The Master Cleanse

(also known as The Lemonade Diet)

The Master Cleanse, as a method of cleansing detox is practiced by thousands of devoted followers, who consider it a relatively easy fast to undergo. Ingredients are usually readily available and the drink itself has enough calories to keep your energy level up.

The Master Cleanse drink is mostly water to which lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper have been added. The maple syrup provides some calories in the form of simple sugars, so one doesn't enter the full state of ketosis the way you do on a water fast. But ketosis isn't necessary for the purpose of detox and cleansing or even weight loss.

The Master Cleanse recipe was created by Stanley Burroughs in his 1941 book called The Master Cleanser, but its popularity really soared in the 70s. Since that time, many authors and health publications have made reference to it over the years and have promoted it as a wonderful healing and natural cleansing and detoxing fast. In 2004, Peter Glickman's book, Lose Weight, Have More Energy and Be Happier in 10 Days, gave it another resurgence of attention and popularity. Along the way, the nickname "Lemonade Diet" took hold.

As is true for any fasting method, it is not recommended you do it with the sole intention of losing weight. Obviously, weight loss usually does occur, but it is weight that is often put right back on after the fast if eating habits are not addressed and improved. For safe and long-term weight loss, lifestyle changes need to occur, as well as mental and emotional adjustments. It can, however, be a great aid to weight loss and help you make the necessary life adjustments, but is not, by itself, a "cure" for excess weight.

Fresh lemon for the Master Cleanse

Ten days is considered the standard Master Cleanse cleansing fast, but people use it for all different lengths of time. You are prompted to only fast as long as is appropriate for you; in other words, don't push yourself too hard, especially in the beginning when you are new to fasting. Intense detox symptoms need to be taken seriously. See How Long Should You Fast for more information on fasting time frames, as they relate to ANY kind of fast. It's up to you how long you choose, i.e. don't be intimidated into attempting 10 days. Short fasts are helpful too.

The Master Cleanse Recipe

The stated recipe varies widely on the internet, where many modifications have been made and confusion arises from the fact that the recipe begins with 8 ounces of water, but produces a 10-ounce drink in the end. Below is the actual recipe.

Master Cleanse Recipe
aka Lemonade Diet Recipe

To 8 ounces of purified water, add:

2 Tbls fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice
1-2 Tbls 100% pure maple syrup
1/10 tsp cayenne pepper

Drink liberally (from 6-12 glasses per day) throughout the day. Once mixed, this is a 10-ounce drink per serving.

Many suggest the lemon or lime should be organically grown when possible. And often the maple syrup is suggested to be Grades B or C, darker syrups which purport to have higher mineral content than Grade A. However, a recurring problem for some people using the darker grades, is an unappealing flavor, so some use Grade A, but definitely 100% pure, maple syrup. Honey is NOT recommended as a substitute for the syrup, as it is too congesting in these quantities.

You can mix up larger quantities. It's okay to mix the day's supply in the morning, although it is preferred the lemon and cayenne pepper be added fresh to each glass, as their nutrients break down quickly. Also, don't store premixed drink in a plastic container, glass only, as plastic can leach unwanted compounds.

For intestinal cleansing

As with many fasting methodologies, Master Cleanse purports colon cleansing to be imperative to thorough body detox. To accomplish this a laxative tea is to be drunk every evening before bed, followed by the Master Cleanse salt water flush first thing in the morning.

A lot of controversy surrounds the use of the salt water flush, marring the reputation of Master Cleanse in general. (See here for the dangers of the salt water flush.) This is unfortunate because the "lemonade" is actually great for cleansing and detox. It is a long-held remedy for cleansing and liver health found in many older books, to drink water to which fresh lemon juice has been added.

If you are thinking about doing a Master Cleanse, consider the salt water flush an optional part of it. There are alternatives for a fasting colon cleanse.

For more support

Because of the popularity of the Master Cleanse, some even calling it an alternative lifestyle, there is wide support available to those interested. A simple google search will prove this, but buyer beware: there is a lot of hype and commercialism around this "diet".

My recommendation is to give the The Master Cleanse a try if it appeals to you. If you're considering using the salt water flush, read at least one of the 2 books mentioned to be thoroughly informed and to make a clear personal decision about it. But stay clear of the online hype. Remember that fasting is about being kind to your body, mind, heart and soul.

Tips for Master Cleanse:

Tea for Master Clease
  • Do not attempt a Master Cleanse fast if you tend toward hypoglycemia, due to the high levels of sugar.

  • The night before you begin your fast, drink a cup of herbal laxative tea.

  • Drink 6-12 glasses of Master Cleanse per day. You can mix up a day's worth in the morning, leaving out the lemon and cayenne pepper, and instead adding them fresh as you pour each individual drink.

  • For best results, use room temperature lemons, and roll them with firm pressure to release the juices right before juicing.

  • You will be getting calories from the maple syrup, about 650-1300 per day depending on how much you drink, so you shouldn't feel lightheaded or dizzy.

  • Drink a cup of herbal laxative tea every evening of your fast.

  • The salt water flush is performed first thing in the morning, and you should plan to be at home for 1-2 hours after drinking the flush (some say you should be home ALL day, or that you should wear adult diapers all day!).


    You can choose not to do the salt water flush, it is not necessary for your cleansing and detox. Allowing the bowels to rest and perform their own healing actions is perfectly fine. Some drink a cup of herbal laxative tea in the morning as a substitute for the flush, plus you can use this colon cleanse recipe both before and after your fast.

  • Take 3 days to transition back to normal foods after a 10-day Master Cleanse fast. Start with several glasses of orange juice on the first day, orange juice and vegetable broth and fresh fruit on the second day, and add veggies on the third day. On the fourth day, you can return to a normal diet.

    For more information, see Guidelines for Breaking a Fast.

For all fasts:

  • Preparation - Prepare for a fast by eating fewer and lighter meals for a few days prior. The length of preparation is based on the intensity and length of your planned fast. The longer and/or more intense the fast, the more days of preparation you should make.

  • Caffeine - If you're a coffee drinker, wean yourself off prior to beginning the fast and you'll avoid the withdrawal headache. This goes for other caffeinated beverages, as well.

  • Exercise and activity - Plan for a light workload during a fast. Don't overdo. Moderate exercise is ok, even helpful, but save the more strenuous workouts for another time. Walking and yoga are particularly well-suited to fasting.

  • Rest - Get plenty of rest--allow yourself naps during the day whenever you feel the need.

  • Detox - Start practicing dry skin brushing and breathing exercises to help with detox through both the skin and the lungs.

  • Tips - Read the Water Fasting Tips page as most of the information there can be helpful during any type of fast or cleansing diet.

  • After the fast - Pay attention to the subtle signals from your body as they can guide you to the foods most appropriate for your needs. Check out the Recipe Section of this site for ideas.

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Related Pages

Types of Fasting Offers an overview of the basic methods of fasting, their main differences, and help in choosing which one is right for you.

Liquid Fasting lists some of the options for doing a liquid-only fast, including broth and milk.

Fruit Fast Details how to do a 1-3 day fast with apples.

Cleansing Diets offers guidance on using a cleansing diet as a partial fast or as a means of preparation for other types of fasting.

Emotional Benefits of Fasting offers insight on the healing effects fasting has on our emotional and mental patterns.

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