7 Herbs for a Healthy Liver

Our livers are taking a beating. All the chemicals, pollutants, and processed foods that make their way into our bodies are clogging up this precious organ.

Alongside a vast array of duties, this all-important organ is tasked with cleansing our bodies of impurities. The liver is your detox organ. It cleanses toxicants (toxic substances in food, water and air) that you intake as well as toxins or unneeded substances that your own body creates.

The liver has so many other duties as well that many medical textbooks put the liver’s known functions in the human body at around 500. It also plays a big role in digestion, building proteins and hormones.

Herbs and Your Liver

One way to boost your liver health and regenerate its cleansing abilities is to take the right herbs.

Here is a list of herbs that can help your liver and an explanation of how they help.

1. Milk Thistle

In humans, milk thistle has been shown to decrease liver weight and stop liver damage, and researchers believe this is because the herb prevents abnormal fat accumulation, a sign of liver damage1. In animal studies, milk thistle significantly increases the cleansing, protective, and detoxifying antioxidant glutathione in the liver 2.

The active component of milk thistle is silybin, which can easily penetrate cell membranes. It protects the body from free radicals by cleansing the inside of the cells, where it matters 2.

In humans, milk thistle has been shown to lower the levels of glucose, insulin, and triglycerides, all of which can be elevated in the event of weight gain, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome3.

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2. N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)

This derivative of a sulphurous amino acid is so powerful at protecting and cleansing the liver that hospitals use it to prevent liver failure in people who have overdosed on over-the-counter painkillers 4.

Though not technically an herb, NAC is a nutritional supplement and a sulfur compound that will benefit your liver in impressive ways.

N-acetyl cysteine is supportive of the liver because it is the raw material out of which glutathione is made. Glutathione is a critical antioxidant that the liver uses to detoxify harmful and unneeded substances.

In humans, NAC improved liver function in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease5. In rats, damaging oxidative stress in the liver was prevented by NAC 16. It’s clear that NAC lives up to its reputation.

3. Turmeric

Turmeric and its main active component curcumin have demonstrated antioxidant and  anti-inflammatory properties.  It also modulates enzymes in the body that promote these healthy effects 6.

In a placebo-controlled human trial regarding fatty liver disease, curcumin (found in turmeric) was successful in causing a “78.9% improvement”  versus a “27.5% improvement in the placebo group”

In a placebo-controlled human trial regarding fatty liver disease, curcumin (found in turmeric) was successful in causing a “78.9% improvement” versus a “27.5% improvement in the placebo group” of fat content in the liver (an indicator of liver disease) 7. Numerous other liver biomarkers were positively affected as well 7. Importantly, this study also demonstrated that curcumin caused significant reductions in body mass index, cholesterol, and triglycerides 7.

4. Artichoke Leaf Extract

In a placebo-controlled trial, artichoke leaf extract promoted “higher improvement in liver enzymes” in humans, and researchers concluded that the herb has liver-protective properties 8.

Researchers gave the credit to “flavonoids and caffeoylquinic acid” for the healing effect on the liver 8.

5. Dandelion Root

Health nuts (or health geniuses) often tell people to eat bitter things to help their liver detoxify.  By doing so, the liver can  keep the bile moving into the gallbladder and, finally, the intestines for elimination 9. Researchers agree with this recommendation.

Bile helps digest fats, and it contains waste products from the liver. Keeping the flow of bile going smoothly is important for the elimination of toxins from the liver, and dandelion does just that.

6. Green Tea

The tea plant is a wonderfully medicinal herb in so many ways. And research indicates that it can benefit liver health as well.

In research studies in both the West and in China, green tea has consistently been shown to activate phase II detoxification enzymes that protect and clean the liver11. Phase II enzymes are needed to safely evacuate toxic substances from the body.

A systematic review of green tea confirmed that drinking green tea has a protective effect on the liver and helps fight liver diseases 12.

7. Schizandra Berry Extract

This fruit has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to fight a variety of disorders since ancient times. It is known to have a unique set of combined flavors when eaten: sweet, sour, and bitter.

Schisandra is great for the liver. In humans, consumption of the fruit extract clearly showed that fatty liver disease was “significantly improved,” liver antioxidant defenses increased, and inflammatory markers decreased13.

Schisandra even “facilitates liver regeneration,” as it stimulates the growth of liver cells 14. Evidently, it activates “liver regeneration-related genes”  and can help liver recover after injury 14.

 The fruit has also been evidenced to prevent alcohol-induced fatty liver disease15.

Truly amazing stuff!

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Evan Burns

MSC in Nutrition

Evan Burns

MSC in Nutrition test

Evan has years of experience researching and writing about the health effects of food and nutritional supplements.

He is especially passionate about nutritional pharmacology and the bioavailability, efficacy, and actions of supplements. He wants to spread knowledge about how effective diet and supplements can be at treating ailments and promoting well-being.

Your liver deals with a lot of stresses in your daily life. From environmental pollutants in the air and all around us, to pesticides and chemicals in the foods we eat, our livers just can’t seem to catch a break.

What’s more, with changes in our diets and lifestyles, food becomes much more processed and packaged with emphasis on flavor, not nutrition. That means your liver has to work even harder to filter out the junk. To help turn the tide and help the body heal itself from within, many have started claiming that a “liver detox” is necessary to help flush out the toxins and essentially “reset” liver function so that it can do its job more effectively.

But some liver detoxes can do more harm than good! Click here to discover what scientific researchers have to say that will shock you…