No matter how hard you try, you can’t always prevent toxins from entering your body. Sometimes, you just can’t avoid them in the air you breathe or the food you eat. Fortunately, your body has ways of dealing with them. One of your best defenses against toxins is your liver.
Everything that enters your digestive system – foods, drinks, drugs or supplements – travels through your stomach and intestines. From your intestines, all of these things pass into your bloodstream. This blood then travels to your liver, which filters it, separating the toxins from the nutrients and other beneficial materials. You then excrete the toxins in your urine or feces.
For a clean, healthy, toxin-free body, you need a healthy liver.
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Here are 5 herbs to promote liver health:
1. Milk Thistle
If you go to a health food store and ask for something to cleanse your liver, someone will almost certainly recommend milk thistle (Silybum marianum). People have been using it to improve their liver health and for other medicinal purposes for thousands of years.
Milk thistle contains an antioxidant known as silymarin. Antioxidants can help prevent cell damage.
Scientists have found that silymarin encourages liver cells to regenerate. It can prevent your liver from becoming inflamed, and prevent liver fibrosis; the growth of scar tissue in the liver, which can lead to cirrhosis. Studies with rats show that silymarin can prevent liver damage from acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning.
Traditionally, people have used milk thistle as an antidote for poisoning by the deathcap mushroom (Amanita phalloides). Studies on animals given this mushroom show that milk thistle can reduce the risk of liver damage and death.
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Milk thistle isn’t just good for your liver. It lowers blood sugar and cholesterol levels in people with diabetes.
2. Green Tea
In traditional Chinese medicine, green tea has many uses. These include promoting heart health, aiding digestion and helping wounds to heal.
Many scientific studies show that green tea provides protection against liver disease. It contains antioxidants called catechins, which might help prevent hepatitis C.
Green tea has many additional health benefits. It lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and increases HDL (good) cholesterol. It might help prevent coronary artery disease. Studies on animals show that it could help regulate blood sugar levels.
Be careful. Green tea contains caffeine, so you can have too much of it. Very high concentrations of catechins might be harmful to your liver, so it’s better to sip your tea slowly, enjoying the wonderful taste and aroma, rather than take green tea extract as a concentrated supplement.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is more than just weed. It’s a nutritious herb you can find in delicious salads, coffees, teas and wines. Dandelion contains iron, zinc and potassium as well as vitamins A, B, C, and D.
Practitioners of complementary medicine often recommend dandelion as a cure for liver ailments. Experiments on rodents show that dandelion can provide protection against liver damage.
Dandelion contains the antioxidant chicoric acid. Dandelion leaves stimulate the appetite and have a laxative effect.
Have you ever wondered why curry is yellow? The color comes from the herb turmeric (Curcuma longa), a common ingredient in Indian cuisine.
People have been using turmeric for medicinal purposes for a very long time. In Ayurvedic medicine, practitioners use it to fight inflammation and to treat liver, digestive and skin problems.
Many of turmeric’s benefits come from an antioxidant known as curcumin. Studies on rats show that curcumin might help prevent alcoholic liver disease and other forms of liver damage.
Turmeric also protects against inflammation. It can prevent the formation of blood clots. According to some studies, turmeric might prevent hardening of the arteries, and osteoarthritis.
Garlic (Allium sativum) tastes great on pizza. But did you know that garlic is great for your liver?
People have been using garlic as a medicine for thousands of years.
Garlic’s strong smell comes from a sulfur compound known as allicin – an antioxidant with antiseptic properties. During the two world wars, medics put garlic on soldiers’ wounds to keep them from becoming infected.
Research on rats shows that garlic can prevent liver damage.
Garlic can benefit your health in many other ways. It can lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure, and lower cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol and with type 2 diabetes. Some research shows that it might support the immune system and could help prevent the common cold.
- Amelioration of oxidative stress by dandelion extract through CYP2E1 suppression against acute liver injury induced by carbon tetrachloride in sprague-dawley rats, Phytotherapy Research, 2010
- Antibacterial Potential of Garlic-Derived Allicin and Its Cancellation by Sulfhydryl Compounds, Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, 2009
- Antifibrotic activity of Taraxacum officinale root in carbon tetrachloride-induced liver damage in mice, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2010
- Effects of garlic extract consumption on blood lipid and oxidant/antioxidant parameters in humans with high blood cholesterol, The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 2004.
- Effects of garlic on dyslipidemia in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus, Journal of Ayub Medical College, 2005
- The efficacy of Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn. (silymarin) in the treatment of type II diabetes, Phytotherapy Research, 2006
- The green tea polyphenol, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, inhibits hepatitis C virus entry, Hepatology, 2011
- Long-term administration of aqueous garlic extract (AGE) alleviates liver fibrosis and oxidative damage induced by biliary obstruction in rats, Life Sciences, 2005
- In vitro and in vivo hepatoprotective effects of the aqueous extract from Taraxacum officinale (dandelion) root against alcohol-induced oxidative stress, Food and Chemical Toxicology, 2010
- Protective Effect of Curcumin in Rat Liver Injury Induced by Carbon Tetrachloride, Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 2000
- Silybin, a component of sylimarin, exerts anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrogenic effects on human hepatic stellate cells, Journal of Hepatology, 2009
- Silymarin in the Prevention and Treatment of Liver Diseases and Primary Liver Cancer, Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, 2012
- University of Maryland Medical Center, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide