The Master Cleanse—also known as the Lemonade Diet—was first introduced in the 1950s as a quick-fire way to cleanse the body and lose a lot of weight. In the 1970s, it became a popular fad diet mainly through the 1976 book, The Master Cleanser. Trouble is, nutritionists say, this diet is one where you can expect to lose weight, and then put it right back on. 
Interestingly, or perhaps frighteningly, the developer of the original Master Cleanse and author of The Master Cleanser —self-described healer Stanley Burroughs—was convicted of killing a cancer patient he was “treating” with his lemonade concoction. It’s a horrible story but a cautionary one. 
Still, the Master Cleanse diet is very popular. Burroughs was followed by Peter Glickman, a devotee whose book Lose Weight, Have More Energy and Be Happier in 10 Days takes over where Burroughs’ left off and includes the lemonade as the central ingredient in this liquid-only fast. According to his website, Glickman himself has done the Master Cleanse scores of times.
The Master Cleanse Claims
The Master Cleanse claimed results include: fast weight loss; a cleansing of organs including the liver, kidneys and colon; cell and gland purification; and detoxifying and cleansing the body of toxins. 
Glickman claims you’ll “lose weight, have more energy and be happier in 10 days” on the Master Cleanse, and his book Lose Weight, Have More Energy and Be Happier in 10 Days has been on Amazon’s Alternative Medicine bestseller list for years and been translated a number of times. It’s popular. 
The Master Cleanse website also has a Store with supplies and supplements, but the kit, at $90, has the syrup, cayenne, book, salt and tea. You buy your own lemons. The kit is for one 10-day cleanse. Glickman also “strongly recommends” people take probiotics after the cleanse, since all the good bacteria in your body has been purged along with everything else on this liquid fast. He admits that vital bacteria which produce essential vitamins have been flushed away and need to be replaced.
Glickman does comply with federal guidelines and states very clearly on his Master Cleanse website that results vary. 
So, you may not gain an improved mental outlook, healthier looking skin, more energy, clearer thinking; or the relief, temporary or permanent, of: asthma, arthritis pain, high blood pressure, skin rashes, digestive problems, etc. that are sometimes heard, but are not typical of everyone who does the Master Cleanse. 
Glickman admits that the cleanse may not do any of what he says it does.
The Master Cleanse Ingredients/Plan
First, let’s look at how to do the Master Cleanse diet, starting with Burrough’s “lemonade” recipe. One thing you can say for the Master Cleanse recipe is that it’s fairly economical and totally do-it-yourself. The only ingredient that’s a little costly is the Grade B pure organic maple syrup, which is sugar-free (no added sugars), preservative-free, and formaldehyde-free.
So, it’s the syrup, filtered water (tap water is a no-go; too many chemicals), freshly-squeezed organic lemon juice and organic cayenne pepper, which is included as it’s said to “rev your metabolism.” Six times a day for 10 days after a three-day get-used-to-it stage where you gradually, over the course of four or five days, begin to remove junk, processed and sugar-laden foods from your diet, then switch to fruits and vegetables and then, just organic orange juice and by the fourth day, only the lemonade. Six times a day for 10 days! 
Also added to the diet is a DIY salt water drink and laxative teas. After 10 days of the lemonade, salt water and laxative tea, you gradually reintroduce solid food, starting with soup, but still avoid processed or sugary foods as well as meat and dairy.
And then what happens? Apparently you go on your merry way, returning to the cleanse if things get out of whack again. Who knows—nothing seems to be mentioned in either the books or the website.
The Science (or Lack Thereof) Behind The Master Cleanse
The Mayo Clinic debunks the benefits of any and all so-called cleansing or detox diets.
There’s very little evidence that dietary cleanses do any of the things they promise. The fact is we don’t need to cleanse our bodies. Our liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract do a good job of detoxing it every day. If you’re looking to rejuvenate your body, focus on eating more whole foods, drinking water and removing highly processed foods from your diet. 
Scott Gavura, BScPhm, MBA, RPh, for the Society of Science Based Medicine, adds:
Any product or service with the words “detox” or “cleanse” in the name is only truly effective at cleansing your wallet of cash. Alternative medicine’s ideas of detoxification and cleansing have no basis in reality. There’s no published evidence to suggest that detox treatments, kits or rituals have any effect on our body’s ability to eliminate waste products effectively… 
This article at ScienceBasedMedicine.org has been shared on Facebook by nearly 9,000 readers.
Word on the Street About The Master Cleanse
Blame Beyoncé for this one. (or Heidi Klum, who also documented her Master Cleanse weight loss on social media) When Beyoncé said she’d done the Master Cleanse in 2006 to lose weight for her role in the film Dreamgirls and recommended it—well, what better advertising? I mean, Beyoncé has 110 million followers on Instagram. (And she named her new album Lemonade. Coincidence?)
Master Cleanse reviews run the gamut. Burroughs’ original book is still in print, 41 years after being published, and it sells. On Amazon, The Master Cleanser has received a 4.2-star average from almost 600 reviewers. And while 65 percent of reviewers raved about Burroughs’ book and the Master Cleanse in general, not everyone was a fan. Hundreds were not. 
An anonymous “Amazon Customer” (2015, 1 star) called it, “Another fad. Don't waste your time and money. I tried the Master Cleanser. It tastes nasty and it does not work. I was on it for three days and my cravings were terrible. I eventually gave into them and binged. After that happened I tossed the rest of the gross concoction away…” 
And another reviewer, “Tracey Summers” (2017, 1 star), said the cleanse was simply “not sustainable.” 
Glickman’s how-to on the Master Cleanse also has a 4.2-star rating on Amazon. Although unlike Burroughs’ book, which has reviews as recent as April of 2017, Glickman’s most recent review was in 2015. That said, the majority praise the Master Cleanse.
“Hope Hampton” gave it 5 stars (2015): “Yes, I lost 20 lbs in 10 days. It really takes will power. People thought I was crazy at first but when they saw me losing weight they joined right in”. 
Her sentiment is echoed throughout. “This really did work,” exclaimed 5-star reviewer “Veronica M.” (2014). 
The Bottom Line: Is The Master Cleanse Worth a Try?
Risky. There’s simply not enough evidence that demonstrates The Master Cleanse is effective at sustained weight loss or in doing great things for your body via a detox. In fact, there’s more evidence pointing to its ineffectiveness, since the body rids itself of toxins rather effectively. The body is a marvel. Without the science, I lean toward steering clear.
Also, I’m dubious of the health claims of a “healer” who refused to allow a dying cancer patient to see his regular physician as Burroughs had him undergoing an intense regimen including The Master Cleanse lemonade and “vigorous abdominal massage.”
My point of view notwithstanding, this detox has stood the test of time and now, 70 years after it was first created, it’s still as popular as it ever was. Maybe even more.
That said, I cannot recommend this plan despite the reviews and testimonials. Just eat better and walk more. The weight will come off far slower, but you’ll be healthier (and happier, albeit in not quite 10 days) and have a better chance of sustaining that weight loss over time.
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*Individual results will vary.
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