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Anything you eat, drink, or take in the way of drugs or other substances eventually passes through the liver. Some of these may end up being stored there. Given the condition of the environment and the many non-natural substances that are part of our everyday diet, it seems impossible to avoid toxins accumulating in the liver. This is why many alternative medical practitioners advocate some form of regular cleansing of the liver.
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Herbal Therapy for Liver Cleansing
- Burdock root. Burdock is related to the sunflower plant. Roots used in herbal therapy are harvested when the plants are two years old. It is reputed to clean the liver and restore healthy function.
- Dandelion. The leaves of the dandelion plant are a strong diuretic, while the roots improve the function of kidneys and the liver in removing toxins from the blood, increase production of bile and treat jaundice. Warning: Do not take dandelion if you have gallstones, take insulin, or glucose-reducing drugs unless advised by a physician.
- Cayenne. Chili peppers have both an anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant effect. They increase blood flow and aid digestion. The capsaicin in the peppers can reduce an enzyme produced by the liver that activates contaminants leading to a carcinogenic condition. Warning: Do not regularly consume doses of the powder at high levels because this can reduce the liver’s ability to clear out common prescription drugs, leading to increased side effects.
- Milk thistle. Also known as Silybum marianum, this is a common weed. The extract, Silymarin, can protect the liver against toxins while having almost no known side effects. When combined with soy lecithin, the absorption through the digestive tract is improved.
- Siberian ginseng. This can not only detoxify the liver, but also protect it against adverse drug effects.
- Tumeric. The source of curcumin spice, turmeric is an important herb in Ayurvedic medicine. It has multiple benefits because of its strong anti-inflammatory qualities. In the liver it can reverse damage, prevent alcohol from conversion to a toxic form, and improve detoxification.
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Some herbal remedies can be dangerous when taken by patients with Hepatitis C. For example, Kava and Comfrey have both “been linked to serious liver damage” according to a report in the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine database. Always consult with a physician before trying herbal remedies if you have Hepatitis C or other complicating conditions.
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Some alternative medicine Web sites and providers advocate gallbladder and liver flushes to help with a wealth of medical problems. These types of flushes usually involve drinking vegetable oil combined with citrus juice and Epsom salts, which usually produces various multi-colored clumps in bowel movements. The actual efficacy of these flushes is dubious. Supposedly, individuals in good health without complicating factors should not suffer any problems from a liver “flush” except when necessary formal medical treatment is postponed, according to the Quackwatch Web site. Other practitioners maintain that simple and less uncomfortable approaches using liver cleansing herbs give better results.
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Krohn, Jacqueline, M.D., and Taylor, Frances, M.A., Natural Detoxification (Hartley & Marks Publishers, 2000).
Balch, Phyllis A., CNC, Prescription for Herbal Healing (Avery, 2002).
Quackwatch: The Truth about Gallbladder and Liver “Flushes”
National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine: CAM and Hepatitis C: A Focus on Herbal Supplements
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