Keeping the liver healthy with milk thistle, dandelion, and other medicinal herbs

The liver is responsible for renewing and revitalizing the human body. It is a complex organ that serves as the body's major blood reservoir, filtering out toxins at a rate of one quart of blood per minute. The liver manufactures bile that digests fats and prevents constipation, metabolizes proteins and carbohydrates, and secretes important hormones and enzymes.

When experiencing liver problems, try herbs like milk thistle seed, dandelion, and yellowroot. These herbs act on the liver to help it function properly.

Family exercising on the beach
© Pavel Losevsky | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The whole family can benefit from jogging on the beach. Running, swimming, and other exercises help keep the body and the liver in top shape.

In today's society, liver congestion is a common health problem. Herbs can help!

There are many causes of liver malfunction including pollution, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, poor diet, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, overeating, stress, hepatitis, inactive lifestyle, and long term use of antibiotics and tranquilizers.

Toxins weaken the liver.

Most Americans have weak livers due to the constant assault of toxins from food and water supplies. Thank God the liver can rejuvenate itself and continues to function even when eighty percent of its cells are damaged.

Symptoms of poor liver function

Symptoms of poor liver function include a tendency for constipation, alternating with diarrhea, a sluggish system, abdominal bloating, menstrual disorders, itchy palms, unexplained skin problems, bags under the eyes, inflamed eyes, depression, anemia, unexplained weight gain, poor digestion, food allergies, nausea, dizziness, dry tongue, jaundiced skin, and liver spots (dark areas on the skin).

Keep liver healthy by getting daily exercise.

A healthy liver depends on a healthy diet and exercise. Low fat foods with high fiber, lots of vegetables, plenty of fresh fruits, potassium rich foods like greens, enzyme rich foods like yogurt and sauerkraut, and sulfur rich foods like onions and garlic will help ensure a healthy liver. The liver also needs lots of oxygen so daily exercise and fresh, clean air are essential.

Dandelion, milk thistle, and yellowroot are good liver tonics.

There are two north Georgia plants that are especially suited for treating liver problems. Yellowroot and dandelion make a powerful blend that restores liver function, promotes bile flow, and acts like a gentle laxative. Milk thistle seed is also known as a liver tonic.

Yellowroot and dandelion spring tonic

The Cherokee Indians and early settlers prepared “yeller" root and dandelion spring tonic for curing the body of “winter blues.” This strong tea was known to boost energy and improve overall health.

Use medicinal herbs to improve liver function.

Other herbs that improve liver function and gallbladder health are turmeric, chamomile, cardamom, burdock root, vervain, barberry, licorice, barley grass, ginger, ginkgo biloba, garlic, yellow dock, ginseng, alfalfa, astragalus, evening primrose, and fennel seed.

Use bergamot essential oil when treating Fatty Liver Disease

Bergamot essential oil has been shown to lower cholesterol and help the liver recover from fatty liver disease. This is really good news! Use bergamot in aromatherapy, massage oils, and other herbal products.

Detox with a 24 hour cleanse to promote liver health.

Sometimes the liver needs to be detoxified. A three day detoxification process is recommended for anyone that wants to experience better health. Start off each morning with a large glass of water and lemon juice. Throughout the day, drink herbal teas, green drinks, vegetable juices, and snack on fresh fruits. Fresh veggies (especially organic artichokes), bean sprouts, tofu, whole grains, wheat germ, and brewer's yeast should be consumed at meal times. Cut out sugar, meat, dairy products, all forms of tobacco, and alcohol during the liver cleanse. If not a three day cleanse, then at least do a 24 detox and colon cleanse every few months.

Take Milk Thistle Seed to cleanse the liver.

During a liver cleanse, consider taking vitamin C and potassium supplements. Royal jelly and milk thistle seed also help cleanse and protect the liver (milk thistle seeds stimulate production of new liver cells to replace old damaged ones).

Tips for using milk thistle seeds in herbal medicine and home remedies

Use milk thistle seeds in the treatment of liver disease. Milk thistle seeds, when taken on a regular basis, are known to protect the liver and help it heal. The little black seeds are often used in the treatment of cirrhosis and the treatment of hepatitis. They can help heal damage done to the liver by heavy drinking, toxic chemicals, and heavy metals. Milk thistle seeds are also used in the treatment of gallstones, psoriasis, acne, high cholesterol, kidney problems, spleen malfunction, and mushroom poisoning.

Man drinking beer - too much alcohol can damage the liver.
© Photoeuphoria | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Milk thistle seed can help heal liver damage caused by heavy drinking.

Also use milk thistle seeds to relieve constipation.

Milk thistle seeds make a gentle and effective laxative. By increasing bile secretions in the intestinal tract, the bowels are lubricated and the stools are softened. Regular use of milk thistle seeds can actually balance individuals that tend to alternate between diarrhea and constipation. When diarrhea is present, combine milk thistle seeds with dandelion root for best results.

Milk thistle seeds are strong antioxidants.

Milk thistle seeds have antioxidant properties that are many times stronger than vitamin E. These antioxidants encourage liver cell renewal and help repair damage from degenerative conditions related to alcoholism. This very useful herb is known to contain silymarin, a biochemical believed to heal the liver in just 8 to 16 weeks. Take one or two teaspoons of the ground seeds three or four times a day for best results. After 8 or 10 weeks, reduce amount to ½ teaspoon three times a day. The ground seeds may also be made into tea but potency is reduced.

A healthy liver means beautiful skin.

By improving liver function, milk thistle seeds help clear up the skin. When the liver is working properly, the blood is cleansed, and the complexion takes on a healthy glow. Being a demulcent, milk thistle seeds can soften the skin and help heal acne, skin problems like eczema, redness and dry, cracking lips from the inside out.

Milk thistle seeds can help heal bladder irritations.

Milk thistle seeds can soothe and moisten the mucus membranes. Regular use can help speed the healing of kidney infections, bladder irritations, and other inflammations.

Milk thistle has a long history in herbal medicine.

Milk thistle has been used medicinally (and as a vegetable) for over 2000 years. It goes by many names including bull thistle, holy thistle, royal thistle, and prickly thistle.

MIlk thistle grows wild in most areas.

Milk thistle is found growing wild on roadsides, along fence lines, and in pastures. Native to the Mediterranean, the plant now grows wild all over the world and is sometimes considered to be an invasive weed.

The milk thistle plant is easy to spot.

Milk thistle grows up to eight feet tall and usually bears several large pink flowers on branching stems during the summer. The leaves are wide with white patches or veins. The milk thistle plant prefers a dry, sunny location and is easy to grow. Harvest seed pods in fall, dry, and remove the seeds for later use in home remedies. Dried leaves and roots, although less potent, may be substituted for milk thistle seeds.

Visit Permaculture Magazine to learn more about using thistles as a food.

Thistle grows wild on Payne Mountain Farms
Thistle grows wild on Payne Mountain Farms - Photo by Janice Boling

Tips for using dandelion in herbal medicine and home remedies

Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale) is a medicinal herb with many uses including spring tonics and herbal teas. Dandelions really put on a show during spring when yellow dandelion blooms pop up in lawns all over America. People rush out to apply herbicide or spend hours digging them out by hand, not realizing what a useful plant they are killing. Many gardeners consider the colorful dandelion an invasive weed. Actually dandelion plants make powerful spring tonics and the leaves and roots are excellent medicinal herbs. The leaves also makes a fine tasting green like mustard or turnip.

Dandelion is a liver stimulant.

Dandelion is a strong diuretic and liver stimulant. Dandelion cleanses the liver, stimulates bile flow, and aids in fat digestion. It contains strong antioxidants that help the body get rid of toxins.

Dandelion, Natures Hard Worker with Herbal Guest Dr. Terry Willard Ph.D.

Herbal Jedi and his dad tell us all about dandelion in the following video:

Use dandelion in spring tonics.

When the old timers made spring tonics the main ingredient was dandelion. It restored the system after months of winter weather, wood smoke, colds, and lack of fresh vegetables in the diet. Dandelion is a great herb for treating depression due to winter blues, suppressed anger, or disappointment. Put in one tablespoon of chopped root per cup of boiling water and steep for thirty minutes. Strain and sip 2 or 3 cups a day for one week.

Dandelion is full of potassium and minerals.

Dandelion roots contain detoxifiers that clean out various body poisons associated with constipation, joint inflammation, gout, skin problems like acne, fluid retention, and urinary disorders. Dandelion root tea is a favorite liver stimulant in many rural areas and has even been used to treat addiction and alcoholism. Dandelion root tincture was once given to patients with failing hearts to ensure adequate potassium intake. Dandelions are one of the richest sources of potassium known to man. Dandelion leaves also contain high concentrations of calcium, iron, silicon, magnesium, zinc, manganese, and Vitamins A, D, C, B, and K.

Eat dandelions raw or cook like spinach.

The leaves can be eaten raw in tossed salads. To serve as a side dish, just gather the leaves, wash well, remove the stems and bitter main veins, simmer gently until tender, salt and pepper to taste, and add a little olive oil or butter. They are excellent when picked young in early spring. Roots are gathered in the fall and prepared like potatoes. Just scrape, slice and boil. Dandelion flowers can be used as a colorful addition to salads, lemon aide, and punch. The flowers also make a good-tasting, potent wine.

Two people in a field of dandelions
© Melinda Nagy | Dreamstime Stock Photos

This couple enjoys a whole field of dandelions. Dandelion flower, leaves, and roots are used in herbal medicine.

Use dandelion roots as a coffee substitute.

Dandelion is closely related to chicory (roots from both plants have been used like coffee). To prepare dandelion roots for a coffee substitute, roast once while whole and then roast again after grinding. Use 5-6 tablespoons of ground dandelion root to 2 or 3 cups boiling water. Steep one hour then reheat before serving.

The white sap from the dandelion stem can be used to remove warts (be careful to protect the surrounding skin before application of the corrosive sap). It will require repeated applications to get rid of your wart.

Dandelion plants grow in lawns, meadows, and fields.

Dandelion grows about 12 inches tall, producing spatula like leaves and yellow flowers that can bloom the year round. When the flower matures, it turns into a puff ball containing seeds that are scattered by the wind.

The liver is an amazing organ.

A healthy liver boosts immunity, neutralizes and destroys poisons, cleans the blood, discharges wastes, metabolizes fats and cholesterol, stores red blood cells, aids digestion, maintains hormonal balance, and regenerates its own damaged tissues. Who could ask for more?

* Milk Thistle seeds can cause mild diarrhea by stimulating the release of bile. This effect is most notable with a high-fat diet. Use dandelion with caution if you have gallbladder disease. Never use dandelion if you have an obstructed bile duct or ulcers. Always consult with a healthcare professional before using any herbal remedy especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking other medicines.

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Herb Articles by Janice Boling

"The best way to really learn about herbal medicine is to touch and smell different herbs, taste them, use them daily, and grow them if possible. Herbal medicine is a way of life. It is not a quick fix." Janice Boling -- herbalist, web designer, artist, and writer

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