Fatty Liver? 7 Herbal Remedies To Support Liver Detox

The liver is one of the most important organs of the body. Learn how TCM remedies can help you detox your liver, prevent fatty liver, and live a healthier life.

A man holding his liver inside the stomach, needing liver detox

Your liver is the second largest organ in your body and one of the most important. It regulates most chemical levels in your blood and excretes a product called bile. This helps your body clear out waste products and breaks down fats in the small intestine. Johns Hopkins Medicine says that more than 500 vital functions have been identified with the liver. They include improving immune function, clearing bacteria out of your body, and helping manage blood sugar levels. Thus, it’s essential to keep your liver healthy. A liver detox may help remove toxins in your body and improve your health.

If you don’t treat your liver right by eating fatty, highly-processed foods, drinking excess alcohol, and developing obesity, you can end up with fatty liver – also called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). It’s estimated that 25 to 33 percent of adults have fatty liver. 

Fatty liver doesn’t usually cause negative symptoms in the early stages. By the time you do start experiencing severe tiredness, weakness, weight loss, and even yellowing of the skin, it might be too late to undo the damage to your liver and your overall health. That’s why it’s important to prevent fatty liver.

You can do that by detoxing the liver through diet, using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbal treatments, and by having a healthy lifestyle. Keep reading to learn how to detox your liver, and how diet and herbs can help keep you healthy. 

A Liver Detox Diet 

The effects of fatty liver disease can be devastating. According to Chief TCM physician Chu I Ta from Real Health Medical clinic in Singapore, fatty liver can cause heart disease, digestive system failure, and even loss of eyesight. Fortunately, you can protect and support your liver by making changes in your diet.

Eat nutrient-dense foods that are high in fiber and protein, and low in saturated fats to decrease your risk of fatty liver disease. For breakfast, enjoy hearty oatmeal which is rich in fiber. Top your oatmeal with some inflammation-reducing walnuts. For lunch or dinner, try fish that are rich in polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, tuna, and trout. And don’t forget leafy greens! Kale, spinach, and other anti-oxidant-rich vegetables. Avoid drinking alcohol or eating fried, salty foods, red meat, and any food or beverage with added sugar. 

1. Milk Thistle 

Milk thistle seeds on a wooden big spoon and milk thistle powder for liver detox
Milk thistle contains a powerful antioxidant called silymarin.

This flower-like plant is native to the Mediterranean. Silymarin, an antioxidant compound taken from milk thistle seeds, is the active component. Some research indicates that silymarin can help keep toxins from attaching themselves to the liver, soothe inflammation, and promote cell repair. In TCM, milk thistle is cool in nature. It reduces internal heat, relieves toxicity, and regulates the flow of qi, or energy, to the liver. 

Milk thistle is available as a tea, but you can also find it in capsule or tablet formula. Avoid milk thistle if you have allergies to related plants, like ragweed, daisies, or chrysanthemum. 

2. Turmeric Root  

Yellow turmeric powder in a jar and on a spoon with turmeric roots
Turmeric isn’t just for curries! It can also reduce inflammation caused by fatty liver.

Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant and is part of the ginger family. You might already be familiar with turmeric as it’s a common spice in many cuisines. Its distinctive yellow color is often used to color curry powder, mustard, butter, and cheese. Turmeric has a warm, bitter taste. 

Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric. It helps reduce inflammation and lower oxidative stress in the body. In TCM, turmeric invigorates the blood and helps alleviate blood stagnation. In addition to cooking with turmeric, you can make turmeric tea or take it in capsule form.

3. Notoginseng  

Don’t confuse Notoginseng, also known as panax pseudoginsengSan Qi, or Tian Qi, with the American, Chinese, or Korean ginseng you might already be familiar with. They have very different uses in TCM. According to the Compendium of Materia Medica, ginseng is the number one qi tonifying herb, while Notoginseng is the number one blood tonifying herb.

The liver is a hematopoietic unit, and the invasion of bacteria and viruses will reduce the efficiency of the liver. Notoginseng has the effect of replenishing blood, and it acts as the first line of defense to protect the liver. Notoginseng tonifies the blood and helps the liver defend itself. It also clears away heat and toxins, nourishes the liver, and clears fat. Physician Chu recommends taking Notoginseng by thoroughly mashing the root and using it in a stew with chicken and black fungus. 

4. Astragalus 

A bowl of astragalus root sits on a desk surrounded by traditional Chinese herbs
Astragalus carries many health benefits for the liver and other organs in the body.

This powerhouse plant is native to China and Korea. It produces a beautiful flower, but the root contains all the benefits. Astragalus root is full of essential amino acids, carbohydrates, riboflavin, iron, calcium, phosphorus, and selenium. It’s also an adaptogen, which protects the body from stress. Studies have also shown that it protects the liver, control blood sugar levels, and enhances the immune system. 

Physician Chu advises slicing astragalus and using it with red dates to make tea, which works well in nourishing liver qi and blood. He recommends adding the date because it will make the tea taste sweet. You can also take astragalus as a capsule, tablet, or tincture. 

5. American Ginseng 

American ginseng is sweet, slightly bitter, and cool in nature.

It restores balance in the body by invigorating qi and nourishing yin, which is essential for balancing the body. American ginseng also protects the liver, enhances immunity, regulates insulin secretion, and helps with digestion. Physicians often give American Ginseng to patients with liver disease, tumor, diabetes, chronic gastric disease. 

Physician Chu says the preferred way to consume American ginseng is to make it into tea. You can also add it as a healthy addition to soup. Many often use American ginseng together with red date and wolfberry. 

6. Patrinia scabiosifolia

Patrinia scabiosifolia (败酱草, bai jiang cao) comes from the roots of the patriniaceae plant. The plant is native to eastern Asia and is related to honeysuckle. It can clear away heat and toxins and you can also use it as a pain reliever. This plant has become a therapeutic drug for various liver diseases because it promotes liver cell regeneration, improves liver function, and prevents liver cell degeneration. It is also widely chosen as one of the herbs in clinical treatment for liver disease. 

Patrinia scabiosifolia makes a great tea. Slice it, steep it in hot water, and enjoy!

7. Red Sage 

Dried red sage roots or dan shen on a wooden laddle on top of a bamboo mat
Red sage is more than just a beautiful plant, its roots can help your liver cells regenerate.

Also known as danshen, red sage is a powerful herb that has been used for many centuries. The plant is named for its vibrant red roots. Studies have shown promising results in regenerating liver cells. In TCM, danshen is an herb that invigorates the blood, breaks up stasis, and eases pain.

Red sage can be quite bitter, so physician Chu suggested to mix it with hawthorn berries and drink it as tea. 

8. Yunzhi

Among the most widely researched medicinal mushrooms, yunzhi (Coriolus versicolor) or turkey tail contains biologically active compounds that strengthen the immune system while arresting the growth and spread of malignant cells. Yunzhi has a curative effect of inhibiting tumors and protecting the liver. The clinical applications are mostly used for chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, ascites, and liver cancer.

The cancer-fighting components of yunzhi are polysaccharides, Polysaccharide-K (PSK), and Polysaccharide Peptide (PSP). PSP works as a biological response modifier, stimulating the immune system to attack tumor viruses, like the Hepatitis C virus that causes liver cancer.

This mushroom is often ground into powder and consumed in capsule form. Yunzhi may also be consumed daily for liver disease prevention.

Precautions When Taking Herbs For Liver Detox

Herbal remedies are generally quite safe, as long as they are taken as advised. It’s important to follow all dosing instructions, including the amount you take and when you take it. For example, physician Chu cautions that you shouldn’t take an herbal treatment within 2 hours of taking Western medications. He also cautions that if you are taking any blood-thinning medications to consult with a TCM physician before taking any herbal treatment. 

To sum it all up, good liver health is essential to living a healthy, happy life. You can take control of your health with the help of a few humble herbs. They can help you do a liver detox and optimize your health. It’s important to work with a knowledgeable practitioner and to see a doctor if your symptoms worsen.

Save this article and bring it with you on your next visit to your TCM doctor. Ask them if you should add these herbs to your diet, as they can help detox your liver. 

References

  1. John Hopkins Medicine. 2021. Liver Health. [Accessed on November 16, 2021]
  2. NCBI. 2013. Silymarin in non alchoholic fatty liver disease. [Accessed November 16, 2021]
  3. NCBI. 2017. Curcumin, and active component of turmeric and its effects on health. [Accesed November 16, 2021]
  4. NCBI. 2012. Pharmacological Effects of Ginseng on Liver Functions and Diseases: A Minireview. [Accessed November 16, 2021]
  5. NCBI. 2020. Protective Effect of a Mixture of Astragalus membranaceus and lithospermum erythorrhizon extract against Hepatic Steatosis in High Fat Diet Induced Nonalchholoic Fatty Liver Disease Mice. [Accessed November 16, 2021]
  6. Johns Hopkins Medicine. 2021. Liver: Anatomy and Functions[Accessed November 19, 2021]
  7. UCLA Health. 2021. Fatty Liver Disease. [Accessed November 19, 2021]
  8. Eu Yan Sang. The Power of Yunzhi. < Available at: https://www.euyansang.com.sg/en/the-power-of-yunzhi/eysherbsyunzhi2.html > [Accessed November 19, 2021]

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