Karen Jensen, ND
The liver is a remarkable organ and is the central chemical laboratory in the body. In a world in which new toxins are introduced daily, itâ??s more important than ever to make sure our livers are happy and healthy.
The liver is a remarkable organ and is the central chemical laboratory in the body. In a world in which new toxins are introduced daily, it’s more important than ever to make sure our livers are happy and healthy.
The liver plays an important role in metabolism. Perhaps the most important metabolic function of the liver is the detoxification, or inactivation and excretion, of toxic chemicals, drugs and hormones, both those made by the body and those that come from outside sources. The liver inactivates these substances and sends them onto physiological, biochemical pathways that eventually result in their excretion by the bowels, lungs, kidneys or skin. The liver is also involved in fat, carbohydrate and protein metabolism and vitamin and mineral storage.
The liver is a major blood reservoir, filtering more than 1.4 litres of blood per minute. It removes bacteria, toxins, and various other unwanted substances from the blood.
Every day the liver manufactures and secretes approximately 1 L of bile. Bile is necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble material from the intestines, including many vitamins, and its secretion helps eliminate many toxic substances.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) considers the liver the organ most strongly affected by our emotions. Conversely, TCM practitioners and many others have long recognized that when the liver is stressed, anger, depression and irritability are more likely to arise. When a person’s liver is functioning harmoniously, the person stays calm and relaxed.
Many factors determine whether the liver performs its critical functions well. Too much pressure on the liver from overeating, too much rich or poor-quality food, environmental stresses, overwork or emotional stress can cause liver overload, leading to a decreased ability to clear toxins and hormones and manufacture bile. An overloaded liver allows toxic waste material to pass into the blood and the body.
The steps you need to take to detoxify a congested liver depend on how severe the problem is. Start with the simple dietary and lifestyle measures outlined below and see how they make you feel. If you feel your liver needs further support, begin using herbs that support liver function.
Choices That Support the Liver
Civilizations throughout history have been aware of the healing action that specific herbs have on the liver. Known as cholagogues (the Greek word khole means bile), these plants trigger the liver’s production of bile. Increased bile production gently cleanses the liver. As toxins are cleared, the liver cells can more easily access nutrients and becomes toned.
During a cleansing or detoxification program, I suggest that a liver support herb such as dandelion or burdock be taken two to three times daily for the length of the program. To keep the liver healthy in our toxic and stressful world, a liver-supportive herb such as milk thistle should be taken periodically, for example two to three times daily for one week every month.
Burdock root has traditionally been used as a blood cleanser to support the liver and hormonal health. Studies show that it is also effective as an immune system enhancer, in the stabilization of blood sugar and as an antibiotic, antifungal and anti-tumor agent.
Dandelion root is considered the ideal liver remedy because it is completely non-toxic and gently restores liver function. It enhances the flow of bile and supports the kidneys during cleansing and detoxification of the liver and bowels.
Milk thistle contains some of the most potent liver-protective substances known, including silymarin, which inhibits the action of free radials that damage liver cells. It also stimulates protein synthesis, which results in the production of new liver cells to replace the damaged ones.
Turmeric has long been considered a powerful healing plant. Curcumin, the principal active ingredient, has demonstrated potent liver protective, detoxifying, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. Other effects of turmeric include lowering of cholesterol, improvement of fat metabolism and improvement of digestion.
Globe artichoke head, leaves and root have traditionally been used to improve digestion as well as liver, gallbladder and kidney function. The cynarin found in artichoke has been found to stimulate bile secretion as well as lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Artichoke also has some antioxidant activity.
You can find these herbs both on their own or in combination at your local health food store.
The liver energy system governs the peripheral and central nervous system, the eyes and tendons and provides energy and vitality to the sexual organs. When the liver is stressed, emotions such as anger, depression, moodiness, aggression, resentment and irritability are more likely to arise. Physical symptoms such as allergies, fatigue, indigestion and distended abdomen, eye problems (spots, red, watery), headaches, hot flushes, insomnia, hormonal imbalances such as PMS, muscular pain and neck tension can occur.
Everyone could benefit from a cleanse involving the bowel, liver and blood at least once yearly.