11 Natural Supplements for Healthy Liver Function

by Katie Stone, ND August 08, 2018

11 Natural Supplements for Healthy Liver Function

The liver is the largest organ in the body. It’s also the organ responsible for detoxification: flushing out the various toxins we encounter in your diet, lifestyle, and environment.

Every one of your body systems is dependent on the liver for cleaning the blood of impurities. These impurities can include environmental toxins, additives in food, or medications.

Another example is acetaldehyde, a neurotoxin that comes from alcohol and is also sometimes produced endogenously within your gut.

Regular exposure to acetaldehyde causes inflammation, which in turn causes cells to be replaced by scar tissue. Scarred liver cells can’t function properly, which means your liver can’t either (1).

The liver has to deal with a truckload of other toxins, too: processed food, drugs, (pharmaceutical or otherwise), and pollution. Even exercise and sunlight cause the body to produce free radicals, which can damage your liver (2).

Free radicals are molecules missing an electron, and they can be deadly. The problems with free radicals is that to become ‘whole’ again, they steal an electron from other cells in the body, turning THEM into free radicals as well. This causes injury to cells and tissues within your liver and makes them more vulnerable to chronic diseases.

The more toxins we ingest, imbibe, and encounter, the greater the burden on the liver.

Signs of an overloaded liver include fatigue, headaches, digestive issues, skin problems, and weakened immune function.

Of course, it’s difficult to live a completely toxin-free life. That’s why a comprehensive liver supplement is so important.

1. Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is one the most popular herbs for treating and repairing the liver thanks to its amazing seeds, which contain a flavonoid called silymarin.

Silymarin is an important antioxidant and protects the liver by optimizing liver function and detoxification.

It also repairs damage to the liver cells caused by disease, alcohol, and drugs (3).

In fact, milk thistle is used all over the world to treat alcoholic hepatitis, liver disease (cirrhosis) and viral hepatitis.

Silymarin works by acting like a gatekeeper, protecting the liver from toxins and free radicals.

It binds to the outside of the liver cell and them off free radicals by blocking their entry to the liver cell. It also scavenges toxins that have already found their way into the cell (4).

One of the most important functions of milk thistle is its ability to increase your body’s production of glutathione, the “mother of all antioxidants”. The highest concentration of glutathione is in the liver.

Milk thistle also helps to prevent the depletion of glutathione. The antioxidant activity of this important compound is believed to be ten times more potent than Vitamin E.

2. NAC

A potent antioxidant and a precursor to glutathione, N-acetylcysteine (NAC) has been shown to heal the liver and can prevent liver damage from drug use. It’s even used in hospital emergency rooms to treat acetaminophen overdose.

NAC can reverse liver failure caused by other damage, such as excessive alcohol intake or environmental pollutants (5).

During detoxification, NAC is essential for replenishing and maintaining glutathione levels in the body.

3. Artichoke Leaf

Commonly eaten throughout North America, Europe and the Mediterranean, artichoke leaf is now known as an important remedy for liver support (6).

It contains cynarin, which has been found to increase the production of bile in the liver. This makes detoxification processes in the body more efficient, helping various organs to clear out harmful toxins such as alcohol and other chemicals.

Like milk thistle, artichoke leaf contains the important flavonoid silymarin. Silymarin is best known for its abilities in protecting the liver.

Artichoke leaf also contributes to overall health and welling by helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels in people at risk of coronary heart disease.

4. Turmeric Root

A well-known anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, the polyphenols in turmeric root are also shown to be beneficial in reducing the risk of fatty liver disease caused by stress.

Studies in cows have found that stressful conditions can lead to physiological changes in the liver, which affects the endoplasmic reticulum. This contributes to the development of fatty liver.

However, when the cows in the study were fed a blend of turmeric and green tea, the researchers noted a significant risk in irritation markers for fatty liver (7)

Turmeric’s potent antioxidant properties also help to defend the liver from harmful free radicals, and may even help to reduce the risk of cancer-causing cells forming in the body

5. Dandelion Root

Dandelion root aids liver function by improving the body’s ability to remove toxins while also boosting the production of bile (8).

A Korean study on mice found that dandelion root helped to prevent damage to the liver caused by environmental toxins such as alcohol and chemicals.

Researchers found that the high concentration of antioxidants in dandelion root can protect liver cells, as well as warding off free radicals that can harm the cells (9).

When tested in rabbits on a high-cholesterol diet, treatment with dandelion root was found to improve plasma antioxidant enzyme activities and lipid profile (10).

Dandelion has therefore been categorized as harboring many potential hypolipidemic and antioxidant effects.

As an added bonus, it also helps to protect against oxidative stress linked to atherosclerosis, and contains a variety of vitamins and nutrients that help to cleanse the liver and keep it working properly.

6. Yellow Dock Root

An amazing herb for detoxification, yellow dock root helps to cleanse the liver and lymphatic system of toxins.

Research suggests that it helps to stimulate the action of the lymphatic system throughout the body, increasing the rate at which harmful pollutants are flushed out (11).

Yellow dock is often included in many traditional blood cleansing formulas, including Essiac Tea.

Yellow dock root acts as a diuretic, increasing the frequency of urination to assist in toxin elimination.

It also helps to stimulate peristalsis and increase the secretion of mucus and water in the colon, improving the rate at which waste is removed from the body.

As an important source of anthraquinones, yellow dock is also useful for regulating bowel movements and preventing constipation. In this way, yellow dock root is great for people who have a sluggish digestive system as it helps to stimulate the bowels and speed bowel transit time.

7. Beetroot

A root vegetable known for its bright purple color and exceptional nutritional content, beetroot is not only an excellent source of fiber but also folic acid, manganese, and potassium.

Beetroot is grown around the world and is now used in many health supplements as a nutritive tonic and detoxifier.

For the liver, the high fiber content of beetroot is an important part of the detoxification process as it helps to move waste through the digestive tract.

One of the fibers in beetroot is pectin, which is considered to stimulate the cleansing action of the liver and assist in the removal of toxins.

Beetroot juice is also used as a treatment for a range of chronic illnesses associated with oxidative stress and inflammation.

Beetroot contains important antioxidant compounds such as betalain pigments which have been found to scavenge free radicals and reduce inflammation throughout the body.

8. Ginger

Known all over the world for its anti-inflammatory properties, ginger is vital to liver health.

Ginger’s therapeutic constituents such as gingerol and shogaol have been found to inhibit pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body such as prostaglandins and cytokines.

Inflammation plays a major role in the pathogenesis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Some studies have shown that in patients with NAFLD, the inflammatory cytokine TNF-a is an important feature in both insulin resistance and liver fibrosis. TNF-a also increases fatty acids oxidation. However, ginger supplementation has been found to significantly reduce levels of TNF-a in the body, subsequently reducing the risk of developing NAFLD (12).

Researchers using randomized controlled clinical trials have found evidence that ginger supplementation can increase the effectiveness of lifestyle interventions such as a healthy diet and exercise on treating NAFLD.

9. Choline

A macronutrient present in the form of phosphatidylcholine, choline is a compound that makes up the structural component of fat.

Choline is particularly important for liver health as it is required for the proper transportation of fat from the liver to cells throughout the body.

Another of the major benefits of choline is its role in keeping the liver free from harmful toxic buildups.

It does this by preventing the accumulation of fat in the liver, which can lead to serious conditions such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (13)

Choline also helps to transport both cholesterol and triglycerides, two fats that need to be sent away from the liver to other parts of the body where they can support other organs.

Choline may even help to improve overall energy levels, mood, sleep cycles and recovery time after physical exercise. Because it is required for healthy muscle nerve functioning, it may also be helpful in preventing fatigue and muscle aches or pains following exercise.

10. Molybdenum

Molybdenum is an essential nutrient that acts as a catalyst for enzymes while also facilitating the breakdown of certain amino acids in the body (14).

There are several human enzymes that require molybdenum, including sulfite oxidase, aldehyde oxidase, and xanthine oxidase. Among other things, these enzymes help to break down and metabolize toxins.

Molybdenum glycinate is the most bioavailable form of molybdenum.

In the liver, molybdenum has been shown to dramatically inhibit pulmonary and liver fibrosis. Liver fibrosis is the thickening and scarring of tissue.

Molybdenum also helps prevent liver damage from acetaminophen and reduces heart damage from doxorubicin, a type of antibiotic.

11. Selenium

An important trace mineral found naturally in the soil and in some foods, selenium has numerous health benefits.

It’s required for the body to form both glutathione peroxidase and thioredoxin reductase. These two enzymes are both needed to indirectly reduce certain oxidized molecules.

Because oxidation is linked to liver damage, antioxidants such as selenium are vital for preserving liver tissue (15).

A study published in the journal Acta Biochemical Polonica showed that patients with chronic Hepatitis B or C infection or with alcoholic, autoimmune or cryptogenic chronic liver disease had significantly less selenium in their blood than healthy people.

Selenium is also needed to maintain tissue elasticity in the liver, particularly in those who have chronic liver disease. Many diseases of the liver can lead to rigidity in the tissues and local blood vessels. Selenium helps to preserve and retain elasticity while also supporting healthy hepatic circulation.

The Bottom Line

How is your liver health? In our modern lives, we face exposure to toxins in the air, our food, the medicines we take, and much more.

By using herbal supplements and trace minerals like the ones listed above, you can give your liver the raw materials it needs to process those toxins.

A healthy, functioning liver is an essential part of good health. Taking a good liver support supplement will help your energy levels, immunity, digestion, and overall wellbeing.

    Katie Stone, ND
    Katie Stone, ND


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