Liver is one of the largest organ in our body that has many important metabolic functions. Not only does it process food nutrients and regulate body metabolism, but also takes up toxic substances and converts them into harmless substances. In another word, liver filters and detoxifies our blood in the body. Liver can be adversely affected by poor diet and lifestyle choices, alcohol consumption, prescription drugs, pain killers, high stress level, smoking and the myriad of toxins in our environment. Liver cells that have been damaged over many years would lead to the formation of scar tissue that causes the liver cells to stop performing as healthy liver cells do. The toxic substances start to build up in the body without being excreted will eventually lead to various liver diseases.
However, there are ways you can reduce the effects of your stressful lifestyle on your liver and keep it healthy. There are many fantastic herbs that dramatically support the liver and help it to function properly.
Milk Thistle (Silymarin)
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) has been used for 2,000 years as an herbal remedy for a variety of ailments, particularly liver, kidney, and gall bladder problems. Several scientific studies suggest that substances in milk thistle (especially a flavonoid called silymarin) protect the liver from toxins, including certain drugs, such as acetaminophen, which can cause liver damage in high doses. Silymarin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. And it may help the liver repair itself by growing new cells.
Silybum marianum contains silymarin, which is composed of the flavanolignans silybin, silydianin, and silychristine, with silybin being the most biologically active. Silymarin is found in highest concentrations in the fruit portion of the plant but is also found in the leaves and seeds. The seeds also contain betaine, trimethylglycine and essential fatty acids, which may contribute to silymarin’s hepatoprotective and anti-inflammatory effects.
Based on traditional use, milk thistle has been used as an emergency antidote for poisoning by death cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides). Milk Thistle has been clinically proven to improve liver function and repair liver damage. It is widely used in the treatment of viral hepatitis (particularly hepatitis C). It is often suggested as a treatment for alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis. Whether the liver needs healing or protection, milk thistle can be used for as long as someone wants.
Globe Artichoke (Cynara Scolymus)
The globe artichoke, or Cynara scolymus, is the immature flowers of a thistle plant and is known as one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world. This spiky delight contains pointed leaves surrounding a heart, which is the part of the artichoke most commonly eaten. Besides being delicious, artichokes contain a wide array of nutrients. One of their most notable benefits, known to numerous cultures for hundreds of years, is their ability to cleanse the liver and purify the blood.
Researchers have attributed the liver-cleansing properties of artichokes most especially to two phytonutrients: cynarin and silymarin. Cynarin is an antioxidant compound which aids the liver in producing bile. Bile is important for the digestion of fats, as well as for flushing toxins out of the body. Silymarin is a flavonoid that aids in the protection of liver cells and cell membranes. Both of these compounds help to regenerate liver cells.
Artichokes also benefit the liver by protecting it against hepatotoxicity (liver toxicity), and the detrimental effects of alcohol, processed foods and other pollutants. This is not to say that eating artichokes means that you’re free to eat all the junk food you want, or drink an excess of alcohol. However, if you have lived a less-than-healthy lifestyle and want to make a fresh, healthy start, artichokes can be an integral part of a liver detox plan.
Along with detoxifying the liver, artichokes can also be instrumental in bladder and gallbladder detoxes, and have been used for this purpose for generations in various cultures. They contain natural diuretic properties, aid in digestion due to high fiber content, and can help to lower LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol levels in the blood, making them a heart-healthy food.
Aside from cynarin and silymarin, other antioxidants found in artichokes include beta carotene, quercetin, lutein, rutin and gallic acid. This combination helps to fight inflammation and protect against a wide range of chronic diseases.
Burdock root (Arctium lappa)
Burdock Root contains a number of medicinal properties that have been used for hundreds of years. Traditionally herbalists all over the world use Burdock Root as a blood purifier. It is the root of the Burdock plant that is harvested for folk medicinal use.
Burdock has been used by herbalists worldwide to treat a variety skin diseases such as abscesses, acne, carbuncles, psoriasis and eczema. The beneficial effects of this herb include increasing circulation to the skin, helping to detoxify the epidermal tissues. By promoting perspiration, Burdock Root eliminates toxins through the skin. By producing a detoxifying effect, Burdock Root aids blood circulation and produces a variety of positive side effects.
Burdock Root can also be used as a natural diuretic to help your body to eliminate excess water by increasing urine output. By elevating the rate of urination, burdock root can help to remove waste from the blood and body.
Burdock root also contains inulin, a soluble and prebiotic fiber that helps improve digestion and lower blood sugar, making it an excellent choice for people trying to naturally manage their blood sugar.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelion is commonly known as a weed and grows in nearly every part of the world. Dandelion is rich in vitamins C, D, A and the B complex, and contains iron, potassium and zinc. It also provides a number of natural, biologically active compounds, including some called flavonoids and terpenoids. Some of these compounds benefit liver function, while others are diuretics that increase urine production by your kidneys. Dandelion also contains natural antioxidants, compounds that help your body get rid of free radicals.
Dandelion leaves are often used in salads and cooking and have a mildly bitter taste. Bitter foods have a cleansing effect on your liver. However, dandelion root is even more beneficial to your liver. Dandelion root is extremely bitter and is found in many herbal liquids, powders and capsules. In herbal medicine it was traditionally used for hepatitis, jaundice, gallbladder infections and for helping to dissolve gallstones. It is very helpful for people with a sluggish liver, which can be responsible for the following symptoms: headaches, bad breath, fatigue, indigestion & abdominal bloating, irritability, sugar cravings, skin problems and excess weight.
Dandelion root is also a very mild laxative, gently cleansing the bowels without being habit forming or addictive.
Schisandra is a berry, but don’t think of it as another superfruit like goji or acai. Think strange, exotic, and only used for medicine. The berry of Schisandra chinensis owes its name Wu Wei Zi (five flavored berry) to the fact that it is sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent.
Schisandra is used as an “adaptogen” for increasing resistance to disease and stress, increasing energy, and increasing physical performance and endurance. Historically Schisandra has been used as a lung astringent and kidney tonic, to treat mental illness, night sweats, coughs, thirst, insomnia, chronic dysentery, and sexual dysfunction. Scientists attribute the herb’s unique healing abilities to these pharmacologically active constituents:
- Lignans are anti-inflammatory, and appear to protect the liver by activating the enzymes in liver cells that produce glutathione, an important antioxidant substance.
- Phytosterols are plant-based oils that appear to have a cholesterol-lowering effect.
Probably its best-known property is as a protector of the liver, due to the lignans it contains. It helps maintain its proper functioning and regeneration and is also used to prevent liver damage. Schizandra uses its fat-soluble compounds found in the core of its seed to protect the liver from toxins. Schizandra is often used in the treatment of hepatitis C. Besides its liver protecting properties, it is also beneficial to the kidneys as it helps balances the fluid in the body.
This amazing herb also contains antioxidants, such as gomisin A and Wuweizisu C, to protect your cells from free radicals and prevent oxidation. This is why it’s often used in longevity formulas in Chinese medicine.
Keeping your liver healthy is a matter of controlling lifestyle factors and eating well: namely, exercising, establishing a ‘clean’ diet, and reducing exposure to toxins. Though there are many everyday foods you can consume as well as liver cleanse products you can utilize, using herbs to bolster liver health is another way to ensure overall immunity to countless ailments.