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Without getting into details … maybe your liver could use a little help. What do I mean by that? I couldn’t even tell you. But as your body’s Filter-in-Chief, your liver is an extremely important gizmo. The blood that courses through the diaphanous walls of your stomach and intestines, picking up this and that digested whatnot? All that blood then heads for the liver, where it gets processed and re-balanced, its components broken down and properly catalogued, inspected, and sorted.
Your liver is a disturbingly huge flapping thing the color of an expensive but unloved purse. It drapes itself over your digestive system like a boozy confidante, as it should. This many-lobed gob of spongelike tissue works like a champ with your digestive system, and is your main ally against toxins running rampant and causing havoc in the closed system of your physiology.
As long as it's healthy, your liver is your internal inspector. When you take medicine, for instance, those molecules visit the stomach and are quickly whisked away to the liver for a once-over, and to have their chemical passport stamped for entry into the countryside of your body. Metaphorically speaking.
Bottom line: if your liver starts to go sideways, it’s not a good thing.
Licorice Root, Vodka, And Liver Health
Can you imagine something like licorice working to heal your liver? Imagine it. Yes, more than just something to gnaw on at the movies, licorice is an actual herb; and a potent one in the battle against liver disease. Don’t believe me? Try to pronounce its taxonomic name. Glycyrrhiza glabra. There, you see?
Another group of 6 people also drank vodka for 12 nights, but without the accompanying glycyrrhizin. In just this short 12 day span, this second “vodka-only” group developed measurable liver damage markers. In the glycyrrhizin group, the liver damage markers were notably miniscule.
This and other studies suggest that glycyrrhizin is a hepato-protective compound that helps protect, to some significant degree, against alcohol-related liver damage.
Astragalus and Liver Health
Yes, astragalus. Astragalus is an herb, and a familiar one to practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine. Now Western Science is confirming in controlled studies what traditional cultures have known through daily use of these herbs for centuries.
Astralagus may help protect against liver fibrosis, as well as the lethal “fatty liver” produced by an ill-advised high fat diet, and has even demonstrated in clinical studies a positive effect on cirrhosis itself, often regarded as a later-stage of irreparable liver failure.
Garlic and Liver Health
Garlic. Is it an herb? Nope. You caught us. Garlic is a vegetable, a delicious addition to almost any recipe, and historically one of the chief reasons we are ghosted after a first date. It is a pungent little veggie. But Garlic is also overloaded with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant plant stuff that may help support a healthy liver.
Another study involving some 24,000 adults found that men who consumed raw garlic more than 7 times per week reduced their risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) by a whopping 29%. [For some reason these dramatic results were not present in their female counterparts in the study].
Yet another large study linked the consumption of raw garlic twice a week to a measurable lowering of liver cancer risk (compared with consuming raw garlic less than twice per week). It should be noted that raw garlic is generally considered safe, but highly concentrated garlic supplements may induce liver injury in some people.
Selenium and Liver Health
Yes, you caught us. Again. Don't get all snarky about it. Selenium is less an herb than an element on the periodic table, and a trace element at that — an element that even in miniscule quantities has a substantial effect on a living organism. Selenium’s effects on the liver are so notable we thought it best to sneak it in here. Selenium’s greatest contribution to liver health? Selenium’s glutathione, of course. As one might guess from the naming similarity, glutathione is a co-factor of glutathione peroxidase; and glutathione peroxidase is your liver’s antioxidant private nurse.
detailed x-ray of your liver on a good day
Glutathione is an abundant antioxidant — so abundant it's been given the unofficial nickname The Master Antioxidant. (Yes, even enzymatic co-factors have egos). Glutathione is a prime catalyst for glutathione peroxidase, the “intracellular antioxidant enzyme” that performs repair work on both the “fatty liver” (hepatic steatosis) and the alcoholic liver. Selenium’s glutathione is its weapon against liver damage, as demonstrated in a 2017 study.
Liver and Let Live
Your liver is the second largest organ in your body — though it should be said that constantly comparing your organs for size only makes them self-conscious. Nobody wants a preening spleen, for instance. So treat your liver well. It’s one of the few things that stands between you and a body run amok with toxins.
Oh, and try not to think about what your liver looks like. It'll only upset you.