Ahhh, the liver. Not often thought of and yet one of the most important organs in your body. Seriously. Functionally, in Western terms , the liver is involved in:
- The Break down of Fats
- Eliminating Free Radicals
- Blood sugar levels
- Amino acids
- Packaging and Transforming and Regulating Hormones
- Storing vitamins and minerals
- Cholesterol production
- Skin health
- The Health of your Blood
In TCM the main functions of the liver are:
- Regulating qi/chi
- Regulating Blood
- Regulating Emotions
- Storage of blood
We are constantly bombarding our liver with toxins and poisons and chemicals and synthetic hormones and fats and numerous foreign entities, consuming our poor liver’s time and energy. Fatty foods, such as animal proteins are a main staple in our American diet and are general the main focus of many meals. Foods high in cholesterol and fat can lead to cirrhosis of the liver as can a perpetual binge-drinking-fest. Here is a list of just a few things an American liver encounters on a regular basis (obviously not all apply):
- Birth Control
- Hormone Therapy
- Recreational drugs
- Fast Food
- Acetaminophen and other pain medication
- Cigarette toxins
- Saturated Fats
- Cleaning Products
One of the more common, college-age issues affecting the health of your liver is drinking alcohol. According to the National Institute of Health, women should only consume 1 drink per day or no more than 3 in one single day and only 7 per week. For Men it is 2 drinks with a maximum of 4 per day and no more than 14 per week. More than that puts a person at higher risk for liver disease (Niaaa.nih.gov).
Most of the time I follow these guidelines, not because some government agency wrote them down and stamped them, but because more than a glass of wine isn’t usually necessary. Sometimes, however, I have a bottle of wine. C’est la vie.
The point of all this? My favorite liver herb: Milk Thistle (God bless it).
Milk Thistle (Sylibum marianum) is a member of the asteraceae family (daisy, lily and sunflower are also members).It’s actions in the body are:
- It is hepatoprotective (hepato=liver)
- Blocks toxins from entering the cell membrane
- Neutralizes toxins upon entering
- Regenerates liver cells (Hepatocytes),
- Anti-fibrotic (inhibits scarring due to hepatitis or alcohol abuse)
Research is indicating its use with Viral Hepatitis A, B and C and perhaps in mushroom poisoning cases (Amanita mushrooms can be very deadly). As with most herbs, its antioxidant capacity lends itself to cancer prevention.
One thing it definitely helps with is a hangover. Now, previously I had mentioned the occassional BOTTLE of wine that I consume: milk thistle is just the thing. My husband and I (and friends) take 2 capsules before we drink, a few hours later take 2 more, take 2 more prior to bed and then take them the next day. Works like a charm.
In addition to the benefit mentioned above, it is also helpful for acne, constipation, crohn’s disease, IBS, gallstones, high cholesterol, lactation (increases), diabetes, ovarian cysts and other reproductive issues, Parkinson’s and Psoriasis-oh my!
Another factor that plays into Milk Thistle being my favorite and the liver-herb I recommend most often is that you can use it without it diminishing the effectiveness of birth control. Unlike St. John’s Wort or possibly Dandelion root, milk thistle does not seem to affect the hormonal supply from the pill/patch/ring/iud. In a world full of liver-villains, it is necessary to have an ally. My herbal liver-ally is Milk Thistle.
Any information contained in this website is not intended as medical advice nor to diagnose and/or treat any illness. If you have any concerns about this information, please contact your provider and/or certified Herbalist!
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Please feel free to contact me for additional information, a consultation or to obtain some Milk Thistle! You can email me at Trysta@IntegrativeHerbalism.com or through the contact tab at the top of this page!