The liver is the second the largest organ in the body, following behind skin (another major detox organ). It’s situated in the upper right section of your abdomen and protected by the ribcage. The liver works very closely with the gall bladder as well as the small & large intestines, spleen, pancreas, portal vein (liver’s primary blood source) and circulatory system.
Symptoms that can arise from an overburdened liver are: indigestion, constipation, skin issues, allergies, migraines, hormonal imbalances (liver metabolizes hormones once they've done their work in the body), high cholesterol, brain fog and also irritability (hello, cranky pants).
It’s most commonly known for its role filtering out toxins from the blood and body, but has some other significant functions that deserve some attention.
Other primary functions are:
- Metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates
- Bile production and excretion
- Blood, vitamin, glycogen and mineral storage
- Makes blood & plasma protein
- Converts glucose into glycogen
- Makes blood, plasma protein and cholesterol
- Enzyme activation
- Detox and purify blood
- Regenerates loss liver mass while maintaining ability to function
- Regulates blood clotting
- Essential for optimal brain function
With its powerful and multi-faceted actions, the liver is often exposed to toxicity and thus susceptible to damage. Luckily, Mother Nature has provided us with medicinal herbs that can both support liver function and provide protective benefits for this overactive organ. Let's take a look at these two categories-activators vs. protectors, and some herbs for each.
The “Liver Regulators/Activators” work by producing bile and stimulating the cleansing effects via the liver and gallbladder. These herbs are often very bitter and cooling, and commonly use the root portion of the plant.
The hepatoprotective (hepato means liver) or “Liver Protective” herbs encourage regeneration and act as a safeguard. Many of these herbs also have the ability to stimulate the liver as well as other widespread benefits for numerous ailments.
- Dandelion root
- Burdock root
- Chicory root
- Oregon grape root
- Bupleurum (also protective)
- Black radish ( great addition to spice up your salad)
Liver Protective Herbs
- Artichoke leaf
- Milk Thistlse
Below are two delicious elixirs to both stimulate and protect your liver.
I learned this one at herbal school from my friend and colleague, Karly. It’s a fav to this day!
1 quart of filtered water
Juice of 1 lemon (meyer lemons make the best flavor in my opinion)
½ teaspoon of celtic sea salt
1-2 teaspoons of schizandra (ground/powdered)
Stir or cover and shake well. Sip and enjoy.
“Herbal Coffee” for liver support
2 Tbs Roasted dandelion root
1 Tbs Burdock root
2 tsp Sarsaparilla
1 tsp Reishi
¼ tsp Licorice root
¼ tsp Cinnamon
Bring 4-5 cups of water and herbs to a boil in a saucepan.
Reduce to a simmer and cover for 20-30 minutes on low-med heat.
*Decoction will cook down to about half. Should get 2-3 servings.
Strain a cup into your favorite coffee mug.
Add milk of choice or honey to sweeten as desired.
Resources and further information:
Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism. The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine.
Groves, Maria Noel. Body into Balance.
Teeguarden, Ron. Chinese Tonic Herbs.