Is a juice cleanse worth it? One Vogue editor finds out.
During the first five minutes of my three-day juice cleanse, I was feeling on top of the world. I’d had a few sips of what was a truly delectable, creamy smoothie and any anxiety about how I’d actually complete a cleanse was swiftly floating away. I had no idea the juices were actually going to be delicious! I realised this was going to be a breeze. Then, everything changed.
Weeks prior both myself and our digital editorial director, Julia Frank, had decided to commit to a winter juice cleanse. It had been a busy few months for the Vogue team—which naturally, meant reaching for the snacks and heating up gluten free macaroni for dinner at 9pm—and we both felt like we wanted to press pause for a moment. That’s exactly how Orchard St. describes its juice cleanses—as a ‘deeply nourishing pause’—so we signed up, and here we were, sipping on our very first smoothie of the day.
That morning, we’d both woken up to a glass of warm water with lemon (yes, even the lemon is provided!), as suggested, and were now reaching for ‘Yang’, a nut milk smoothie which was advertised to be “protein rich,” featured caramel and cinnamon spice flavours and provided “adrenal, nervous system and immune support!” We gave each other a reassuring nod—this first smoothie was pleasant and we both felt surprisingly full.
Then it was onto the ‘Purify Tonic’. Taking a sip, I immediately tasted cayenne pepper and froze. That peppery taste is really not to my liking and while Julia seemed to be getting through the bottle swiftly, I was trying to work out how I was going to drink 500ml of it. This was the moment where I realised I’d been lulled into a false pretense—this wasn’t going to be easy at all. By now, it was 12pm and I was supposed to be moving onto a fruit-free green juice, aptly named ‘Green Fields’ but the tonic was slowing me down. I decided to give up on the rest of the Tonic and was surprised by the satisfying taste of the green juice, which promised a perfect union of “alkalising and detoxifying organic leafy greens and cleansing herbs.” Maybe I was back on track?
And that’s when the caffeine headache set in. Unlike Julia, who had been clever enough to wean herself off coffee in preparation for the cleanse, I hadn’t. As a one-latte-a-day drinker, I didn’t think I needed to. I was wrong. So very wrong. With my head pounding, I sought advice from Kirsten Shanks, Orchard St.’s founder, creative director and naturopath, who confirmed it was indeed a caffeine withdrawal. “We often forget how physically dependant we can become to this delightful daily ritual!” she kindly sympathised. “Headaches are the most common symptom of caffeine withdrawals.” But why was this happening to me? “As caffeine causes constriction of blood vessels in the brain, eliminating it often causes painful headaches as your body re-adapts to the increased cerebral blood flow,” Shanks described, encouraging me to persist. “I do suggest eliminating coffee while cleansing to avoid the state of stress on your nervous, adrenal, immune and digestive systems,” she confirmed. “I highly recommend daily drinkers take at least three to four days to wean off before a cleanse.”
Noting this for next time, I pressed on. Since we had signed up for a winter cleanse, next up was not in fact a juice but a slow cooked vegetable broth. It was accompanied by what is called a “broth enhancer,” a mix of unpasteurised soy-free miso, garlic, ginger and immune enhancing herbal medicines that essentially make the broth a bit thicker too. I welcomed the warm and salty taste, which helped to balance the large amount of juice I’d consumed. Post-lunch, I felt fantastic and transitioned straight into the ‘Elixir Tea’. By now I was in the swing of things and this 4pm “juice” was really more like a water (except hidden inside was a traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic inspired blend of liver, digestive and kidney supportive botanicals, as well as chia seeds which provide blood sugar support and essential omega 3s). It was getting toward 5pm and while I hadn’t eaten since 6pm the previous day, I wasn’t hungry at all! That’s something I asked the Orchard St. team about too. “Each day, we provide three litres total, through six 500ml bottles,” Shanks describes. “To bring it into context, it takes over 1.3kg of organic green vegetables to make 500ml of ‘Green Fields’. It does seem a lot, however it ensures our cleansers are provided with an abundance of phytonutrients to feel deeply nourished. The goal isn’t to go hungry, but be satiated, supported and energised as you gently, naturally, cleanse.”
In our late afternoon meetings, both Julia and I were feeling a little cloudy and with the addition of my caffeine headache, we decided to both get home early to bed. We parted ways to finish the final juice of day one at home. Fortunately, it wasn’t a juice at all but a delicious green soup, promising “detoxifying green brassica vegetables” as well as “protein dense legumes,” “macrobiotic umeboshi” and “white miso.” Much like the broth, it was lovely to have a warm and salty option that felt more like a meal. It was genuinely delicious and something I’d purchase to eat for a regular lunch or dinner.
Whether you opt for one day or three, coming off the cleanse, Shanks recommends sticking to a mostly plant-based diet for the first few days – it’s also a great idea if you can do this as a primer, pre-cleanse. “An easy approach to extending a cleanse until you return to your three meals a day, is keeping it liquid until lunch; with nourishing smoothies, herbal elixirs and teas throughout the morning,” she recommends. “Tuck into a nice big salad for a midday meal, rich in good fats and clean protein, then perhaps finish the day with a nourishing, broth based soup. The longer you are able to maintain a clean and healthy way of life, the more this experience of vitality will become a way of life.”
While throughout the three-day cleanse I’d certainly felt its side effects—cloudiness, poor concentration, feeling cold in temperature and those withdrawal headaches—I also discovered so much about my eating habits. For one, it was so fascinating to monitor hunger and also understand that a juice cleanse doesn’t equate to starving. Personally, I felt really empowered as it taught me so much about the power of saying no. As snacks floated through the office, I had a good excuse to say no, which made me realise I mostly just snack out of habit and without thinking. For the weeks and months after, it really made me think about what I was consuming and why. In turn, I’ve since been much more present when eating, ensuring I’m actually enjoying each bite—or sip!
I was also really fascinated (and somewhat horrified!) to learn that my body relies on coffee. I thought since I only consume one cup of coffee per day, I wasn’t the type of person who was relying on it. I was wrong. While I may not be interested in giving coffee up altogether, this experience has certainly given me a new sense of self-awareness. (And for those about to do a cleanse, I definitely recommend weaning yourself off coffee prior!).“A well-designed juice cleanse provides the body with a natural and gentle opportunity to enhance innate detoxification endeavours; flooding the body phytonutrients, essential vitamins, minerals and enzymes along with plant based protein, fibre and fats,” Shanks shares of how she designed the cleanse. In addition to mindful eating (a benefit that she reinforced was a common one), she shared that the other big advantage of a juice cleanse is improved digestive function. “As the stomach and lower digestive tract rest from constant digestion, and potentially irritating foods and substances are avoided, bloating, gas and discomfort naturally reduce,” she shares. Add to that the clarity of mind you experience post-cleanse (that “cloudiness” Julia and I experienced lifts on day two or three of a cleanse), increased energy levels and what Shanks calls “the glow”, this cleanse is absolutely worth trying to see if it works for you. Orchard St. offer cleanses all-year round and are about to kick off their spring cleanse, which, like the winter cleanse, also offers soups, broths and adaptogenic smoothies (while summer cleanses are usually geared towards juices and smoothies only).
My final tip? Don’t go into it with the supreme confidence I did. It’s certainly not easy and that’s because it’s not a quick fix. Instead, it’s a much-appreciated pause button.
Value for money: Orchard St.’s three-day winter juice cleanse is $270 for six juices per day. It includes everything you need for the cleanse, such as lemons, environmentally-sustainable metal straws and the juices, all delivered to your door the evening before you start. Given this, plus the fact that the juices are of the highest quality, it’s reasonable. (Don’t forget you won’t be spending money on meals or coffee at this time either!).
Good for: mindful eating, improved digestive function, clarity of mind, energy levels, a glow, kick-starting your health goals and a good old-fashioned challenge.
Where to get it: Orchard St.
This is an independently written road test which was not commissioned or paid for by the brand. However, the cleanse was provided to the writer at the brand’s discretion.