How the Liver Works to Detox the Body
By Ryan Harrison, MA, BCIH
The liver is one of the body’s primary organs of detoxification. The second largest organ in the body, the liver is responsible for many different functions, including processing the body’s nutrients, manufacturing bile to help digest fats, synthesizing many important proteins, regulating blood clotting, and breaking down potentially toxic substances into harmless ones that the body can either use or excrete.
Of course, just because the liver is a prime filtration organ doesn’t mean that it is immune to the chemicals and toxins it encounters as it does its work. Most people know, for example, that alcohol can damage the liver, leading to dangerous levels of inflammation and hepatitis. Fortunately, the liver is remarkable in yet another way: it can regenerate or repair up to two-thirds of itself! Healthy liver cells “take over” the workload while the unhealthy cells heal. Because of the organ’s many important roles in the body, taking the time to cleanse the liver is a great idea for anyone pursuing optimal health.
Better Diet for Liver Health
What you eat and drink is the first concern. Fried and greasy foods, as well as alcohol and the wide gamut of artificial colors, preservatives, and other additives in today’s foods all challenge the liver, which has to interact with them. Eliminating, or at least drastically reducing, your intake of these foods and beverages will give your liver a break.
Liver Detox Programs
When looking for a liver detoxification program, be sure that it includes supplements that have liver-supporting nutrients. One of the chief ingredients should be milk thistle (also called silymarin). There is plenty of research showing the efficacy of milk thistle in supporting the liver by protecting liver cells, promoting their growth, and inhibiting their inflammation, and by fighting oxidation. Look for a product that contains a standardized extract of milk thistle to ensure potency.
Herbs that Support Liver Health
There are several other herbs that have shown to be supportive of a healthy liver, as well, and a good liver detoxification program will include several of them. Look for these and other herbs to ensure that you’re getting herbal ingredients that aid in the healing and wellness of the liver:
- Licorice Root:
Well known and loved throughout Asia, this herb is useful in supporting digestive and liver health. In Japan, a popular preparation composed of the active constituent of this herb has been used extensively to support a healthy liver.
This herb affects the liver and other organs related to detoxification and metabolism, supporting their ability to strain and purify blood. In many countries, this herb is beloved for its blood-purifying effects. To this day, yellow dock is included in liver-cleansing preparations all over the world: European and North American countries, and China and India, all recognize and utilize this powerful herb.
Containing potent antioxidants that positively affect the liver, fenugreek has also been used historically to support digestive health. This combination makes it a powerful ally in any natural cleansing and liver detoxification program.
These herbs and many others can play an important role in boosting the effectiveness of your internal cleanse and liver detoxification program. Because herbs work synergistically – that is, better together than in single formulations – look for colon cleanse and detox products that combine a selection of health-promoting herbs. That way, you’ll reap the many rewards of herbal supplementation while augmenting your personal cleansing journey.
1 Liver toxicity. (n.d.) Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine, Retrieved April 5, 2011
2Milk thistle. (2005). National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine,. Retrieved April 5, 2011, from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/milkthistle/ataglance.htm
3Licorice. (n.d.). National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health,. Retrieved April 5, 2011, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-licorice.html
4 Mowrey, D. B. (1986). The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine. Pg. 180
5 Balch, P.A. (2002). Prescription for Herbal Healing. “Fenugreek.” Pp. 66-67
6 Fenugreek. (2007). National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Retrieved April 5, 2011 from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/fenugreek/
7Fenugreek. (n.d.) Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine,