The liver is one of the most important organs in your body. It helps remove toxins, processes the nutrients in the food you eat, and also helps regulate your body's metabolism. But 1 in 3 Australian adults are affected by liver disease, according to the Liver Foundation. The good news is clinical research indicates certain herbs can help in repairing and supporting the liver and maintaining optimal liver health.
It's important to recognize that eating herbs alone will not rehabilitate your liver unless you back it up with permanent dietary and lifestyle changes. In this article, we'll cover the 7 best herbs for liver repair and health. We'll also cover the basics of what to do in terms of lifestyle and diet to help reverse liver disease naturally.
The Best Herbs for Liver Support and Overall Health
In this section, we’ll cover the best herbs for liver repair and health. We’ll also cover the basics of what you should do in terms of lifestyle and diet to help reverse liver disease naturally.
1. Milk Thistle
Milk Thistle is also known as Mary Thistle, Holy Thistle, and sometimes Sylimarin.
There is evidence to suggest that Milk Thistle is beneficial in treating NAFLD (Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease). This is a critical finding given the incidence of this condition in the West is a good 20-30%. NAFLD is a condition where there's a lot of fat build-up in your liver. Milk thistle is beneficial because it functions as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory agent, and antifibrotic (a drug that inhibits or reduces fibrosis).
NAFLD is one of the most common chronic liver diseases worldwide, according to Hepatitis Monthly. It is mostly seen in people who are obese, sedentary and have Type II Diabetes.
It's important to note that some people may be allergic to milk thistle, especially if they're already allergic to daisies, marigolds, chrysanthemums, kiwis, artichokes, and ragweed.
Ginseng (Korean Red Ginseng, Panax Ginseng) is a traditional Asian favourite for maintaining vitality and good health. It's also used in indigenous medicine for the treatment of various health conditions, including liver disorders. Scientifically speaking, the evidence suggests that people who consume ginseng are less likely to contract stomach, lung, and liver cancers than those who do not.
In this sense, ginseng functions like a chemopreventive — a substance that helps lower a person's risk of acquiring cancer or helps prevent cancer from coming back.
In one clinical study, it was observed that ginseng helped significantly improve liver function tests, decrease tumour marker levels, and decreased the concentration of infectious viral particles called viral titers in HCV (hepatitis C virus) patients.
Turmeric (Curcuma Longa/Curcuma Aromatica) is regularly used in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia as a spice and medicinal herb. It's a major ingredient in the more globally well-known curry powder.
Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which is proven to protect the liver from disease and is seen to benefit in the treatment of it. The compound, incidentally, is also what gives turmeric its distinctive bright yellow colouring.
Licorice/Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza Glabra) is a flowering plant native to Western Asia, North Africa, and Southern Europe. It’s also known as “sweet root,” a reference to one of its compounds known for being about 50 times sweeter than sugar.
Licorice has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years to treat many health conditions.
Research shows that supplementing with licorice root with a structured weight loss program and lifestyle modifications was superior to lifestyle modification alone in treating NAFLD (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease) in women.
Early research also suggests that licorice may help prevent the progression of alcoholic liver injury because of its anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects.
5. Green Tea
Green tea is made by steaming, pan-frying, and drying the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. Black and Oolong teas also come from the same plant. It’s just that they’re prepared differently for consumption. Green tea originated in China and Southeast Asia but has become a global beverage of choice for its reported health benefits.
Early clinical studies show that green tea can help protect your liver against the risk of disease and generally help with preventing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. But more studies are required before we can reach a definitive conclusion.
Garlic (Allium Sativum) certainly needs no introduction, given how popular it is not just in food but also how effective it is in warding off vampires (according to folklore!). Aside from being a great flavouring agent, garlic was also found use as a medicinal agent.
A clinical study from 2020 reported that the consumption of garlic powder was associated with a significant improvement in hepatic steatosis and comorbidity related to the condition in people with NAFLD. Hepatic steatosis here refers to fatty liver disease or liver fat accumulation. The participants in the specific study consumed either 800mg of garlic or a placebo for 15 weeks.
Similar to garlic, ginger (Zingiber Officinale) is a fragrant spice used both for cooking as well as herbal medicine.
Helpful Tip: Using a small mixture of freshly ground ginger and honey works great for a sore throat. Guzzle small amounts throughout the day until you start to feel better.
Ginger has several active ingredients, such as gingerol, shogaol, zingerone, and β-bisabolene, making it a powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetes, and anti-cancer agent. According to research, ginger has shown potential in the treatment of NAFLD in conjunction with healthy lifestyle modifications.
Important Note: Ensure you discuss whether it's safe to take all of the herbs listed with your physician (or OB-GYNE!) if:
- You have an existing medical condition
- If you're taking medicines as the herbs may interact with them, reducing their efficacy or causing side-effects
- You're pregnant or breastfeeding
Lifestyle Tips to Improve Liver Health
Consuming excessive amounts of sugar, saturated fat, and alcohol, can lead to the accumulation of fat in the liver. This, in turn, increases the risk of developing fatty liver disease. To maintain good liver health or improve its current state, consider consuming more of the following:
- Choose from a variety of whole foods for your meals, such as fruits and vegetables (the more colourful, the better!), proteins in the form of lean meats, fish, and legumes, whole grains such as quinoa and wild rice, dairy in the form of low-fat yoghurt, milk and cheese, and healthy fat in the form of oils, nuts, fish, and avocado.
- Eat small portioned meals regularly throughout the day so there’s less of a tendency to overeat at any one meal.
- Steam or bake vegetables and fruits instead of boiling them to preserve vital nutrients.
- Drink a minimum of 6 to 8 glasses of water daily to keep your liver functioning at its best.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates such as white rice, pasta, white bread, sugar, and saturated fats.
- Avoid alcohol altogether or drink responsibly. Alcohol can destroy liver cells and scar liver tissue. Avoid using illicit drugs such as marijuana/hashish, heroin, cocaine, or prescription medication like painkillers, sedatives, and stimulants used non-medically.
- Practice safe sex to prevent the risk of developing Hepatitis B or C.
- Exercise regularly to burn fat and maintain a healthy weight. Exercise also boosts your feel-good hormones and makes you feel more energetic throughout the day.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is the best herb for liver repair?
Several different herbs are known for helping protect the liver and help it heal following injury or disease. A few known ones are milk thistle, turmeric, ginseng, licorice, and green tea. Scroll to our list above for a complete recap of the best herbs for liver repair.
If you've been diagnosed with a liver condition, it's important to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating right and following a regular exercise program.
Also, discuss the intake of herbs and safe amounts with your physician. Some herbs can interact with any medication you're taking, reducing their efficacy or causing unpleasant side effects.
2. How can I repair my liver quickly?
Look at healing your liver as a holistic intervention. The best chances of success come from following a healthy diet and exercising regularly to burn excess fat and reach or maintain a healthy weight.
That's in addition to following the medication regimen you've been prescribed.
If you'd rather not go down the conventional medical approach, refer to qualified alternative health specialists who can give you safe and informed advice.
3. Which Ayurvedic herbs are good for the liver?
In Ayurveda, herbs like Bhumi Amalaki (Gale of the Wind, Phyllanthus Niruri), Indian Ginseng, and Turmeric are considered good for the liver.
Triphala, not technically a herb but a herbal formulation made from three specific fruits, is seen to be beneficial for the liver. Garlic is an option as well.
Ayurvedic treatments are specific to the individual, and there is no one-size fits all prescription.
5. What are the best Ayurvedic herbs for fatty liver?
Ayurvedic treatments vary from person to person depending on various factors such as their constitution, medical history, and current state of health.
Rather than being asked to take a single herb, your Ayurveda physician may ask you to make lifestyle and dietary changes, take herbal medicines, and engage in detoxification therapies to bring you back to an optimal state of health.
6. What are the best herbs for liver detoxification?
There is no evidence to suggest that engaging in regular detoxes helps the body eliminate the damage of excess consumption of food or alcohol. Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating right and exercising regularly to prevent the risk of liver injury or disease. You can also refer to our list above for the best herbs for liver repair and health.
7. What are the best herbs to cleanse the liver and kidneys naturally?
There is no scientific evidence to suggest that a cleanse will help your liver and kidneys rid themselves of toxin buildup due to excessive intake of unhealthy food and substances like alcohol or drugs. Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating right and exercising regularly to prevent the risk of liver injury or disease. Refer to our list above for herbs that support liver and kidney health.
While taking herbs is a great add-on to consider if you're looking to improve the health of your liver, it's even better to make healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle. Following the tips we've recommended can help with supporting healthy liver function and preventing the risk of liver damage.
But that’s not all. Making permanent and positive changes can improve your overall sense of health and well-being for a happier and more productive life.