The liver is one of our body’s busiest organs, with a role to play in most of the biochemical processes that sustain life. It produces bile that is vital to digestion, produces plasma proteins, stores iron, regulates the clotting of blood, synthesizes cholesterol, stores glucose as glycogen, regulates the levels of amino acids in blood, is involved with clotting of blood, removes toxins from the body and produces immune factors that help prevent infections. With our modern-day food and lifestyles (think greater junk food, alcohol, smoking, stress and medication) we put a greater pressure on our liver and this can cause several health problems right from allergies and migraines to obesity and indigestion. Here are a few herbal remedies that can help your liver stay healthy.
The Indian gooseberry or amla is known as one of the richest sources of vitamin C. What is less well-known is its ability to keep the liver functioning at optimal levels. This herb has been used extensively in Ayurveda for treatment of a sluggish liver; now researchers are finding in laboratory studies that extracts from amla have liver-protective function. However, there is no clear indication of whether it is useful to treat hepatitis B infection. Amla is one of the important components in Chyawanpraash that has immunity boosting, digestive and liver-protective action. The best way to consume it is raw as small pieces in your salad or by making a raitha with grated amla and curd.
Jethimad or Licorice
People with non- alcoholic fatty liver disease show increased levels of the transaminase enzymes called ALT and AST. Studies have found that the use of licorice (Jethimad or Mulhati in Hindi) extracts led to reduced concentrations of these enzymes indicating that licorice has beneficial effects on the liver. Although licorice is more well-known for its sweet taste and anti-ulcer action, it has been used in Ayurvedic remedies to cure liver ailments. Licorice is available at stores selling Indian medicinal herbs; get the root, powder it at home and make a tea by pouring boiling water into the powder, steeping for a few minutes and then straining the liquid.
Amrith or Guduchi
Yet another herb that Ayurveda considers to have rejuvenating properties, Amrith is commonly grown in many kitchen gardens. It is said to have the ability to clear toxins from the liver as well as strengthen its functioning; more importantly, it does not cause any significant complications even on using long-term. However, Ayurvedic physicians warn that using this herb can precipitate a liver crisis if the patient has a large amount of toxins in the liver; therefore, it is best to use this only under an Ayurvedic practitioner’s guidance.
Full of valuable antioxidants, turmeric is an important herb that improves liver health. No wonder then that people in Asian countries use it so extensively in their cooking. Now, it is being recognized even in western countries for its liver-protective value. Some studies have also found that the antiviral action of turmeric is effective in preventing the multiplication of the viruses causing hepatitis B and C. The easiest way to take turmeric is to include it in your cooking; you can also make it a practice to drink a little turmeric-flavoured milk on a regular basis to get its benefits.
Certain receptor sites normally bind hormones and keep them circulating in the blood. This puts a strain on the liver which has to filter out these excess hormones. Studies have found that the phytoconstituents in flaxseeds have the capacity to bind with such receptor sites and this prevents hormonal binding, and this means less work for the liver. Just sprinkling a few crushed or whole flaxseeds on your toast, salad or cereals can help you make use of their liver-protective effect.
Certain vegetables contain ingredients that help the liver secrete greater concentrations of important enzymes; in turn, these enzymes help to excrete potential carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) from the body. Beet, cabbage, carrot, broccoli, onion and garlic are important vegetables with such an action. Broccoli, onion and garlic are believed to provide sulfur to the body; this helps in the detoxification reactions the liver carries out and prevents damage to the liver.
Along with the use of these natural remedies, it is also important to avoid foods that cause damage to the liver. If you eat foods that are highly processed with a large number of additives, or if you take too many medications, your liver has to work overtime to tackle this greater chemical load and this can cause damage. Food that is rich in hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweetening agents and alcohol are some of the other substances that can put a greater load on your liver. Along with consuming of liver-protective herbs, it is also important to make sure you avoid the foods that cause it harm.
Wheat grass powder is best to treat liver disorders