liver health

3 Essential Herbs for Liver Health + How to Use Them?

3 Essential Herbs for Liver Health + How to Use Them?

Maintaining optimal liver health is crucial for overall well-being. Located in the upper right abdominal region, the liver performs more than 500 essential functions. The primary role lies in detoxification, where it filters waste and toxins from the blood. Also, it creates vital proteins, breaks down drugs, and produces bile to help digest fats.

Given the pivotal role, it’s essential to take preventative measures to sustain the liver health. Various lifestyle factors like consuming processed foods, saturated fats, and excessive alcohol consumption can compromise liver function and lead to fatty liver disease and cirrhosis.

Recently, natural remedies and herbs have gained significant attention to support liver health. The therapeutic and hepatotoxic effects of several herbs can complement your dietary habits and lifestyle choices for optimal health.

Let’s explore the traditional and herbal systems based on scientific evidence and their liver health benefits in detail!

The Power of Herbs in Liver Health

Every minute, your liver filters out 1.3-1.5 liters of blood. That’s a lot of work, and a natural detox is essential for proper functioning. Embracing holistic and natural solutions is a great way to start and keep your liver in great shape.

Herbs like milk thistle and dandelion have been utilized for centuries across various cultures for their liver-supportive properties. Recent scientific research has also identified bioactive compounds in herbs with beneficial liver effects. Here are a few of them:

1. Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)

Milk thistle is a prickly yet pretty plant with long, spiny leaves and purplish-pink thistle. It’s native to Mediterranean regions of Europe and known for its active ingredient, silymarin. Silymarin has antioxidant properties, aiding in liver repair and detox. 

It can act as a protective barrier against liver damage and help reduce oxidative stress. The mechanism of action for hepatoprotective properties involves:

  • Antioxidant: On hepatocytes, milk thistle has shown antioxidant properties against free radicals and stimulating the production of proteins for cell membrane protection. Silymarin also acts as an iron chelator, enhancing superoxide dismutase activity for liver function.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Milk thistle can regulate cytokines that helps induce liver inflammation. Silymarin can reduce the plasma content of pro-inflammatory cytokines and inhibit the expression of inflammatory pathways.
  • Antifibrotic: Silymarin can decrease platelet-derived growth factor and acts an antifibrotic agent. Also, it can regulate collagen fiber deposition and liver fibrosis.

Studies have shown that consuming silymarin supplements may help people with alcoholic cirrhosis. Also, it can protect against liver disease progression and enhance the overall quality of life of patients.

Silymarin is also helpful in treating mushroom poisoning by Amanita phalloides (death cap) that may lead to liver failure.

  • Milk thistle comes in powder, capsule, pill, and extract formulations. It’s safe to consume while following the manufacturer’s dosage instructions. People with diabetes or cancer should use it with caution.
  • If you’re allergic to ragweed, marigolds, daisies, and chrysanthemums, milk thistle may cause an allergic reaction as it belongs to the Asteraceae family.
  • Milk thistle may interact with medications for diabetes, hepatitis C, warfarin, and diazepam. Please consult your doctor before adding it to your diet.

2. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion is a hardy perennial with shiny, hairless, deeply-notched, spatula-like leaves. The stems are capped with yellow flowers, and the herb is found in the northern hemisphere and mild climates. It’s known for its many health benefits such as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and hepatoprotective properties.

  • In traditional usage, it acts as a “liver tonic,” and naturopaths use it to support liver health. The root is high in inulin and polysaccharides, aiding in liver detoxification.
  • Dandelion root extract can reduce alcohol-induced oxidative stress and provide support for non-alcoholic fatty liver induced by a high-fat diet. The flower extract can act against liver damage by scavenging reactive oxygen species.
  • The presence of polysaccharides aids the liver in bile production due to anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative activities. Also, the extracted polysaccharides provide support against APAP-induced liver injury due to hepatoprotective effects.


Dandelion is safe to consume in amounts commonly found in foods. It may cause some people stomach discomfort, allergic reactions, or heartburn. 

People with eczema, bleeding disorders, and ragweed allergy should avoid it. Also, it may interact with medications for liver disease and diabetes as it has an effect on blood sugar levels.

Use it in moderation as tea, or add it to your soup or salad.


3. Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus)

Artichokes are commonly considered vegetables with a purple blossom and spiky leaves. But the artichoke you eat is the bud of flower before it blooms. When steamed, they have an earthy taste and tender texture, making them a great addition to salads, dips, or standalone snacks.

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Ensuring liver health is paramount for overall vitality. Artichokes, renowned for their high levels of antioxidants, offer a multitude of health benefits, including cholesterol reduction and enhancement of liver function.

  • The leaf extract helps provide liver support and promotes new tissue growth. Also, it helps the body get rid of toxins from the liver and enhances bile production.
  • clinical trial on 90 patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease indicated that consuming 600mg of artichoke extract daily for two months improves liver function. The supplementation reduced low- and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations in patients with NAFLD.
  • Also, artichokes can help reduce the levels of liver enzymes, providing support against inflammation and damage. It has protective effects by reducing reactive oxygen species, protein oxidation, lipid peroxidation, and increasing glutathione peroxidase activity.

The edible parts of the artichoke are the heart and outer leaves. You can grill, steam, boil, or roast them. Once cooked, eat them hot or cold and use dipping sauce like aioli. 

Consuming artichoke is generally safe but not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding moms due to a lack of research. The typical dosage is 50–2,700 mg of leaf extract daily, and people with health conditions should consult a doctor before using it.

How to Incorporate Herbs Into Your Routine?

  • Add Them to Meals: You can chop and sprinkle fresh herbs into your salad, soup, or meals for flavor and nutrition.
  • Brew Herbal Tea: Brew liver-supporting herbs into teas by putting them in hot water for a few minutes. Then, strain and enjoy them after your meals.
  • Take Supplements: If you want a concentrated dose, take quality supplements with standardized extracts of herbs. They’re convenient to take with consistent dosage.

Disclaimer: Use herbs cautiously and consult your healthcare professional if you have any existing health conditions. Also, the article intends to highlight relevant research and benefits of herbs and should not be considered medical advice. 

Summing Up

Managing optimal liver health is essential, and you can ally with herbs like milk thistle, dandelion, and artichoke. They possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to support liver function and overall well-being.

However, you should approach herbal supplementation with caution and consult a healthcare provider for effective dosage and medicine interactions. Adopt a balanced lifestyle to enjoy a vibrant life!

References

  • Achufusi TGO, Pellegrini MV, Patel RK. Milk Thistle. [Updated 2024 Feb 28]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541075/
  • Polyak, S. J., Ferenci, P., & Pawlotsky, J. M. (2013). Hepatoprotective and antiviral functions of silymarin components in hepatitis C virus infection. Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)57(3), 1262–1271. https://doi.org/10.1002/hep.26179
  • Velussi, M., Cernigoi, A. M., De Monte, A., Dapas, F., Caffau, C., & Zilli, M. (1997). Long-term (12 months) treatment with an anti-oxidant drug (silymarin) is effective on hyperinsulinemia, exogenous insulin need and malondialdehyde levels in cirrhotic diabetic patients. Journal of hepatology26(4), 871–879. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0168-8278(97)80255-3
  • Davaatseren, M., Hur, H. J., Yang, H. J., Hwang, J. T., Park, J. H., Kim, H. J., Kim, M. J., Kwon, D. Y., & Sung, M. J. (2013). Taraxacum official (dandelion) leaf extract alleviates high-fat diet-induced nonalcoholic fatty liver. Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association58, 30–36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2013.04.023
  • Cai L, Wan D, Yi F, Luan L. Purification, Preliminary Characterization and Hepatoprotective Effects of Polysaccharides from Dandelion Root. Molecules. 2017; 22(9):1409. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules22091409
  • Elsayed Elgarawany, G., Abdou, A. G., Maher Taie, D., & Motawea, S. M. (2020). Hepatoprotective effect of artichoke leaf extracts in comparison with silymarin on acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity in mice. Journal of immunoassay & immunochemistry41(1), 84–96. https://doi.org/10.1080/15321819.2019.1692029
  • Panahi, Y., Kianpour, P., Mohtashami, R., Atkin, S. L., Butler, A. E., Jafari, R., Badeli, R., & Sahebkar, A. (2018). Efficacy of artichoke leaf extract in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: A pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial. Phytotherapy research : PTR32(7), 1382–1387. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.6073
  • Amini, M. R., Sheikhhossein, F., Talebyan, A., Bazshahi, E., Djafari, F., & Hekmatdoost, A. (2022). Effects of Artichoke Supplementation on Liver Enzymes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Clinical nutrition research11(3), 228–239. https://doi.org/10.7762/cnr.2022.11.3.228
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