It’s official! Spring is here in Alaska! Hooray! With spring I always feel like cleaning out the old and making way for the new in my house, life and my body. Maybe you feel this too? It is a great time to cleanse in every sense of the word and prepare yourself for a vibrant and active summer. By taking a little time right now to nourish and strengthen your liver, you can support your own body’s natural tendency to want to do some spring-cleaning.
The liver is the great multi-tasker in the body.
It filters our blood, it disassembles all chemical compounds through two phases for elimination, it synthesizes and secretes bile (bile is how the body carries many of the toxic compounds out of the body), it releases vitamins, it produces glycogen to help manage energy levels, it maintains hormone balance, it controls the production and release of cholesterol and numerous other tasks too. With the liver being involved in so many physiological processes in the body, taking a little time to give your liver a little extra love is an excellent idea.
But, how should we nourish and strengthen our liver?
Should we go and grab a boxed cleanse off the shelf and go at it? Um, no. Imagine your liver is essentially crawling along right now. It is still functioning and still doing its job, but slowly. We don’t want to suddenly ask it to do the 100 m dash, it would be overwhelming to you and your liver and the finish line wouldn’t look pretty. Instead, let’s start by seeing if we can encourage the liver to gently stand up and walk.
I love to nourish the liver with herbs, foods, nutrients and even just some stress-reducing activities that allow the liver to naturally do its job more efficiently. But, even with those items you can go too fast, so it really is about going slow and steady. It is best to gently support your liver on a continual basis, and then once or twice a year give your liver a little extra TLC much like when you spring clean your home.
One gentle way to support your liver – with herbs!
Herbs are easy to incorporate whether by adding to your meals or just making a cup of tea. Below are three herbs that strengthen and support your liver.
Dandelion is a powerhouse known for its restorative and rejuvenating properties.
I don’t believe it is a coincidence that dandelions are in abundance in the spring – the time when your liver would love a little extra TLC.
Dandelion stimulates bile flow, is a safe diuretic (because it protects your potassium levels) and tones the kidneys. The leaves are high in vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron, as well as vitamins A and C.
You can incorporate dandelion by drinking it as a tea or incorporating some of the leaves to your salads throughout the spring. The roots can also be added to stir-fries, soups and casseroles. Dandelion is a bitter herb, so you may prefer to eat it with other greens and veggies to moderate the taste.
Milk thistle is one of the most powerful herbs to restore the liver due to its high levels of the compound silymarin.
“No drug can protect your liver the way silymarin can because of its strong action against free radicals and its ability to enhance glutathione production by more than 35%, thus increasing liver detoxification.” –7-Day Detox Miracle
Milk thistle is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and is used to help fight free radicals and relieve the effects of many age-related diseases. It stimulates liver function and helps to rebuild liver cells. It has been used successfully to support many conditions such as fatty liver disease in diabetic patients, nausea during pregnancy, chronic alcoholic liver diseases, toxic exposure to industrial chemicals, and cirrhosis.
Milk thistle can be taken in capsule, tablet or tincture. If you have access to the seeds of the plant, grind them into a powder to then make tea or add to soups.
Turmeric has been used for thousands of years by Indian and Chinese healers as a liver protectant.
Like dandelion, turmeric stimulates bile flow but it is also a powerful anti-inflammatory. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric is a great antioxidant that scavenges free radicals in the body, protecting your DNA.
The main therapeutic agent in turmeric is the curcumin, a bioflavinoid that gives the turmeric its yellow pigment. Curcumin’s action on the liver supports healthy glucose levels, reduces cholesterol oxidation, it enhances cellular energy to speed metabolism and it has also been shown to support brain health by reducing plaque build-up in the brain.
Turmeric can be added to soups, stews, roast meats, and even to smoothies. My favorite way to take turmeric is by making Golden Milk.
1t ground turmeric
½ t ground ginger
½ t ground cinnamon
dash black pepper
2-3 T coconut Milk
1 scoop collagen (optional)
Hot water over all
By giving your liver a little extra love right now, you’ll give yourself some extra energy and vibrancy for the summer to come.
Tell me, what do you love to do for your liver in the spring? Share in the comments below!
Calton, J., Calton, M. (2015). The Micronutrient Miracle. New York: Rodale.
Gladstar, R. (2008) Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. North Adams: Storey Publishing.
Bennett, P., Barrie, S. (2001) 7-Day Detox Miracle. New York: Three Rivers Press