Your liver is a very important organ for detoxification and especially supportive of your digestive tract and gallbladder. It helps with the metabolism of drugs and the breakdown of fats and other substances into energy, among other things.
When your liver isn't functioning optimally, it can cause a lot of problems and symptoms in your body.
Unfortunately, many aspects of modern life put a lot of stress on your liver. By using specific herbs, you can help to cleanse your liver of an overload of toxins and support overall liver function. This has the bonus of aiding your digestion and gallbladder as well and can even help you to feel more energetic.
Here's more on the best herbs for liver support and how to use them.
Natural Support for Liver Health
Before we get into the top liver herbs, let's take a quick look at why your liver probably needs support.
Though you might not think about it very often, your liver is one hardworking organ. It's one of the main components of your body's natural detoxification system, helping to filter and process toxins so that they can be moved out of your body.
Your liver also produces bile, which is an essential part of the digestive process. It particularly helps with the breakdown of fats and helps you to get the maximum amount of nutrients and energy from food.
This means that a healthy liver is needed for good digestion, efficient detox, hormone health, energy, and much more.
The downside is that the standard western diet and lifestyle puts a lot of stress on the liver. Many people are overloaded with toxins from food, household products, the environment, etc., which puts a big burden on your entire body and especially your liver.
Factors like heavy alcohol use, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and raised cholesterol levels also put people at risk for developing liver disease.
There are many types of liver problems, but one of the most common is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is a buildup of fat in the liver not related to alcohol use. Fatty liver disease doesn't always cause noticeable symptoms, but it can eventually lead to scarring and liver failure.
Diet, exercise, and herbal support can all be a big help to your liver, whether you simply want to keep it functioning optimally or have a specific issue.
Best Herbs for Liver Support
Milk thistle is always going to be at the top of the list of herbs for liver health. It has been used for a long time in herbal medicine to cleanse and protect the liver and has also been the subject of numerous research studies.
Milk thistle is thought to contain powerful antioxidants and plant compounds, particularly one known as silymarin, that help your liver and entire body to detox. It also has a protective effect, calming inflammation and possibly even slowing the progression of liver disease. (1)(2)
Dandelion root is a bitter herb that is known to aid digestion and act as a liver tonic. According to herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, the root has a stimulating and decongesting effect on the liver. This, in turn, stimulates bile production and helps a sluggish digestion. (Gladstar. Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide, pg. 125)
Some lab studies also indicate that dandelion extract may help protect the liver and offset some of the effects of a high-fat diet. This could make it especially helpful for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). (3)
Turmeric has gained a lot of popularity because of its anti-inflammatory effects, but it also has strong liver-supportive properties. It helps to stimulate bile production, which supports both your liver and digestion, and promotes healthy inflammation levels.
Researchers believe that the active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, has a lot to do with its effects on the liver. In a few studies, a curcumin supplement was able to help participants with NAFLD and reduced liver fat. (4)
Burdock root is another much-used herb for detox and liver cleansing in herbal medicine. It's considered a blood purifier and a liver cleanser and also helps with lymphatic congestion by stimulating lymphatic drainage.
All of this translates to nearly a full body detox and can help get rid of skin problems that are connected to poor liver function or accumulated toxins. Burdock root has a cooling effect, which makes it particularly good for those who tend to get heated.
Yellow dock is another bitter root that stimulates bile production and encourages your liver (and the rest of your body) to get rid of toxins. It also helps with digestion, particularly when taken as a digestive bitter 20-30 minutes before a meal.
You can buy yellow dock root to make a liver-supportive tea or tincture, and it's also easy to find in the wild (just be sure of your identification before harvesting).
You may not think of green tea as an herb, but it has many health-boosting properties and is full of powerful antioxidants.
Studies have shown that green tea extract may be helpful for those with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). It was able to reduce certain markers of damage associated with NAFLD and reduced fatty changes in the liver. (5)(6)
Other research shows that simply drinking green tea can help protect your liver and reduce your risk of liver disease. (7)
Garlic is a vegetable that doubles as a powerful herb/spice. When it comes to your liver, studies have linked garlic consumption to a lower risk of NAFLD in men, improvement in liver fat accumulation, and reductions in certain risk factors for liver disease. (8)(9)
Garlic also contains compounds that naturally increase the amount of glutathione, an antioxidant important for detox, in your body.
Raw garlic seems to be particularly powerful for the liver. You can also try an aged garlic supplement or garlic extract.
Red clover provides support to your liver by helping your body to detoxify. It's considered a blood purifier and is especially cleansing for the lymphatic system. The direct effect it has on your liver is mild, but by helping to clear toxin overload, it relieves some of the burden on your liver.
Red clover is also filled with nutrients that support overall health and liver function.
Ginger root is known for relieving indigestion and nausea, but it's also good for your liver. Studies have shown that it contains plant compounds that help to protect your liver (and body) from inflammation and cellular damage. (10)
In particular, research has found that ginger may help those with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) by reducing certain markers of that disease, including ALT and cholesterol. (11)
You can use fresh ginger root to make tea, take the powdered root in capsules, or try it with other herbs like in this Detox Herbal Tea.
Ginseng is an adaptogenic herb that's most used for improved energy and recovery from stress. However, it also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that help to protect your liver from damage and may help liver cells to regenerate. (12)
Because of its adaptogenic and energy-boosting power, some research has shown that ginseng can also help those struggling with fatigue associated with liver disease. (13)
As always when taking herbs, remember that each one has its own specific effects, so be sure to do your research before trying a specific herb. All herbs on this list are "safe" but may interact with medications, etc.
Also, liver damage and disease can be very serious, so be sure to consult with a healthcare professional as needed.
And finally, be aware that your diet and lifestyle play a big role in how healthy your liver is. Simply taking herbs will not "fix" your liver, and they will have the greatest effect when combined with other healthy practices.
Supporting Your Liver with Herbs
Herbs are a great support for keeping your liver functioning optimally. They promote cleansing, stimulate bile production, and have a protective effect that helps shield your liver from damage.
Use them individually or try a combination, like this Liver Cleanse Tea, to naturally support this very important organ.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.