July has arrived and so has Dry July. A great time of year to give your liver a rest and focus on re-establishing some healthier habits.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates up to 25 per cent of all cancers are associated with alcohol. Alcohol has been classified as a class 1 carcinogen. The risk of cancers such as stomach and liver cancer increase with three or more alcoholic drinks daily; the risk of others such as breast cancer increase after just one drink per day.
Traditional plant medicine provides effective ways to support the health of your hard working liver, especially this July.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is one of the oldest known medicinal plants successfully used to support liver, gallbladder and pancreas health. The bittersweet taste increases the flow of digestive juices helping with digestion and the proper breakdown of food.
Dandelion also supports the breakdown of toxins, wastes and hormones. Supporting your detoxification pathways is essential - as everything you eat, drink and put on your skin must be eliminated via the liver. The best thing about Dandelion is that the entire plant is medicinal, including the roots!
St Mary's Thistle (Silybum marianum) is the most researched of all the liver medicinal plants. A 2012 clinical trial by Loguercio et al. showed that when given in combination with vitamin E, there was an improvement in both liver enzymes and the health of liver cells. It also boosted glutathione (which is a potent antioxidant) by 271 per cent - crucial for regular liver detoxification.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has been used as a medicine, spice and colouring agent for thousands of years. Scientific research confirms what traditional medicine has long known – a 2013 study by Gupta et al. showed curcumin has beneficial actions on many bodily systems. It is clinically used to protect the liver against hepatic diseases, chronic heavy metal exposure and alcohol use. It is traditionally added to food or can be taken as a modern concentrated extract. Adding black pepper to turmeric increases the absorption of the active constituent curcumin, as does the addition of fat, such as coconut oil.
As well as supporting your liver with a targeted plant medicine boost, consider eating vegetables from the brassica family every day to enhance your liver health. They include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts which are particularly beneficial for the liver due to the presence of a substance called sulforaphane which enhances detoxification.
For this Dry July, try to incorporate more medicinal plants and foods into your life. Dandelion and St Mary's thistle make a great medicinal drink to help lessen alcohol cravings and help regenerate and protect your liver as you establish these new and important habits.
If you are having problems with your drinking, visit alcohol.org.nz.