Liver health – plants that keep it healthy!

The liver is the second largest organ in the body that converts what we eat and drink into energy and nutrition. It also cleans toxins out of the blood. Liver disease is one of the top ten causes of death in the US. Lots of things affect the liver besides drinking alcohol and poor diet. Chemicals such as found in insecticides (including DEET),  lawn fertilizer, household cleaners, cigarettes and food additives all contribute to taxing the liver.

So what can we do to give the liver a leg up? Milk Thistle is an herb that protects against liver disorders and improves liver function. It also can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the growth of several cancers. For diabetics, it can reduce insulin resistance. Studies have shown it to be an antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and has immunomodulatory functions. Dandelion is also used as a tonic for kidney, spleen, liver and digestive problems as well as the liver. If you don’t like taking pills, harvest your young dandelion leaves – long before the flower comes out. Artichoke leaves have been used as a diuretic to stimulate the kidneys and the flow of bile from the liver and gallbladder. Studies have shown that artichoke protects the liver from damage. If you don’t like the taste or the work of eating artichokes, this does come in pill form now. Curcumin is also useful as an anti-inflammatory that helps protect the liver. Studies conducted on rats confirmed this.  was confirmed as a treatment for long-term complications from hepatitis C such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.

It is prudent to pay attention to your liver. Like the lungs and heart, we absolutely need it to live and what we do with our diet and lifestyle can make the difference in a healthy or a sick liver.

-excerpted from Delivering Liver Care, Colleen Morrison, Whole Foods magazine, Nov. 2012

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