The key to optimal health is optimal liver function. Responsible for detoxification and digestion, among many other tasks, the liver is the largest internal organ in the body (the skin is the largest organ overall). The liver is also one of the fastest growing organs in the body, and it can even regenerate itself after losing 75% of its own tissue. A healthy liver will promote quick healing of most any condition. This article, the second of a two-part series, will explore 5 lesser-known examples of natural foods that are known to cleanse and detoxify the liver.
Part II (Plants 6 – 10)
6) Club Moss (spore) – Lycopodium clavadum (Lycopodiaceae)
Club moss is an evergreen moss found mainly on mountains or in moorland in Europe and Russia. Gathered in summer, the moss and spores contain .1 to .2% alkaloids along with lycopodine, polyphenols, flavonoids and triterpenes. Used medicinally since the Middle Ages, club moss aids in the flushing of liver toxins and kidney stones. Club moss treats chronic urinary problems, indigestion and gastritis. The spores can be applied to the skin to relieve itching, especially that due to insect bites and eczema. The spores are also used to coat tablets since they are water resistant, and because they ignite explosively they are used in fireworks! Club moss is normally used in powdered capsule form, and a Chinese form was shown to improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s disease. Club moss has diuretic, antispasmodic and sedative properties. Caution: Club moss is potentially toxic in high doses. Do not take while pregnant. Use only under professional supervision.
7) German Chamomile (flower) Chamomilla recutita (Compositae)
German chamomile (similar to Roman chamomile) is an aromatic, slightly bitter flower that is familiar to tea drinkers. The medicinal uses, however, are not so well known. Chamomile contains the volatile oils proazulenes, farnesine, alpha-bisabolol and spiroether. Chamomile also contains the flavonoids anthemidin, luteolin and rutin, along with the bitter glycoside anthemic acid, coumarins and tannins. Used since the 1st century AD, chamomile is used to treat disorders of the liver, lung, skin and digestive tract. Chamomile helps relieve pain and nervous tension, and helps with auto-immune disorders such as Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Chamomile has anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and carminative properties.
8) Nettle (root) – Urtica dioica (Urticaceae)
Known as “stinging,” nettle is native to Africa, Australia and the Andes. The sting from nettle is caused by tiny hairs that contain histamine, serotonin and acetylcholine, which burn like poison ivy. The key uses for nettle are cleansing and detoxification, as it will encourage the elimination of waste products. Nettle increases urine production and also treats skin disorders such as eczema, as well as arthritis (often an indication of a sluggish liver). Nettle slows or stops nosebleeds and menstruation, treats allergies, and relieves hay fever and asthma. Nettle can be applied to insect bites to relieve itching, and nettle juice even treats the sting of nettle itself! Nettle has diuretic, astringent and anti-inflammatory properties.
9) Picrorrhiza (rhizome) – Picrorhiza Kurroa (Scrophulariaceae)
A perennial with elliptical leaves and spiked flowers, picrorrhiza is native to the mountains of Nepal, India and Tibet. The rhizome or picrorrhiza contains the bitter glycoside kutkin (containing picrosides I, II, III and kutkoside), cucurbitacins and apocynin (a powerful anti-inflammatory that reduces platelet aggregation). Used in Ayurvedic medicine since the earliest times, picrorrhiza induces the liver to produce bile. Used as the antidote to snake bite venom and to treat hepatitis, picrorrhiza is used as a bitter tonic and is similar to gentian (Gentiana lutea). Given for a wide range of liver or digestive troubles, picrorrhiza helps treat indigestion, ulcers, jaundice, cirrhosis, constipation, diarrhea, dysentery, asthma, infections, immune disorders, vertigo, psoriasis and auto-immune disease. Picrorrhiza helps kill parasites such as Lishmania donovani, which causes the tropical disease leishmaniasis. Picrorrhiza has anti-inflammatory properties. Caution: Professional supervision is recommended.
10) Schisandra (fruit) Schisandra chinensis (Schisandraceae)
One of the most popular tonic herbs in China (where it is known as wu wei zi) schisandra has protective effects on the liver, kidneys and sexual organs. It strengthens the nervous system, cleanses the blood and increases stamina. With a sour and salty taste, schisandra contains lignans, phytosterols and volatile oil, along with Vitamins C and E. The nearly 30 different lignans in schisandra have a pronounced anti-hepatotoxic (liver protective) action. A 1976 study showed it to be 76% effective in treating hepatitis with no side effects noted. Schisandra is also known to stimulate the nervous system, improve vision and hearing, treat depression, and mental illness, increase sex drive, and relieve diarrhea. Schisandra has both stimulant and sedative properties (adaptogenic).
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants – Dorling Kindersley and Andrew Chevallier
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