Liver Detoxification Herbs
- Better Skin, Better Digestion
The role of liver detoxification is to help support the liver in its many essential functions, and so improve digestive and overall health. There are many herbs and supplements that help support liver function, but it's helpful first to understand exactly what the liver does.
Role Of The Liver In Your Body
The liver helps maintain normal levels of glucose in the blood. When blood glucose levels are high, the liver helps change glucose to glycogen. And when blood glucose levels are too low, the liver breaks down glycogen into glucose, so the body is able to use it again.
The liver also converts some amino acids (products of protein metabolism) and lactic acid, into glucose. It also converts sugars such as fructose (from fruit), and galactose (from dairy) into glucose. It also converts glucose into triglycerides (or fats).
Fat (Lipid) Metabolism
The liver stores some neutral (in terms of 'good' fats and 'bad' fats) fats, called triglycerides. It also breaks down fatty acids in a process called beta oxidation. And it converts excessive amounts of the product of beta oxidation into ketone bodies. This process is called ketogenesis, and is the goal of the Atkins diet, although having excess ketone bodies in the body is not really healthy.
The liver also creates lipoproteins, which are used to transport fatty acids in the body to and from the body's cells. Fatty acids are essential for health, so good liver function supports this aspect too. Lipoproteins also transport triglycerides and cholesterol. Liver cells make cholesterol and use it to make bile salts, which are used in the digestive process.
The liver is essential in protein metabolism, and if it wasn't for the liver's role in doing this, we would die in a few days.
The liver removes an amino acid group so that the proteins can be used for cellular energy production, or converted into fats and carbohydrates. The amino acid group it removes is toxic (ammonia), and the liver changes this into a less toxic product (urea), so that it can be excreted in urine.
The liver cells also create most blood plasma proteins, which are essential in the body. And the liver can also do a process called transamination. This involves transferring one amino group from an amino acid into something else so that one amino acid can be converted into another.
Liver Detoxification Of Drugs and Hormones
The liver detoxification and excretion (in bile) of drugs such as penicillin and antibiotics, as well as chemically changing or excreting thyroid and steroid hormones, is important to remove them from your body. This includes estrogens.
Excretion of Bile
Bile is used in the digestion of fats, but it is also an excretory product. For example, the breakdown of old red blood cells has a by product, called bilirubin, which is absorbed by the liver, and transported out of the body in bile. In the intestines, bacteria break down the bilirubin, and it is eliminated in the feces. One of the things that bilirubin is broken down into in the intestines in fact gives feces their regular brown color.
Bile is also a natural laxative, so healthy bile function is involved with healthy bowel function
Creation of Bile Salts
Bile salts are essential for the breakdown and digestion of fats into smaller molecules that the body can use.
Believe it or not, the liver is quite a storage vessel. As well as glycogen (mentioned above), the liver stores the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as the water soluble vitamin B12. It also stores iron, and releases it into the body when it's needed somewhere.
Breakdown of old cells
Old red blood and white blood cells and some bacteria are broken down by the liver.
Activation of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for strong bones. The skin, liver and kidneys are all involved in the process by which vitamin D is activated.
Liver detoxification can also help improve the beauty of the skin. Erica Angyal, who wrote a book on creating beautiful skin from the inside out, associates a variety of skin problems with poor elimination of wastes generally, or specifically, waste build up in the liver so that it is unable to do its liver detoxification jobs well.
Signs Of Toxicity In Your Skin
Sallow skin - can mean there are drug residues, or waste build up from the liver due to poor liver detoxification and overload
age spots - waste build up in the liver
adult acne and uneven skin texture - waste build up from environmental pollutants, poor diet, overburdened liver, and stress - Angyal states that these things can all lead to an increase in the creation of free radicals, which can destabilize cellular membranes
wrinkles and sagging skin - refined carbohydrates like sugar and flour products, and the above causes of an increase in free radical activity, can affect the collagen and elastin in your skin
puffy eyes, dark circles under the eyes - this can be caused by allergies, or be a sign that your kidneys aren't functioning as well as they could
bad breath - could be a sign of digestive problems or that your body isn't eliminating toxins efficiently, including through liver detoxification
psoriasis, eczema, or dermatitis - may indicate problems with digestion, allergies, or needing certain nutritional changes including supplements (such as omega 3's)
rashes or skin sores that aren't healing - allergies, or nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin C or zinc
(Source: E Angyal)
Read more about liver detoxification here.
Herbal Remedies In Liver Detoxification
Many herbal liver remedies aim at increasing the flow of bile, and aren't necessarily treatments for liver diseases like hepatitis.
Because bile is reabsorbed into the body in the intestines as well, problems can arise when there is a long transit time in the bowel due to poor bowel functioning. This provides more opportunity for more bile, containing drugs and other fat soluble wastes that need to be excreted, to be reabsorbed, which in turn means the liver has to try getting rid of them again. It effectively recycles waste products. So the liver not only has to deal with new waste products, but the recycled old ones that aren't all eliminated.
Bile also contains cholesterol. How much cholesterol depends on a number of things, including:
dietary intake of cholesterol
the individual levels of cholesterol the liver produces naturally
the amount of cholesterol the body reabsorbs in the bowel
Cholesterol can turn into gall stones under some conditions. If the gall bladder and bile system is not working well, instead of simply excreting these gall stones, they can grow from small crystals to large stones and become problematic.
Liver Detoxification Herbs
St Mary's Thistle (Also called Milk Thistle) (Silibum Marianum)
Milk thistle is a primary ingredient in many herbal liver detoxification supplements. One of its active constituents, the flavanolignans collectively called silymarin, protects the liver cells from damage and cell death due to chemical toxins.
The silymarins do this by making the cell wall less permeable, or open to absorbing the chemical toxins. And they also allow the RNA in the liver cells to continue being created. Together, this allows the liver to be regenerated 4 times faster than normal.
Other research found that milk thistle lowers blood lipids (circulating fats).
Artichoke (Cynara Scolymus)
Artichoke is another common ingredient in liver detoxification supplements. It has several benefits:
it increases the production of bile without adversely affecting the liver
it increases the excretion of cholesterol in bile
it inhibits cholesterol creation within the body
it potentially has a protective effect on liver cells that is greater than silybum in milk thistle. More study needs to be done on this in people to confirm it.
Artichoke helps in liver detoxification after treatment with arsenates, as well as generally increasing replication of liver cells. Thus, like milk thistle, it helps the liver regenerate faster.
Clinical studies support the role of artichoke in reducing cholesterol, and blood levels of triglycerides (fats).
Dandelion Root (Taraxacum Officinale)
Dandelion is used to help both liver and kidney function, though the leaves are better for the kidneys, and the root is better for the liver.
Dandelion is another common ingredient in liver detoxification remedies. Dandelion increase bile production, which then helps with digestion. It also means that toxic wastes are able to be better excreted in the feces. This means less recycled wastes for the liver to deal with, and hence an improved capacity to deal with new toxic wastes.
Click here for a great liver detoxification formula.
Other Detoxification Articles
1. Erica Angyal, Gorgeous Skin In 30 Days (Lothian Books)
2. Tortura and Grabowski, Principles Of Anatomy and Physiology
3. Simon Mills, The Essential Book Of Herbal Medicine (Penguin Arkana)
4. Carole Fisher and Gilian Painter, Materia Medica Of Western Herbs For The Southern Hemisphere