct or indirect way harmful substances from my body?” question.

It’s all for today, but I’ll continue my research in later posts.

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