Top 4 Liver Support Herbs
Currently we are all stressed in an unprecedented time in history, and whether or not we handle stress well we have one major organ working overtime. Our LIVERS. If you have consulted with me, or had a conversation with me at all over the years, we most likely have discussed liver health. As an Ayurvedic Dietitian this is a topic I cannot ignore. Regardless of your path in wellness, we all have a liver, and right now, it needs support.
Currently, there are so many memes and cute jokes going around in regards to the amount of alcohol we are consuming. It's no joke either! Liquor sales are crazy high right now! Courtesy of vox.com and marketwatch.com.
These statistics are based mostly on sales figures, which showed significant growth in alcohol purchases in the third week of March. Here are some of those numbers, courtesy of Nielsen (note that sales slowed somewhat in the following weeks):
Alcohol sales were up 55 percent
Liquor and spirits sales were up 75 percent
Beer sales were up 42 percent
Wine sales were up 66 percent
Ready-to-drink cocktail sales were up 106 percent
24- and 30-packs of beer sales were up 90 percent
Online alcohol sales were up 243 percent
It’s difficult to determine how much of these orders are to stockpile for the indeterminate number of weeks or months we’ll be without bars. Whether or not Americans are drinking more overall, though, their habits are certainly changing. After the year in which the biggest alcohol trend was less alcohol, the outbreak of Covid-19 has altered what, and where, people drink.
Full disclosure: my alcohol consumption went from 1 per week, to one per day. I get it! I am stressed too, in a way that is very confusing to me. So how do I counter my intake of alcohol, AND added stress? HERBS. In our food, and supplementation. I just finished continuing education on liver support herbs via Gaia Professional. I love their products and transparency regarding what is in their products. So let's just get right to it:
Turmeric-curcuma longa (no surprise)
Curcumin has a wonderful ability to be absorbed completely without drug interactions. This is one to keep in your daily regimen.
Benefits: anti inflammatory, antioxidant, antineoplastic (tumor prevention), prevents liver damage, promotes bile secretion by the liver, inhibits blood clot formation, and carminative (dispels gas & bloating).
There are also studies showing support of reduction of BMI and waist circumference. However, no significant body weight decrease, which suggests the beneficial loss of visceral fat (fat surrounding the organs).
Dosage: 1000mg per day
Approximately how long to see results: 8 weeks.
Milk Thistle-sylibum marianum
The flavonoid silymarin has three parts that actively regenerate liver cells, inhibits fibrosis of the liver, prevents toxins from entering liver cells, regenerates liver cells, acts as an antioxidant by scavenging free radicals, and plays a role in immune response. The silymarin flavonoid in milk thistle also is known for regulating blood sugar and cholesterol.
Silymarin + Vitamin E in Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Clinical Trial
• 36 patients with NAFLD randomized to 540mg silymarin plus 36mg vitamin E (Eurosil 85®), hypocaloric diet (1520kcal, 52% CHO, 25% fat, 23% protein) and 40min aerobic exercise 4x/week exercise OR control – hypocaloric diet and exercise only
• Randomization: non-significant differences between arms for steatosis or fibrosis
• Both groups experienced clinically and statistically significant reductions in GGT and NAFLD scores
• In the treatment arm: those patients who did not achieve at least a 5% weight loss still displayed decreased GGT levels and NAFLD scores
• In contrast, patients in the control arm who did not achieve weight loss showed no improvement in any of the analyzed parameters
• This suggests that silymarin/vitamin E treatment was additionally beneficial (Aller R, et al. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2015;19(16):3118)
Dosage: 1200-1500mg in dried/powdered form of the seed+ Concentrated extract 200-400mg silymarin. This can be easily found in capsule form.
Approximately how long to see results: 8 weeks.
*Safe and tolerated with studies showing little to know herbal drug interactions.
Schisandra Berry-schisandra chinesis
This is an interesting, adaptogenic (helps the body adapt to stress and normalize all body functions) Chinese herb that is known as the "5 taste fruit" that acts on all organs.
Known actions are sedative, aphrodisiac, kidney and skin tonic, anxiety reducing, protection of liver cells, adaptogenic.
Also there is a study supporting the benefits of schisandra the gut microbiome, and obesity by increasing bacteria associated with reduction of obesity.
Dosage: 400-450 mg powdered herb in capsules three times per day
ALTERNATIVELY • 5:1 dried fruit extract: 1-2g dissolved in water 2-3 x/day
• Tincture 1:3 30% EtOH; sig 1-2 ml TID
• Infusion 1-2 tsp. berries/cup water; sig 1 cup TID • Standardized extract to 20mg lignan or 2% schisandrins (equivalent to 1.5g crude schisandra); 500mg – 2g daily.
• Safe in children: Extract has been studied at 600mg daily for up to one month
• Caution during pregnancy; may have uterine stimulating effects
• May increase the metabolism of drugs such as:
Celecoxib, Ibuprofen, Tamoxifen, Warfarin
Licorice-glycyrrhizza glabra (WITH CAUTION)
• Rhizome (fleshy roots) are used.
• Traditional medicinal uses: demulcent, expectorant, treatment for gastric and duodenal ulcers, anti-inflammatory, to prevent liver toxicity, adrenocorticoid insufficiency (adrenal glands not producing the right amount of energy leading to fatigue and muscle weakness, etc).
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice treats upper gastrointestinal ulcerations.
Glycyrrhizin and its metabolic break down product, glycyrrhetinic acid prevents toxicity in the liver through antioxidant and stabilizes hepatocyte membranes (the cells that maintain the processes in heathy liver functioning).
These two constituents were also seen in studies as reducing fat cells, resulting in decreased body fat mass, inhibiting cortisol production, and reducing insulin resistance.
HOWEVER, please take not that licorice is not recognized as safe and tolerable in those with metabolic syndrome, most notable high blood pressure.
• 5 – 15g of crude plant contains 200-800mg glycyrrhizin • Dried root: 1000mg-2000mg 3 times per day • Liquid extract: 2-4mL 3 times per day • DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice): 380mg-760mg 3 times per day • Shorter term use is recommended (under 6 weeks) • Contraindicated in patients with hypertension, liver cirrhosis, hypokalemia, chronic renal, insufficiency or during pregnancy.
All four of these herbs are wonderful combination to offer your liver in times of stress, in order to boost your ability to adapt to it. Here is a list of my favorite companies to purchase from with these factors in mind:
•Learn the origin of the herbs and how the herbs were grown
• Do they grow any of their own botanicals?
• Are the ingredients organic? Are they ecologically wild harvested?
• How is the product validated?
• Is the manufacturer responsible in their farming habits?
• Possibly B Corporation certified.
(These are products I personally use for myself and family. I receive no compensation).
Be well in this uncertain time, give yourself grace, respect and honor your person.
Remember healthier together is stronger together.
Transparency: I am a registered dietitian, and Ayurvedic educator with a Certificate of Adult Weight Management. I am NOT, however, a medical doctor. My recommendations are not to be followed without consulting a medical doctor.