The liver is an organ that we tend to either ignore or underestimate. However, it helps protect us from the onslaught of toxins we ingest, absorb and produce on a daily basis. An overworked liver can show symptoms through poor skin and digestion. There are a number of medicinal plants that can be used to support your hard-working liver.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is the perfect plant to help support both the liver and overall digestive system as it is naturally bitter, which activates the bile production and digestive juices. This is important for those suffering from constipation, digestive upsets or a sluggish liver, which may also show up through congested, impure skin. The bitterness of this traditional plant supports the body to eliminate toxins, wastes, pollutants and metabolised hormones so they do not build up and further aggravate the skin.
Bitter plants activate your taste buds, which signals to the digestive system that you are getting ready to eat. When you taste something bitter the taste buds start to produce saliva which contain enzymes that help break down the food we are eating. The nervous system then starts a chain reaction signalling to the body to release further chemicals needed to break down food and absorb the nutrients. The inclusion of bitter plants will help to increase bile production necessary for good digestion and breaking down of fat. Bitter plants can also help with soothing flatulence, bloating and can calm an upset stomach. They are best taken regularly before each meal.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) acts as an astringent within the body, helping to dry up excess oil. It helps to support and enhance lymphatic clearance which is important for skin health, including acne. It also assists with liver function and helps with metabolising hormones so that they don't become bothersome. It has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory actions, important for cystic acne. It is a great plant to use topically too. You can dab it directly onto the skin, for example in a natural cream base that contains therapeutic amounts of Calendula.
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Globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is one of plant medicine's most bitter plants and has been shown to stimulate bile flow. It can also help fat digestion and bowel regularity. In a study of 208 IBS sufferers who took Globe Artichoke for 2 months, there was a 26.4 per cent reduction in IBS symptoms, with the sufferers advising their bowel motions moved toward normal, giving a 20 per cent increase in their quality of life.
Supporting the liver daily is a helpful way to improve the health of your skin and digestion long term. Luckily the medicinal plants mentioned above are great at helping with this.
You could consider adding in Nettle (Urtica dioica or Urtica urens) as it contains important nutrients and supports the kidneys in their cleansing function. Their filtering system works in tandem with the liver. Medicinal teas are a good way to take these healing herbs as the hot water will additionally help to flush out toxins and skin irritants.
If you find your symptoms do not improve or worsen please contact your lead healthcare provider.
Bertges, L. C., Gonçalves Felga, Â. M., Piccinini Teixeira, J. B., Magalhães Girardin Pimentel, C. F., & Ornella Neves, P. (2006). Effect of Calendula officinalis infusion on indomethacin-induced gastric lesions in Wistar rats. Revista Cubana de Plantas Medicinales, 11(2), 0-0.
Constipation. (n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2016, from http://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/constipation
Kemper, K. J. (1999). Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis). Longwood Herbal Task Force.
Salem, M. B., Affes, H., Ksouda, K., Dhouibi, R., Sahnoun, Z., Hammami, S., & Zeghal, K. M. (2015). Pharmacological Studies of Artichoke Leaf Extract and Their Health Benefits. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 70(4), 441-453.