Liver Love: Herbs that Promote Detoxification and Cleansing

Mar 14, 2024

Spring is the perfect time to turn our attention to our liver health.  The Ayurvedic tradition teaches us that using cleansing herbs and other nutrients to support liver function is best used in mid seasons like the Spring or Fall as the moderate temperatures remove an element of stress that could accompany this already elevated process.  Understanding if a liver cleanse is a good idea for you, let's go through some reasons why people are motivated to do it.  First, however, it’s important to understand how the liver functions.  Then we will talk about what elements interfere with normal liver function and the nutrients needed to rejuvenate homeostasis in this part of the digestive system.   

Liver function is divided into two phases. In each phase, the liver is exposed to nutrients and/or toxic elements that pass through and get processed depending on where they need to go. 

Phase One (also known as Subtraction) 

This phase is largely responsible for making elements fat soluble. In this phase, enzymes are used to break down everything coming into the liver into raw materials. Toxins are broken up and sent to phase two to be neutralized and packaged for delivery out of the body. Nutrients are broken up into fats, proteins and fiber and are sent to phase 2 to be built up. 

Phase 2 (also known as Conjugation) 

This phase uses the raw materials from phase one and other components to build metabolites, new substances that either repackage toxic materials in a benign form for excretion or manufacture compounds that the body can use.  This all happens when these components are funneled into one of seven pathways where conjugation takes place. Here’s where issues may arise.

Each channel depends on specific nutrients to be able to function properly.  Without a steady supply, production lines risk stopping.  The other channels are somewhat able to deal with the added work, but some channels are more specialized and must wait until the nutrient is provided before continuing.  This scenario becomes problematic as Phase one doesn’t slow down, giving toxic materials an opportunity to enter the blood stream creating oxidative stress and inflammation.  Which nutrients am I referring to?  Many of these vital substances are derived from complete proteins.  A complete protein is made up of 20 amino acids which are easy to get eating eggs, chicken, dairy or fish, and is found in quinoa, buckwheat, blue green algae and soybeans in a plant-based diet. More specifically, the nutrients include vitamins B2, B3, B6, B12, Folate, Glutathione and flavonoids which are best suited to support phase one and Vitamins B5, B12, Folate, Vitamin C, Glycine, Taurine, Choline and Glutamine ideal to support phase two.  All these nutrients are found in a whole food diet.  

With conjugation complete, the new compounds coming from the liver are what support health such as blood sugar balance, hormone balance, filtered blood, bile and cholesterol production.  Bile is constantly being produced by the liver.  It serves digestion by emulsifying fat allowing the body to use fat for energy.  However, out of bile comes bilirubin, a breakdown of red blood cells.  Too much bilirubin leads to jaundice, which the liver is responsible for managing.   Albumin is a blood protein produced by the liver and is used to carry hormones, drugs and fatty acids throughout the body. Cholesterol is a waxy substance used to make healthy cells such as in the skin and hormones, like androgenous or sex hormones. The liver also packages excess cholesterol for excretion from the body. Most people have the genetic profile to  support the elimination of excess cholesterol, but for those who don’t, there is a risk that too much cholesterol can contribute to cardiovascular disease.   Blood glucose is managed by the liver by storing excess glucose releasing it when the blood glucose dips too low.  Specialized cells such as macrophages, B cells and Natural Killer cells are all part of the immune system and are delivered from the liver to the body in the event of an infection. 

So, is a liver cleanse right for you? 

For anyone living with a diseased liver, on prescription medications or suffering from chronic constipation, it would be important to consult your health care provider before embarking on a liver cleanse.  For others, they may be motivated by factors like balancing hormones, supporting skin conditions, cleaning up a diet of processed foods, trans fats, foods containing high fructose corn syrup, or frequent alcohol consumption.  Some may be managing their health from a job that exposes them to a toxic environment or heavy metals. A cleanse may be beneficial in any of these scenarios. 

Important Cleanse Guidelines

An important aspect of a cleanse is to fine tune the element that the liver is most exposed to – food.  I have included a list of liver supportive foods that will enhance the effect of the cleanse and derive a better outcome (see below).  Cleansing is a therapeutic process and should rarely be used more than twice a year. If cleansing more frequently is recommended, it should be done under the care of a health care professional. Terry Willard (a well-respected Master Herbalist) is another resource with his Wild Rose Meal Plan that if followed, would amplify the benefit of all the products mentioned in this article.  In it, he catagorizes foods with acidic, alkaline or neutral properties, of which some are recommended to eat daily and some to be eaten less often.  As well, he outlines which foods to stay from during the same period. 

Herbs and Products to Support Your Liver

Looking at products to support the liver, let’s start with P. Jentschura 7x7 Alkaherb Tea.  This tea is a blend of herbs, spices and seeds crafted to restore the acid/base balance in the body. The acid/base balance is crucial for the body to maintain homeostasis and for enzymes to function properly. A vital role for the liver as it is enzymatic activity that drives liver function. Practically speaking, it could look like modifying or eliminating foods that contribute to acidity.  A high protein diet, trans fats and foods high in sugar and salt are examples of foods that contribute to acidity and create an environment for inflammation and disease. The Alkaherb Tea taken with the food list Terry Willard recommends, this approach is a very gentle way to support the cleansing process. 

Supplements to support cleansing include AOR’s D Glucarate and Milk thistle.  D Glucarate is a phytochemical found in cruciferous vegetables such as Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kale which supports a liver pathway designed to rid the body of pathogens through urine or bile.  Milk Thistle can protect the liver cells from toxins.  Provided in one supplement supports the metabolism of hormones and detoxification of pathogens.  

Next is Detox Pro Formula from Can Prev. This is a 15-day cleansing support for both phase one and phase two Liver function.  With ingredients like NAC to provide the antioxidant support of glutathione, alpha lipoic acid to help store glutathione levels and Choline which will help to metabolize fat, copper and zinc protecting the liver from oxidative stress.  

Next is Flora’s Flor Essence with Turkey Tail and Turmeric. Flora has a long-standing reputation for crafting well researched herbal blends that have supported many aspects of health for a long time. In their Floresscence with Turkey Tail and Turmeric they've incorporated eight herbs best for supporting liver detoxification pathways. with the addition of Turky Tail mushrooms and Turmeric, bring immune support and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Other products to support the liver outside of cleansing include Beet Root, Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Medicinal Mushrooms. When shopping for an Omega3, it is important to consider the concentration of EPA and DHA.  These two components provide anti–inflammatory support, however, it is most impactful in 2000 – 4000 mg.

Medicinal Mushrooms also play a role in liver support.  Reishi mushroom has shown to be most protective.  It has the most antioxidant power with the Polysaccharides and Triterpenes inherent in this mushroom.  Chaga is known for its’ ORAC value which refers to the mushrooms’ capacity to neutralize oxidative damage and calm inflammation.  

Finally, Cordyceps also provides protection to the liver through its anti-inflammatory benefits and its potential for supporting non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. 

Food List

Broccoli

Swiss Chard

Cauliflower

Bok Choy

Romaine Lettuce

Cabbage

Brussel Sprouts

Kale

Sweet Potatoes

Garlic

Radish

Beet Root

Onions

Berries

Onions

Shallots

Leeks

Mushrooms

Squash

Tomatoes

Peppers

Lemons

Limes

Grapefruit

Apples

Rutabaga

Pomegranate

Pears

Beef Liver

Ancient grains (Farro, Khorasan, Teff, Amarath)

Saukraut, Kimchi, Salsa, Kefir

Healthy cooking oils (Olive, Avocado)

Healthy salad dressing oils (flax, hemp)

Grass fed/finished beef

Organic Chicken

Wild Meats (Bison, Elks)

Sardines, Anchovies, Mackeral

Line Caught Fish (Halibut, Sable fish)
 

Article By: Sally Buckingham, Wellness Expert 

References: 

https://www.integrativefamilypractice.com/blog/liver-detoxification 

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33037220/#:~:text=In%20this%20pathway%2C%20CO2,CO2%20to%20form%20pyruvate. 

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323936 

https://www.p-jentschura.com/en/products/7x7-kraeutertee-alkaherb/ 

https://canprev.ca/products/detox-pro/ 

https://ca-en.florahealth.com/products/floressence-with-turkey-tail-turmeric?variant=40412246573230 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10394692/#:~:text=Omega%2D3%20supplementation%20may%20reduce,the%20prevention%20of%20liver%20disease. 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10394692/#:~:text=Omega%2D3%20supplementation%20may%20reduce,the%20prevention%20of%20liver%20disease. 

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26853962/ 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3988506/ 

 

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