With the word “detox” being featured on most teas, juices, and diet plans, it’s easy to feel that you need to take charge of ridding your body of all the harmful toxins you are exposed to. But the body has its own detox system. In fact, harmful chemicals from everything you ingest or inhale – food, drinks, medicines, or smoke – transform into less harmful, water-soluble substances in the liver in a 2-phase process and are then excreted.
That said, the first phase of the detoxification process also generates free radicals, which then go on to damage cells and cause inflammation. Normally, this damage is countered and repaired by the liver cells which add other molecules with antioxidant properties (such as cysteine, glycine, or sulfur) to the toxins to make them water-soluble. These toxins can then be excreted from the body via urine or bile. Maintaining a healthy diet with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables can help your body do this naturally. But if you’re chomping down on burgers, pizzas, and donuts every other day, you might need something to naturally supplement your body’s liver function, and in turn, the detoxification process.1 Here are some herbs that could help you do just that.
As we’d mentioned earlier, you could ingest toxins through medications. And true to this, studies have found that lamotrigine, a drug used to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder, can cause liver damage. Ginger extract has been found to have antioxidant effects that reduced toxic build-up and liver damage caused due to the drug. Further research is required to fully understand whether ginger would have similar effects when it comes to other toxins.
How to use: Add ginger to your diet by sipping on a cup of ginger tea regularly, or adding it to your curries and casseroles. Studies have looked into supplementation with 50 and 100 mg of ginger extract per kg of body weight for 28 days. But if you do opt for supplementation be sure to do so only after consulting a professional.
Garlic contains sulfur compounds which are responsible for its distinctive smell and for promoting liver health. They stimulate liver enzymes responsible for detoxification and have antioxidants called flavonoids which can both block and suppress the function of free radicals.2 3 Besides this garlic has the ability to reduce alcohol-related liver damage (alcoholic steatohepatitis), whether taken raw, as garlic oil, or as an aged black garlic extract.4 5
How to use: Studies use garlic in a dose of 600–1200 mg. However, a few cloves of the herb a day is well within the tolerable limit. Just be sure to crush the cloves before eating them or cooking them to release the bioactive sulfur compound called allicin.
Considering the fact that all health-centered blogs, nutritionists, and health nuts swear by turmeric’s numerous health benefits, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it also has liver-friendly properties. In fact, ayurveda and Chinese medicine have been using it to treat liver problems for centuries.6
Studies have found that curcumin in turmeric prevents fat accumulation in the liver. Test animals consuming curcumin through their diet had lower cholesterol and triacylglycerol concentrations in the liver.7 It was also found to raise the number of natural antioxidants involved in the detoxification process in the liver.
How to use: In Asian and Indian cuisine, turmeric powder is an essential condiment. Include 1.5–3 g powdered turmeric root in your diet every day. However, if you suffer from inflammatory bowel syndrome, reduce the dosage to 1–1.5 g.8 Additionally, in order to increase the absorbability of curcumin, experts advise combining it with black pepper.9
This is one option that is readily available in most people’s kitchens. Cumin, the dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum, has been found to have a protective effect against liver cancer. Animal studies attribute this benefit to cumin’s potent antioxidant properties which enhance the liver’s detoxification enzymes and fight free radical damage.10
How to use: Include cumin in your diet by adding it to refreshing summer drinks, curries, or stir-frys. Before doing so, toss cumin seeds in a hot pan till they release a warm aroma and grind them after they cool down.
Featuring in delicious apple pies, horchatas, cookies, oats, and cinnamon rolls, cinnamon is a medicinal herb that might be of help if you suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. In one study, test subjects with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease took 1500 mg of cinnamon extract every day for 12 weeks and found that their triglyceride and total cholesterol numbers both improved.11 That said, if had in excess it might harm your liver so be sure to stick to 1500 mg a day.
How to use: Studies look into the effects of 1500 mg of cinnamon extract for 12 weeks, but you could incorporate cinnamon in your diet by sipping on a tea made with a small cinnamon bark and hot water or adding a pinch of the spice to your smoothies and curries.
6. Indian Gooseberry
Also known as amla, the Indian gooseberry is commonly used in ayurveda to treat enlarged liver.12 To add to this, recent research has found that the vitamin C in amla, which is a potent antioxidant, can fight oxidative damage caused due to alcohol exposure and treat liver problems like jaundice, lower cholesterol and triglycerides. fight non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.13
How to use: You could find gooseberry powder at any local health store. The standard dose used in experiments is 1–3 g fruit powder. Add it to juices, smoothies, or your morning health shot, but try and spread it out through the day
Certain plants under the Phyllanthus species, such as Phyllanthus amarus and Phyllanthus niuri, have been found to have protective effects on the liver. Phyllanthus amarus, for instance, fights oxidative stress damage caused by alcohol and exposure to rancid polyunsaturated fatty acids. Left unchecked, these two factors can lead to fibrosis and fatty liver disease.14 15 Phyllanthus amarus, meanwhile, has been found to reverse oxidative stress damage caused by carbon tetrachloride (earlier found in laundry detergents, fumigants, and fire extinguishers) and stimulated the liver cells to repair themselves.16
How to use: Some health food stores stock up on Phyllanthus amarus powder. According to studies, the most effective dosage for this herb is 75 mg/kg of body weight for 7 days after consuming alcohol. You might find supplements with blends of both Phyllanthus amarus and niuri, but be sure to consult a professional before taking them.
An ancient medicinal plant from the Himalayas, Kutki or Picrorhiza kurroa is popular in ayurveda for its liver-protective properties. Besides managing the functioning of liver enzymes, “kutkin” and “picroliv,” compounds in kutki may protect the liver when taken before or after you’ve been exposed to toxins via alcohol, cigarette smoke, or certain medications. They might also cleanse the liver and prevent liver cirrhosis. In addition to this, studies have found that a herbal medicine called arogyawardhani, 50% of which is kutki, fights viral hepatitis. In these studies, test patients noticed a reduction in the levels of serum bilirubin and transaminase, two indicators of hepatitis, after taking the medicine. This herb might also treat jaundice and improve bile secretion.17 18
How to use: Mix kutki root powder with honey and consume thrice daily along with other liver-cleansing herbs.
A popular ayurvedic herb often used to treat hair fall, bhringraj is also believed to prevent liver failure. Alternative medicine uses the extract of the herb’s leaves as a liver tonic. Studies have found that it could treat mild liver cirrhosis and prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by lowering cholesterol and triglycerides.19 20
How to use: Based on studies, it is recommended that you consume 10- 80 mg of the herb’s dried powder per kg of your bodyweight. Consult a professional before supplementing.21
10. Burdock Root
Popularly used as a blood purifier, burdock root has been found to have antioxidant effects which repress carbon-tetrachloride (a toxin that was used in fire extinguishers and cleaning agents until it was banned) induced liver enzyme elevations. In doing this, it reduced the severity of liver damage caused due to the toxin. In addition to this, studies have also found that it lowers the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.22 23
How to use: If you can manage to get your hands on the dried burdock root powder, add 56.699 grams of it to 4 cups of water and sip throughout the day.24
11. Milk Thistle
Milk thistle has been used for years to treat liver and gallbladder disease. It is believed to contain bioflavonoids (antioxidants) called silymarin, which stop toxins from attaching to the liver cells. They might also neutralize free radicals. This could be why they’re used to treat mushroom poisoning and fatty liver disease. In addition to this, if you’ve had a liver injury or a partial hepatectomy (surgical removal of a part of the liver), silymarin can help in the regeneration of your liver by stimulating the synthesis of protein – a nutrient that is essential for cell growth. Thus, milk thistle can accelerate the growth of your liver cells and help you regain lost liver mass.25
However, the herb might not work as well if you have a severe liver disease like alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis.26
How to use: Consume one cup of milk thistle tea every day. For supplementation, consult a professional.
Also known as kaasni, this herb is known for centuries now to purify blood and improve liver functioning. In fact, the ancient Egyptians cultivated chicory root as long as 5000 years ago as a medicinal plant. To add to this, Greeks and Romans used it as a salad green and called it the “friend of the liver.”[/ref]Chicory — Cichorium intybus. The University Of Illinois.[/ref] Recent studies have also found that the herb reverses the extent of hepatocyte (a cell of the main parenchymal tissue of the liver which makes up for 70–85% of its mass) death. In doing so, it prevents the rate of the cell’s death from exceeding that of the regenerative capacity of liver, in turn, preventing liver failure.27
How to use: You could use the young leaves of the herb in salads or boil and eat them like you would a vegetable. Alternatively, you could try consuming 6.0 g of the dried herb per kg of your body weight.28
Also known as Guduchi or Tinospora cordifolia, giloy is a potent herb that’s known as “amrit” or the nectar of life in ayurveda. Part of this reason, besides boosting immunity, lowering inflammation, and fighting skin problems, is the plant’s hepatoprotective properties. Studies have found that giloy can prevent scarring of the liver (fibrosis) and promote the regeneration of damaged liver tissue. Besides this, the antioxidant properties of the herb could prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, fight jaundice and hepatitis, and ensure healthy liver functioning by reducing free radical damage.29 30 31
How to use: Studies place the most effective dosage at 400 mg per kg of body weight. So, mix that amount of giloy powder with 10–20 ml of aloe vera or wheatgrass juice to detox.
Iranian traditional medicine looks to the licorice for treating chronic liver diseases. It is believed that the herb contains antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and hepatoprotective properties that inhibit lipid (fat) accumulation in the liver and prevent alcoholic liver injury from progressing to alcoholic hepatitis.32 33
How to use: Licorice root will typically be available in powder or capsule form. Opt for licorice root that is deglyccyrhizinated (without glycyrrhizin) or has low glycyrrhizin content so as to avoid elevating your body’s sodium levels and lowering its potassium levels. Be sure to limit your consumption of the herb to 30 mg/mL or 500 mg total dose.34
Different traditional medicinal disciplines in India, Europe, and North America consider dandelion to be a liver tonic. Studies conducted with dandelion leaf and root found that the herb’s extract can fight liver fibrosis or liver scarring caused by a buildup of scar tissue in response to liver inflammation or damage. If left unchecked, liver fibrosis could lead to cirrhosis or liver failure. Dandelion extract can also prevent fatty liver disease caused by fat accumulation in the liver.35 36 37
How to use: Incorporate dandelion into your diet by using its leaves and roots to make tea or tinctures. Alternatively, you could opt for dandelion supplements after consulting a professional.
This brilliant red herb was used in northern European to treat liver problems. Studies have found that berberine, a compound in barberry, reduces the density of serum cholesterol and triglycerides in the liver by increasing the production of a receptor in the liver that bonds with cholesterol and fat and facilitates their excretion. In doing this, it prevents fatty liver disease. Besides this, berberine might also improve the function of liver enzymes.38
How to use: Snack on barberries regularly or brew a cup of barberry tea by adding dried barberry powder to a cup of warm water. Pregnant and nursing women should avoid this herb.
[Next Read: Liver-Friendly Foods]
|↑1, ↑3||Percival, Mark. “Phytonutrients and detoxification.” Clinical nutrition insights 5, no. 2 (1997): 1-4.|
|↑2||Hodges, Romilly E., and Deanna M. Minich. “Modulation of metabolic detoxification pathways using foods and food-derived components: a scientific review with clinical application.” Journal of nutrition and metabolism 2015 (2015).|
|↑4||Nencini, Cristina, Gian Gabriele Franchi, Federica Cavallo, and Lucia Micheli. “Protective effect of Allium neapolitanum Cyr. versus Allium sativum L. on acute ethanol-induced oxidative stress in rat liver.” Journal of medicinal food 13, no. 2 (2010): 329-335.|
|↑5||Zeng, Tao, Cui‐Li Zhang, Guang‐Bing Pan, Sheng Zhao, Dan‐Dan Dou, Xing Xin, and Ke‐Qin Xie. “The protective effects of garlic oil on acute ethanol‐induced oxidative stress in the liver of mice.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 88, no. 13 (2008): 2238-2243.|
|↑6||Turmeric. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑7||Asai, Akira, and Teruo Miyazawa. “Dietary curcuminoids prevent high-fat-diet-induced lipid accumulation in rat liver and epididymal adipose tissue.” The Journal of Nutrition 131, no. 11 (2001): 2932-2935.|
|↑8||Mullin, Gerard E., Laura E. Matarese, Melissa Palmer. Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease Nutrition Desk Reference. CRC Press, 2011.|
|↑9||Turmeric. University Of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑10||Parthasarathy, Villupanoor A., Bhageerathy Chempakam, and T. John Zachariah, eds. Chemistry of spices. Cabi, 2008.|
|↑11||Askari, Faezeh, Bahram Rashidkhani, and Azita Hekmatdoost. “Cinnamon may have therapeutic benefits on lipid profile, liver enzymes, insulin resistance, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease patients.” Nutrition research 34, no. 2 (2014): 143-148.|
|↑12||Treadway, Scott. “An ayurvedic herbal approach to a healthy liver.” Clinical nutrition insights 6, no. 16 (1998): 1-3.|
|↑13||Mirunalini, S., and M. Krishnaveni. “Therapeutic potential of Phyllanthus emblica (amla): the ayurvedic wonder.” Journal of basic and clinical physiology and pharmacology 21, no. 1 (2010): 93-105.|
|↑14||Surya Narayanan, B., P. Latha, and R. Rukkumani. “Protective effects of Phyllanthus amarus on fibrotic markers during alcohol and polyunsaturated fatty acid-induced toxicity.” Toxicology Mechanisms and Methods 21, no. 1 (2011): 48-52.|
|↑15||Pramyothin, Pornpen, Chanon Ngamtin, Somlak Poungshompoo, and Chaiyo Chaichantipyuth. “Hepatoprotective activity of Phyllanthus amarus Schum. et. Thonn. extract in ethanol treated rats: in vitro and in vivo studies.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 114, no. 2 (2007): 169-173.|
|↑16||Manjrekar, A. P., V. Jisha, P. P. Bag, B. Adhikary, M. M. Pai, Anupama Hegde, and M. Nandini. “Effect of Phyllanthus niruri Linn. treatment on liver, kidney and testes in CCl 4 induced hepatotoxic rats.” (2008).|
|↑17||Vaidya, A. B., D. S. Antarkar, J. C. Doshi, A. D. Bhatt, V. V. Ramesh, P. V. Vora, D. D. Perissond, A. J. Baxi, and P. M. Kale. “Picrorhiza kurroa (Kutaki) Royle ex Benth as a hepatoprotective agent–experimental & clinical studies.” Journal of Postgraduate Medicine 42, no. 4 (1996): 105.|
|↑18||Meena, A. K., C. M. Krishna, M. M. Rao, Sunil Kumar KN, Komal Preet, M. M. Padhi, and Ramesh Babu. “EVALUATION OF PHARMACOGNOSTIC AND PHYSICOCHEMICAL PARAMETERS OF PICCRORRHIZA KURROA ROYLE EX BENTH.” International Journal of Ayurvedic Medicine 1, no. 1 (2010).|
|↑19||Chokotia, Love S., Pranav Vashistha, Rajkumar Sironiya, and Harsha Matoli. “Pharmacological Activities of Eclipta Alba (L.).” (2013).|
|↑20||Dhaka, Neeti. “A Review on Tissue Culture Studies in Eclipta alba–An Important Medicinal Plant.” Int J Pharm Sci Rev Res 22, no. 2 (2013): 269-275.|
|↑21||Saleem, TS Mohamed, C. Madhusudhana Chetty, S. V. S. T. Ramkanth, V. S. T. Rajan, K. Mahesh Kumar, and Karunakaran Gauthaman. “Hepatoprotective herbs–a review.” International Journal of Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences 1, no. 1 (2010): 1-5.|
|↑22||Hartzell, Vincent. “Medical Attributes of Arctium sp.-Burdock.”|
|↑23||Medical Attributes of Arctium sp. – Burdock. Wilkes University.|
|↑24||Great Burdock. Brandeis University.|
|↑25||Wu, Jia-Ping, Chin-Chuan Tsai, Yu-Lan Yeh, Yueh-Min Lin, Chien-Chung Lin, Cecilia Hsuan Day, Chia-Yao Shen, V. Vijaya Padma, Lung-Fa Pan, and Chih-Yang Huang. “Silymarin accelerates liver regeneration after partial hepatectomy.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2015 (2015).|
|↑26||Milk Thistle. University Of Rochester Medical Center.|
|↑27||Li, Guo-Yu, Ya-Xin Zheng, Fu-Zhou Sun, Jian Huang, Meng-Meng Lou, Jing-Kai Gu, and Jin-Hui Wang. “In silico analysis and experimental validation of active compounds from Cichorium intybus L. ameliorating liver injury.” International journal of molecular sciences 16, no. 9 (2015): 22190-22204.|
|↑28||Chicory. The University Of Arizona.|
|↑29||Baghel, Smt Pratibha. “Plant of Versatile Properties: A Review of Tinospora Cordifolia (Guduchi).” (2017).|
|↑30||Guduchi: The Amrit of Ayurveda by Neeshee Pandit. California College of Ayurveda.|
|↑31||Desai, Veena R., J. P. Kamat, and K. B. Sainis. “An immunomodulator fromTinospora cordifolia with antioxidant activity in cell-free systems.” Journal of Chemical Sciences 114, no. 6 (2002): 713-719.|
|↑32||Hajiaghamohammadi, Ali Akbar, Amir Ziaee, and Rasoul Samimi. “The Efficacy of Licorice Root Extract in Decreasing Transaminase Activities in Non‐alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial.” Phytotherapy Research 26, no. 9 (2012): 1381-1384.|
|↑33||Jung, Jae-Chul, Yun-Hee Lee, Sou Hyun Kim, Keuk-Jun Kim, Kyung-Mi Kim, Seikwan Oh, and Young-Suk Jung. “Hepatoprotective effect of licorice, the root of Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fischer, in alcohol-induced fatty liver disease.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine 16, no. 1 (2015): 19.|
|↑34||Omar, Hesham R., Irina Komarova, Mohamed El-Ghonemi, Ahmed Fathy, Rania Rashad, Hany D. Abdelmalak, Muralidhar Reddy Yerramadha, Yaseen Ali, Engy Helal, and Enrico M. Camporesi. “Licorice abuse: time to send a warning message.” Therapeutic advances in endocrinology and metabolism 3, no. 4 (2012): 125-138.|
|↑35||Domitrović, Robert, Hrvoje Jakovac, Željko Romić, Dario Rahelić, and Žarko Tadić. “Antifibrotic activity of Taraxacum officinale root in carbon tetrachloride-induced liver damage in mice.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 130, no. 3 (2010): 569-577.|
|↑36||Choi, Ung-Kyu, Ok-Hwan Lee, Joo Hyuk Yim, Chang-Won Cho, Young Kyung Rhee, Seong-Il Lim, and Young-Chan Kim. “Hypolipidemic and antioxidant effects of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) root and leaf on cholesterol-fed rabbits.” International journal of molecular sciences 11, no. 1 (2010): 67-78.|
|↑37||Park, Chung Mu, Yeon Suk Cha, Hyun Joo Youn, Chung Won Cho, and Young Sun Song. “Amelioration of oxidative stress by dandelion extract through CYP2E1 suppression against acute liver injury induced by carbon tetrachloride in sprague‐dawley rats.” Phytotherapy Research 24, no. 9 (2010): 1347-1353.|
|↑38||Zarei, Ali, Saeed Changizi-Ashtiyani, Soheila Taheri, and Majid Ramezani. “A quick overview on some aspects of endocrinological and therapeutic effects of Berberis vulgaris L.” Avicenna journal of phytomedicine 5, no. 6 (2015): 485.|