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  7. Detoxifying Herbs: Milk Thistle...

In the modern world we are constantly exposed to various toxins – from consumption of highly-processed foods containing synthetic additives to environmental toxins, prescription medications and, cleaning and beauty products we use daily. The cocktail of chemicals we receive daily is causing an overload on our body’s detoxification systems and organs and leads to disruptions in proper functions and development of diseases.
Our bodies have amazing abilities to detoxify and our overall wellbeing depends on how well these detoxification processes work. The liver is one of the most important organs responsible for detoxification. It works tirelessly to remove toxins from our body, to detoxify the blood, to produce the bile that is needed to digest fat, to store essential vitamins, minerals, and iron as well as to break down hormones.
When the liver functions are compromised, we struggle to digest food correctly (specifically fats), don’t have energy, feel tired, and sleepy.
Factors such as:

  1. Heavy alcohol abuse
  2. Low potassium levels
  3. Intravenous drug usage
  4. Obesity, or a diet high in saturated fats/ processed foods
  5. High levels of triglycerides in the blood
  6. Prescription medications
  7. Autoimmune diseases
  8. Viral infections

All of these listed above may cause severe stress on the liver and disruption of its normal functions.
There are also various signs and symptoms that can give an indication that your liver isn’t functioning optimally:

  1. Constipation
  2. Acid reflux and heartburn
  3. Bloating and gas
  4. Inability to lose weight
  5. Moodiness, anxiety, or depression
  6. Chronic fatigue
  7. Rosacea
  8. High blood pressure
  9. Skin or eyes that are yellowish
  10. Dark urine
  11. Bruise easily
  12. Excessive sweating
  13. Poor appetite

Cleansing your liver is extremely important.
Did you know that the average woman living in the Western world puts over 500 different chemicals into her body daily through the beauty products she uses and around 60% of those are absorbed through the skin, hair, and nails? Even though men use fewer products, they are still putting around 85 different chemicals into their bodies each day. That is separate from the chemicals and toxins that our body absorbs from the air we breathe, the clothes we wear, the cleaning products that we use in our homes and offices, from paint, fire retardants, non-stock cooking ware, medicines, vaccines, etc. Our liver needs regular detox to be able to cope with the gigantic task of keeping our body clean of toxins. Luckily, for us, Nature provides plants and herbs that are very beneficial for boosting liver function as well as helping to detoxify this important organ. Some of those plants, such as Milk Thistle and Dandelion, we consider weeds. They grow in different climates and many countries, including in our back gardens.

Milk Thistle
Milk thistle (Onopordum acanthium), also known as Cotton thistle and Scotch thistle, is native to Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa. The plant’s upper stem, leaves, flowers, and seeds have been used for over 2000 years for medicinal purposes such as improving libido, skin health, and weight loss. It has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and is especially beneficial for improving liver health. This healing herb acts as a powerful liver cleanser, aids in removing toxins from the body that are not processed by the liver, assists in liver regeneration, and help to reduce liver damage.
Keeping our liver health is vital for staying healthy in general. The liver is the largest internal organ that is in charge of various detoxifying functions. It performs about 500 functions in the body, including hormone production, releasing sugar into the bloodstream, secreting bile into the small intestine for the absorption of fat, and more. Traditional medicinal practices have been prescribing Milk Thistle concoctions for treating alcoholic liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver, toxin-induced liver diseases, and acute and chronic viral hepatitis. The active ingredient in the plant, Silymarin, has a strong antioxidant effect and is shown to help with reversing toxicity in the liver and body.
Additionally, milk thistle has also been found to help with a variety of other health issues:

  1. May help to reduce the risk of cancer development.
  2. May aid in lowering high cholesterol
  3. Could help to prevent or control diabetes
  4. May help to prevent gallstones
  5. May have anti-aging effects

Health Benefits of Milk Thistle

The plant that most people know to be a horrible pesky weed, or as one that they can use to make wishes, actually has great medicinal properties. Dandelions, Taraxacum officinale, have a deep-rooted history in traditional medicine, which has been traced back to 659 B.C. in ancient China. Dandelion root was traditionally used to help heal the liver, as well as to promote better digestion. The plant is rich in fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. The high amounts of antioxidants present in this plant are promoting proper liver functions including bile production and flow.
This common garden weed is also often recommended for various other health issues:

  1. help promote skin health
  2. stimulate digestive tract functions
  3. help strengthen bones, because of the high amount of vitamin K present
  4. prevent the growth of disease-causing bacteria due to its powerful antimicrobial properties
  5. assist the body’s ability to lower cholesterol
  6. has anti-cancer properties

Health Benefits of Dandelion

Both milk thistle and dandelion are plant powerhouses, with great antioxidant properties that are so beneficial for your liver as well as your overall health. Dandelion and milk thistle can come in the form of a tea, tincture, or capsule supplement. Keep in mind milk thistle and dandelion are very potent plants. To avoid any possible interaction with medications or supplements that you already take, make sure that you consult with your health care practitioner prior to using them. Taking these two plants or herbal supplements can help improve your liver function, but to see improvement in your health a dietary change is vital. Avoiding foods that are increasing the strain on your liver and including foods that are stimulating and nourishing for the liver and the body.

Foods that support liver function:

1.Raw vegetable juice
The easiest way to get in the nutrients that you need to cleanse the liver from veggies is by juicing them. Juicing the vegetables makes them easier to digest and also allows for better absorption. The best vegetables to use when doing a liver cleanse are cabbage, Brussel sprouts, and cauliflower. These veggies help to regulate the body’s pH level. You can also add your favourite green veggies, or you can add carrots, and beetroot to make it more enjoyable.

2. Carrots!
Did you know that carrots are great for detoxing the liver because the beta carotene that is present in carrots gets converted to vitamin A? This helps to get rid of toxins in the body as well as help reduce fat in the liver.

3. Foods rich in potassium
Getting your daily dose of potassium is important for reducing systolic blood pressure, supporting a healthy cardiovascular system, and cleansing the liver. Some foods that are rich in potassium are sweet potatoes, organic tomato sauces/ purees, spinach, white beans, lima beans, blackstrap molasses, and bananas.

4. Turmeric
Turmeric has a variety of health benefits; it is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties. But it also helps aid in digestion and it supports healthy liver tissue and metabolism.

Foods for Liver Function Infographic

Foods to avoid when your liver is compromised or for better liver health:

  1. Excessive alcohol and caffeine.
  2. Fruits and vegetables that have been excessively sprayed with pesticides.
  3. Foods that are made with hydrogenated oils, refined vegetable oils, as well as artificial sweeteners or ingredients.
  4. Refined grains such as white bread, white rice, and white flour to name a few.
  5. Snacks, foods, and drinks that are filled with sugar
  6. Processed meats such as deli meats or cold cut meats which contain nitrates
  7. Dairy that has been pasteurised and homogenised, farm-factory meat and fish.

Your liver health is extremely important, so treat it with love and care and support it with good nutritious food!