Top 7 Herbs for Cleansing the Liver and Kidneys
The human body is a complex and fascinating organism, made up of numerous systems that all work together in perfect balance. This magnificent body of ours allows us to experience life, to enjoy the beauty of the earth, and to explore the many wonders of the world—but it needs to be taken good care of if we wish to live a long and happy life.
As caretakers of our bodies, the more we understand the body—what it needs, what harms it, and what keeps us healthy—the better we will be able to support this body in caring for us too. Many of us take this body of ours for granted, and oftentimes, as the historian Thomas Fuller said, “health is not valued till sickness comes.”
The sooner we value our health and really appreciate this body, the sooner we can start taking proactive measures to preserve and improve our health, not just so we can live until our later years, but so we can have a better quality of life each and every day that we are alive.
One of the essential ways of maintaining our health is through keeping our body and our blood free of toxins.
What Are Toxins?
Simply put, a toxin is a chemical substance which damages an organism. This can range from something as simple as an ion or atom which negatively interferes with a cell, to complex molecules such as the proteins found in snake venom.
Interestingly, in toxicology, a central motto is that “all substances are toxic, it is only the dose which matters.” This fact can be demonstrated with water and oxygen—both substances are normally good and considered beneficial for all forms of life, but if your body holds too much water, your individual cells will not be able to operate efficiently and your body will slowly “drown”, even if you aren’t submerged in water, and oxygen can be fatal at certain pressures. So, even less harmful or perhaps beneficial substances can be considered toxic if the amount of the substance is damaging to the body.
Generally, the toxins that are of most concern to our health are environmental toxins that are ingested from the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, the beauty, hygiene and cleaning products we use, and other toxins that are found in our environment.
While food, water, and air are obviously essential for life, they can either be the greatest contributors to our health, or the greatest contributors to our sickness depending on the quantity and quality of these substances that we consume. For example, eating food grown with toxic pesticides, containing parasites, filled with chemical additives and preservatives, or drinking water containing chlorine and heavy metal particles, or breathing air with chemical fumes, industrial pollution, or mold spores can all lead to ill-health—especially if these toxins accumulate in the body over time.
We can take many measures to avoid toxic exposure—such as eating organically grown foods, drinking purified water, investing in high-quality air filters and shower filters, using natural beauty and cleaning products, and avoiding toxic environments—but there are also many sources of toxins that we simply cannot always avoid. We live in an increasingly toxic world, where air pollution, chemicals in food and water, and toxins in our everyday environments are always affecting us. We can’t always avoid these toxins, but we can take proactive measures to eliminate toxic build up in our bodies—and this is one of the most important steps we can take for our health, as it is really the accumulation of toxins that slowly degrades our health.
How Do We Remove Toxins from the Body?
We all have what is referred to as a toxic load. The toxic load is simply the accumulation of toxins and chemicals in our bodies that we ingest from a variety of sources, including the environment, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the personal care and household products we use. Everyone’s toxic load is different based on their own lifestyle and the substances they are exposed to in their environment.
A key to staying healthy is to keep our toxic load low, and this is done by avoiding toxic exposure in the first place, and regularly detoxing toxins from our body. Thankfully, your body already has a system to take care of the detox process and remove waste from the blood, namely the organs of the liver and the kidneys.
The liver is the body’s largest internal organ, and is found in the upper right part of the abdomen. It performs over 500 tasks for the body, including converting food into energy, and converting toxins, like alcohol, harmful metals, and medications, into harmless substances to be removed from the body.
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs responsible for filtering the blood and removing waste.
The liver and kidneys do us a great service in purifying our bodies of toxins—but this important task takes a toll on these organs. When the liver and kidneys are overworked, they may begin to function less optimally, and as a result, they don’t do as good a job at removing toxins from the body.
In order to support these important organs in the work that they do, we have to keep them healthy and enhance their function so they can continue to detoxify the body. Some of the main ways to do this are through our lifestyle, such as:
- Limiting toxic exposure
- Drinking plenty of water
- Eating a healthy and natural diet
- Exercising regularly
- Getting adequate sleep
- Reducing stress
There are also certain herbs that have an incredible ability to improve liver and kidney health. Incorporating these herbs into your life, and periodically cleansing with them, is a great way to detoxify the body of built-up toxins, and to help restore and improve liver and kidney health and function so that these important organs can continue to do their vital tasks.
Top 7 Herbs for Detoxifying the Liver & Kidneys
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) is an annual or biennial plant of the family Asteraceae. It is originally native to Southern Europe and Asia, but it is now found throughout the world and has red to purple flowers and shiny pale green leaves with white veins.
Milk Thistle has been used medicinally for thousands of years, with evidence of its use for the liver as far back as the first-century. The active ingredient in milk thistle that is said to be responsible for its many health benefits is called silymarin—a compound usually extracted from milk thistle seeds.
Clinical data on silymarin indicates that it can reduce oxidative stress and consequent cytotoxicity, thereby protecting intact liver cells or cells not yet irreversibly damaged. Silymarin also acts as a free radical scavenger and modulates enzymes associated with the development of cellular damage, fibrosis and cirrhosis. These hepatoprotective (liver protective) effects were observed in clinical studies in patients with alcoholic or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, including patients with cirrhosis (a late stage of scarring (fibrosis) of the liver caused by many forms of liver diseases and conditions).
Silymarin can also help kidney tissue recuperate faster when it’s been exposed to damaging chemicals. Milk thistle is also full of antioxidants and contains beneficial flavonoids that help your body to produce its own powerful antioxidants such as glutathione, superoxide dismutase, and catalase. Milk thistle also reduces inflammation in the kidneys.
Known to most people as a common weed, dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is actually a very nutritious and medicinal plant. It contains numerous compounds that are beneficial to the health of the body, including the liver and kidneys.
Dandelion root has long been held as a liver tonic in folk medicine, and numerous studies have verified this traditional use. One 2017 shows that the polysaccharides in dandelion are responsible for many of its benefits to liver function.
Dandelion is also a diuretic herb. Diuretics help rid your body of salt (sodium) and water, and help the kidneys release more sodium into your urine. The sodium takes with it water from your blood, decreasing the amount of fluid flowing through your veins and arteries. Diuretics are often used in cases of kidney failure and in patients with chronic kidney disease and they also help to control potassium levels in people with elevated potassium levels.
Many people are familiar with parsley (Petroselinum crispum) as a common culinary herb, but not everyone is aware of the beneficial effects parsley has on the liver and kidneys. Parsley has long been used as one of the primary herbs for many kidney issues. A study in rats with kidney stones found that those treated with parsley had decreased urinary calcium and protein excretion, as well as increased urinary pH and urination compared to a control group. Parsley has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties due to its antioxidants, including flavonoids, carotenoids, and vitamin C, and may also help keep your kidneys healthy by reducing high blood pressure, a major risk factor for kidney disease.
Parsley has also been used as a remedy for the liver, and studies in rats with diabetes found that parsley extract prevents liver damage, enhance liver function, and boost antioxidant levels.
Marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis) is a popular medicinal herb that has been used for many different conditions, including coughs, skin irritation, and digestive problems, such as ulcers. It also offers many benefits to both kidney and liver health.
Marshmallow root has the potential to act as a diuretic. Diuretics help the body to flush out excess fluid. This helps to cleanse the kidneys and the bladder.
Marshmallow root also contains polysaccharides that help with wound healing because of their high antioxidant capacity. Marshmallow root acts to soothe the damage that is caused to the bile ducts in the liver, and actually stimulates the production of epithelial cells that line the inside of your organs and ducts.
Burdock root (Arctium lappa) has been used for centuries to detoxify the liver and blood. A 2002 study of rats found that burdock root herb can help reverse liver damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Burdock root also contains antioxidants that help to reduce inflammation associated with certain liver diseases.
Burdock root is also a natural diuretic, so through burdock consumption, you can naturally and easily help your body to eliminate excess water by increasing urine output, and thus reducing the risk of kidney stones and improving kidney health. A study in mice also found that burdock restored kidney damage and had a therapeutic effect on the kidneys.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is a very popular and fragrant tea that many enjoy as a soothing and relaxing beverage. It also offers many health benefits, including benefits to the kidneys and liver. Drinking chamomile tea daily with meals may help prevent the complications of diabetes, which include loss of vision, nerve damage, and kidney damage, researchers in Japan and the United Kingdom are reporting.
Chamomile is also mildly bitter due to its sesquiterpene lactone content which stimulates bile production and helps the liver prime its detoxification pathways.
Olive leaf also offers benefits to kidney health. In one randomized double-blind placebo controlled clinical trial including 60 hypertensive patients, aged 30-60 years old, it was found that olive leaf extract significantly reduced inflammation and improved liver and kidney health.
Another study on mice found that olive leaf extract triggered a decrease in weight compared to a control group. The extract also influenced beneficial changes in the kidney tissues of pregnant mice and their fetuses.
The human body is very unique, and we are all fortunate to have a body that allows us to experience the world. This body of ours needs to be taken good care of if we wish to live quality lives well into our later years. In our modern world, it is of even greater importance than ever before to be proactive about our health.
One of the biggest hindrances to health is the accumulation of toxins in the body. We have organs and organ systems dedicated to eliminating these toxins, but if overloaded, these organs can be limited in their function, and our health suffers as a result. One thing we can do to support the detoxification of toxins from the body is to support, detoxify, and regenerate these important detoxification organs—namely the liver and kidneys.
Dietary and lifestyle practices are important considerations for kidney and liver health, but there are also many herbs that we can incorporate into our lives that work specifically on these organs. They do this because of unique biochemical compounds contained within these herbs that act specifically on these organs of detoxification. Informing yourself about these important herbs and the effects they have can be a great way to empower yourself to take control of your health, so you can live a long and healthy life.
You can also learn more specific ways to detox the body (link article) as well as cleanse your liver with our liver detox formula (link product), a powerful tonic that detoxifies and regenerates the liver using wildcrafted and organically grown herbs, synergistically formulated by our team of master herbalists for optimal effectiveness.