Detoxifying, synthesising proteins, metabolising glucose, storing glycogen for energy: the liver is responsible for a number of functions in the body essential to health. It’s therefore important to take good care of it. Phytotherapy offers a valuable resource for helping the liver to carry out these roles effectively. Here we focus on four plants, scientifically-recognised for their benefits for liver health.
Silybum Marianum is a Mediterranean plant that has been used since Ancient Greek times for its amazing pharmacological properties. These primarily come from a compound called silymarin, found in the mature seeds of the plant. This is actually a complex of three flavonoids: silychristin, silydianin and silybin. It has powerful antioxidant properties and protects the liver from attack by free radicals, one source of which is excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol-related oxidative stress in the liver is a cause of liver cancer.
Silymarin also restricts the development of fibrosis, the accumulation of collagen in the liver which can lead to cirrhosis. In addition, it is an anti-inflammatory which means it actively fights hepatitis and non-alcoholic hepatic steatosis (NASH), a type of fatty liver disease (1).
Last but not least, silymarin helps purify the body by preventing toxins from clinging to liver cells, thus facilitating their elimination via the biliary tract (2). In short, milk thistle is an invaluable ally when it comes to maintaining the health of your liver!
In practice: milk thistle can be consumed as a tea, to be drunk three times a day. It is also found in the form of dietary supplements standardised in silymarin, which have the advantage of being more easily absorbed by the body. The dosage commonly recommended is 200 milligrams, three times a day.
Artichoke, or Cynara Scolimus, is a vegetable that’s particularly popular during the summer months for its distinctive flavour. Less well-known, however, are its amazing liver-protective properties which are attributed to a particular polyphenol called cynarin. This compound is recommended for those with a sluggish liver as it stimulates production of bile, a viscous liquid essential for good lipid digestion and active elimination of waste products and toxins (3).
Artichoke leaf also plays a role in protecting liver cells, and stimulating their regeneration following mechanical or chemical damage (4).
In practice: if taken as an extract, the recommended dose is 300 milligrams, two to three times a day. Dried artichoke leaf can also be consumed as a tea - two to three cups should be enough to deliver its benefits.
Raphanus Sativa is especially recommended for protecting the liver from too rich a diet, after a particularly heavy meal, for example. It too increases bile production and improves digestion of fats. In addition, it stimulates liver enzymes responsible for ridding the body of certain particularly harmful toxins (5).
Black radish juice also has remarkable antioxidant effects (6).
In practice: black radish can be consumed in the form of a freshly-pressed juice (though beware – it has a very strong taste!), or direct from ampoules. There are few contra-indications apart from for those with a blocked biliary tract.
Chlorella Vulgaris is a green micro-algae with significant nutritional benefits. It has a very high protein content, making it an attractive option for vegetarians and vegans. In addition, it contains vitamins A, C and E, omega-3, mineral salts and trace elements, at exceptional levels for a single plant: indeed, it’s often classed as one of the select group of ‘super-foods’.
It offers multiple benefits for liver health: chlorella is recognised for its ability to chelate heavy metals (lead, mercury, arsenic …), trapping them and accelerating their elimination from the body (7).
With its high content of vitamins and phenols, chlorella has exceptional antioxidant potency, and studies have shown it to be an excellent supplement for helping to treat NASH. Indeed, chlorella has a positive effect both on cholesterol and diabetes which, together with an anti-inflammatory action, completes this ‘liver-friendly’ algae’s range of benefits (8).
To maintain the health of your liver, it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet, and only drink alcohol in moderation. If you have any concerns about your liver, make sure you consult a doctor to rule out any disease which might require treatment.
Though plants can provide benefits, most dietary supplements are not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or for children. For all others, however, we recommend the gold standard in this category: Liver Support Formula, which contains the best natural, liver-protective extracts (silymarin, chlorella, artichoke leaf …).
Attention: to avoid any potential risk of side-effects and drug interactions, be sure to seek advice from your pharmacist who will point you towards the right phytotherapeutic products and doses to ensure well-balanced liver function!
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