16 Herbs For Liver Health And Detoxification
If you lead an unhealthy lifestyle, you might be causing harm to your liver. Ginger has antioxidant effects that reduce toxic buildup in the liver. Garlic's sulfur compounds reduce liver injury. Curcumin in turmeric, silymarin in milk thistle, and vitamin C in Indian gooseberry prevent fat accumulation in the liver. Bhringraj, chicory root, and burdock root treat injuries in the liver tissue.
With the word “detox” being featured on most teas, juices, and diet plans, it’s easy to feel that you need to take charge of ridding your body of all the harmful toxins you are exposed to. But the body has its own detox system. In fact, harmful chemicals from everything you ingest or inhale – food, drinks, medicines, or smoke – transform into less harmful, water-soluble substances in the liver in a 2-phase process and are then excreted.
That said, the first phase of the detoxification process also generates free radicals, which then go on to damage cells and cause inflammation. Normally, this damage is countered and repaired by the liver cells which add other molecules with antioxidant properties (such as cysteine, glycine, or sulfur) to the toxins to make them water-soluble. These toxins can then be excreted from the body via urine or bile. Maintaining a healthy diet with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables can help your body do this naturally. But if you’re chomping down on burgers, pizzas, and donuts every other day, you might need something to naturally supplement your body’s liver function, and in turn, the detoxification process.1 Here are some herbs that could help you do just that.
As we’d mentioned earlier, you could ingest toxins through medications. And true to this, studies have found that lamotrigine, a drug used to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder, can cause liver damage. Ginger extract has been found to have antioxidant effects that reduced toxic build-up and liver damage caused due to the drug. Further research is required to fully understand whether ginger would have similar effects when it comes to other toxins.
How to use: Add ginger to your diet by sipping on a cup of ginger tea regularly, or adding it to your curries and casseroles. Studies have looked into supplementation with 50 and 100 mg of ginger extract per kg of body weight for 28 days. But if you do opt for supplementation be sure to do so only after consulting a professional.
Garlic contains sulfur compounds which are responsible for its distinctive smell and for promoting liver health. They stimulate liver enzymes responsible for detoxification and have antioxidants called flavonoids which can both block and suppress the function of free radicals.2 3 Besides this garlic has the ability to reduce alcohol-related liver damage (alcoholic steatohepatitis), whether taken raw, as garlic oil, or as an aged black garlic extract.4 5
How to use: Studies use garlic in a dose of 600–1200 mg. However, a few cloves of the herb a day is well within the tolerable limit. Just be sure to crush the cloves before eating them or cooking them to release the bioactive sulfur compound called allicin.
Considering the fact that all health-centered blogs, nutritionists, and health nuts swear by turmeric’s numerous health benefits, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it also has liver-friendly properties. In fact, ayurveda and Chinese medicine have been using it to treat liver problems for centuries.6
Studies have found that curcumin in turmeric prevents fat accumulation in the liver. Test animals consuming curcumin through their diet had lower cholesterol and triacylglycerol concentrations in the liver.7 It was also found to raise the number of natural antioxidants involved in the detoxification process in the liver.
How to use: In Asian and Indian cuisine, turmeric powder is an essential condiment. Include 1.5–3 g powdered turmeric root in your diet every day. However, if you suffer from inflammatory bowel syndrome, reduce the dosage to 1–1.5 g.8 Additionally, in order to increase the absorbability of curcumin, experts advise combining it with black pepper.9
This is one option that is readily available in most people’s kitchens. Cumin, the dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum, has been found to have a protective effect against liver cancer. Animal studies attribute this benefit to cumin’s potent antioxidant properties which enhance the liver’s detoxification enzymes and fight free radical damage.10
How to use: Include cumin in your diet by adding it to refreshing summer drinks, curries, or stir-frys. Before doing so, toss cumin seeds in a hot pan till they release a warm aroma and grind them after they cool down.
Featuring in delicious apple pies, horchatas, cookies, oats, and cinnamon rolls, cinnamon is a medicinal herb that might be of help if you suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. In one study, test subjects with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease took 1500 mg of cinnamon extract every day for 12 weeks and found that their triglyceride and total cholesterol numbers both improved.11 That said, if had in excess it might harm your liver so be sure to stick to 1500 mg a day.
How to use: Studies look into the effects of 1500 mg of cinnamon extract for 12 weeks, but you could incorporate cinnamon in your diet by sipping on a tea made with a small cinnamon bark and hot water or adding a pinch of the spice to your smoothies and curries.
6. Indian Gooseberry
Also known as amla, the Indian gooseberry is commonly used in ayurveda to treat enlarged liver.12 To add to this, recent research has found that the vitamin C in amla, which is a potent antioxidant, can fight oxidative damage caused due to alcohol exposure and treat liver problems like jaundice, lower cholesterol and triglycerides. fight non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.13
How to use: You could find gooseberry powder at any local health store. The standard dose used in experiments is 1–3 g fruit powder. Add it to juices, smoothies, or your morning health shot, but try and spread it out through the day
Certain plants under the Phyllanthus species, such as Phyllanthus amarus and Phyllanthus niuri, have been found to have protective effects on the liver. Phyllanthus amarus, for instance, fights oxidative stress damage caused by alcohol and exposure to rancid polyunsaturated fatty acids. Left unchecked, these two factors can lead to fibrosis and fatty liver disease.14 15 Phyllanthus amarus, meanwhile, has been found to reverse oxidative stress damage caused by carbon tetrachloride (earlier found in laundry detergents, fumigants, and fire extinguishers) and stimulated the liver cells to repair themselves.16
How to use: Some health food stores stock up on Phyllanthus amarus powder. According to studies, the most effective dosage for this herb is 75 mg/kg of body weight for 7 days after consuming alcohol. You might find supplements with blends of both Phyllanthus amarus and niuri, but be sure to consult a professional before taking them.
An ancient medicinal plant from the Himalayas, Kutki or Picrorhiza kurroa is popular in ayurveda for its liver-protective properties. Besides managing the functioning of liver enzymes, “kutkin” and “picroliv,” compounds in kutki may protect the liver when taken before or after you’ve been exposed to toxins via alcohol, cigarette smoke, or certain medications. They might also cleanse the liver and prevent liver cirrhosis. In addition to this, studies have found that a herbal medicine called arogyawardhani, 50% of which is kutki, fights viral hepatitis. In these studies, test patients noticed a reduction in the levels of serum bilirubin and transaminase, two indicators of hepatitis, after taking the medicine. This herb might also treat jaundice and improve bile secretion.17 18
How to use: Mix kutki root powder with honey and consume thrice daily along with other liver-cleansing herbs.
A popular ayurvedic herb often used to treat hair fall, bhringraj is also believed to prevent liver failure. Alternative medicine uses the extract of the herb’s leaves as a liver tonic. Studies have found that it could treat mild liver cirrhosis and prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by lowering cholesterol and triglycerides.19 20
How to use: Based on studies, it is recommended that you consume 10- 80 mg of the herb’s dried powder per kg of your bodyweight. Consult a professional before supplementing.21
10. Burdock Root
Popularly used as a blood purifier, burdock root has been found to have antioxidant effects which repress carbon-tetrachloride (a toxin that was used in fire extinguishers and cleaning agents until it was banned) induced liver enzyme elevations. In doing this, it reduced the severity of liver damage caused due to the toxin. In addition to this, studies have also found that it lowers the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.22 23
How to use: If you can manage to get your hands on the dried burdock root powder, add 56.699 grams of it to 4 cups of water and sip throughout the day.24
11. Milk Thistle
Milk thistle has been used for years to treat liver and gallbladder disease. It is believed to contain bioflavonoids (antioxidants) called silymarin, which stop toxins from attaching to the liver cells. They might also neutralize free radicals. This could be why they’re used to treat mushroom poisoning and fatty liver disease. In addition to this, if you’ve had a liver injury or a partial hepatectomy (surgical removal of a part of the liver), silymarin can help in the regeneration of your liver by stimulating the synthesis of protein – a nutrient that is essential for cell growth. Thus, milk thistle can accelerate the growth of your liver cells and help you regain lost liver mass.25
However, the herb might not work as well if you have a severe liver disease like alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis.26
How to use: Consume one cup of milk thistle tea every day. For supplementation, consult a professional.
Also known as kaasni, this herb is known for centuries now to purify blood and improve liver functioning. In fact, the ancient Egyptians cultivated chicory root as long as 5000 years ago as a medicinal plant. To add to this, Greeks and Romans used it as a salad green and called it the “friend of the liver.”[/ref]Chicory — Cichorium intybus. The University Of Illinois.[/ref] Recent studies have also found that the herb reverses the extent of hepatocyte (a cell of the main parenchymal tissue of the liver which makes up for 70–85% of its mass) death. In doing so, it prevents the rate of the cell’s death from exceeding that of the regenerative capacity of liver, in turn, preventing liver failure.27
How to use: You could use the young leaves of the herb in salads or boil and eat them like you would a vegetable. Alternatively, you could try consuming 6.0 g of the dried herb per kg of your body weight.28
Also known as Guduchi or Tinospora cordifolia, giloy is a potent herb that’s known as “amrit” or the nectar of life in ayurveda. Part of this reason, besides boosting immunity, lowering inflammation, and fighting skin problems, is the plant’s hepatoprotective properties. Studies have found that giloy can prevent scarring of the liver (fibrosis) and promote the regeneration of damaged liver tissue. Besides this, the antioxidant properties of the herb could prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, fight jaundice and hepatitis, and ensure healthy liver functioning by reducing free radical damage.29 30 31
How to use: Studies place the most effective dosage at 400 mg per kg of body weight. So, mix that amount of giloy powder with 10–20 ml of aloe vera or wheatgrass juice to detox.
Iranian traditional medicine looks to the licorice for treating chronic liver diseases. It is believed that the herb contains antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and hepatoprotective properties that inhibit lipid (fat) accumulation in the liver and prevent alcoholic liver injury from progressing to alcoholic hepatitis.32 33
How to use: Licorice root will typically be available in powder or capsule form. Opt for licorice root that is deglyccyrhizinated (without glycyrrhizin) or has low glycyrrhizin content so as to avoid elevating your body’s sodium levels and lowering its potassium levels. Be sure to limit your consumption of the herb to 30 mg/mL or 500 mg total dose.34
Different traditional medicinal disciplines in India, Europe, and North America consider dandelion to be a liver tonic. Studies conducted with dandelion leaf and root found that the herb’s extract can fight liver fibrosis or liver scarring caused by a buildup of scar tissue in response to liver inflammation or damage. If left unchecked, liver fibrosis could lead to cirrhosis or liver failure. Dandelion extract can also prevent fatty liver disease caused by fat accumulation in the liver.35 36 37
How to use: Incorporate dandelion into your diet by using its leaves and roots to make tea or tinctures. Alternatively, you could opt for dandelion supplements after consulting a professional.
This brilliant red herb was used in northern European to treat liver problems. Studies have found that berberine, a compound in barberry, reduces the density of serum cholesterol and triglycerides in the liver by increasing the production of a receptor in the liver that bonds with cholesterol and fat and facilitates their excretion. In doing this, it prevents fatty liver disease. Besides this, berberine might also improve the function of liver enzymes.38
How to use: Snack on barberries regularly or brew a cup of barberry tea by adding dried barberry powder to a cup of warm water. Pregnant and nursing women should avoid this herb.
[Next Read: Liver-Friendly Foods]
References [ + ]
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