Liver detoxification is, without a doubt, one of the most important functions carried out by the liver to guarantee health. Through this process, it is responsible for metabolising and eliminating both endogenous toxins (those produced by the organism) and exogenous toxins or xenobiotics (those that come from outside). (1)
This process, which is carried out in two phases, prevents liver detoxification or, in other words, any type of damage to this organ. If detoxification is not carried out properly, the levels of toxins in the body will normally increase, with the consequent damage to health. (2) The negative effects include inflammation, tiredness, fatigue and muscle pain, and can even lead to diseases such as hepatitis (3).
To avoid this problem, a healthy lifestyle is essential. This means eating a varied and balanced diet, exercising regularly, drinking enough water and, of course, avoiding alcohol and other harmful substances as much as possible. In addition to all this, there are certain ingredients that can support the detoxification process in order to ensure the health and proper functioning of this organ, as well as the rest of the body (4)
What ingredients can contribute to proper liver detoxification?
Nature provides numerous plants with depurative and hepatoprotective properties that can be an excellent complement to a healthy lifestyle. Through these natural supplements, interesting benefits can be obtained in the prevention of liver diseases.
Here are some nutrients and extracts of natural origin and what they can do for liver health:
Kutkin (Picrorhiza Kurroa).
Kutkin, also known as katuka, is a traditional hepatoprotective herb of Indian origin. It is noted for its digestive, purifying and anti-inflammatory properties. (5) It also activates the body’s defences to protect the organism from external pathogens.
It is worth mentioning that there is scientific evidence, proven in animal models, of its ability to reduce liver damage caused by paracetamol and substances such as galactosamine, thioacetamide and carbon tetrachloride. (6)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
This herbaceous plant is typical of Spanish vegetation and is widely used as a food. In terms of its liver-friendly medicinal applications, it has the following effects:
- It stabilises the pH of the stomach and improves the intestinal tract.
- It has depurative, diuretic and choleretic functions. It can therefore help to reduce the chances of kidney stones and gallstones.
- It protects the liver and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. This is very useful in preventing the oxidative stress that occurs in phase I of detoxification. (7)
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)
Silymarin is a flavonoid complex present in this plant. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory, anti-fibrotic and antioxidant effects, it has been used successfully in the treatment of diseases such as acute viral hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and other problems caused by the action of toxins. It also has choleretic and cholagogue properties that facilitate the digestive process and purification of the organism (8)
Artichoke (Cynara scolymus)
This crop plant contains cynarin and flavonoids, two substances with interesting antioxidant and hepatoprotective properties. They serve to neutralise the action of free radicals in the process of lipid peroxidation, as well as promoting the activity of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase. This enzyme is responsible for protecting the body from degradation by endogenous hydroperoxides (9)
Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)
This shrub is known for its strong liver-purifying action and its high levels of phytosterols and antioxidants (mainly vitamin C and E). It also contains hepatoprotective properties due to lignans, secondary metabolites present in the schisandra fruit, which are normally used to regenerate damaged tissues and detoxify the body. They are therefore suitable in cases of cirrhosis of the liver or chronic hepatitis (10)
Desmodium (Desmodium adscendens)
This is an herbaceous plant from tropical and subtropical regions whose main active ingredients are anthocyanins, saponins, flavonoids and alkaloids. It has anti-inflammatory, depurative, antioxidant and even anti-allergic effects. Because of this, it has the ability to repair liver cells and regulate transaminase levels (11)
Yasra gumba (Cordyceps sinensis)
This Tibetan mushroom has hepatic properties that are widely known in Ayurvedic medicine. It is anti-fibrotic and acts to protect cells from liver damage. Studies carried out with yasra gumba show its usefulness in the treatment of liver fibrosis. It is also an agent in the prevention of portal vein hypertension, a complication associated with cirrhosis (12)
During the first phase of enzymatic detoxification, this essential nutrient is indispensable for the proper functioning of the enzymes involved in this phase. Beyond this important function, there are also indications that a choline-deficient diet may increase the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This condition is quite common, particularly in patients with obesity (13)
This trace element is a powerful antioxidant that activates phase II enzymatic destruction. It acts as a cofactor in glutathione synthesis and is able to control oxidative stress. In addition, one of the enzymes in selenium is involved in the reduction of oxidised glutathione arising from the liver detoxification process. (14)
Molybdenum is an essential mineral with the ability to accelerate detoxification processes linked to the metabolism of drugs, alcohol and other toxins (15)
In conclusion, a liver protector containing all the ingredients described above is a good way to contribute to the care of this organ. It also helps to address potential liver detoxification difficulties from a natural approach, an indispensable function for the elimination of toxins from the body. Finally, the role of the liver in the proper functioning of the rest of the body and its importance for good health and quality of life must be emphasized.
- Guan, Y. S., & He, Q. (2015). Plants consumption and liver health. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015.
- Suárez Cunza, S. (1995). Detoxificación hepática y defensa antioxidante por efecto de xenobióticos alimentarios.
- Tejada Cifuentes, F. (2010). Hepatotoxicidad por fármacos. Revista Clínica de Medicina de Familia, 3(3), 177-191.
- Accame, M. E. C. (2015). Medicina Oriental: plantas medicinales del género Pueraria (I). Panorama actual del medicamento, 39(384), 536-540.
- Verma, P. C., Basu, V., Gupta, V., Saxena, G., & Ur Rahman, L. (2009). Pharmacology and chemistry of a potent hepatoprotective compound Picroliv isolated from the roots and rhizomes of Picrorhiza kurroa royle ex benth. (kutki). Current pharmaceutical biotechnology, 10(6), 641-649.
- Vaidya, A. B., Antarkar, D. S., Doshi, J. C., Bhatt, A. D., Ramesh, V. V., Vora, P. V., … & Kale, P. M. (1996). Picrorhiza kurroa (Kutaki) Royle ex Benth as a hepatoprotective agent–experimental & clinical studies. Journal of Postgraduate Medicine, 42(4), 105.
- Devaraj, E. (2016). Hepatoprotective properties of Dandelion: recent update. Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science, 6(4), 202-205.
- Abenavoli, L., Capasso, R., Milic, N., & Capasso, F. (2010). Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future. Phytotherapy Research, 24(10), 1423-1432.
- Colak, E., Ustuner, M. C., Tekin, N., Colak, E., Burukoglu, D., Degirmenci, I., & Gunes, H. V. (2016). The hepatocurative effects of Cynara scolymus L. leaf extract on carbon tetrachloride-induced oxidative stress and hepatic injury in rats. SpringerPlus, 5(1), 1-9.
- Yuan, R., Tao, X., Liang, S., Pan, Y., He, L., Sun, J., … & Wang, C. (2018). Protective effect of acidic polysaccharide from Schisandra chinensis on acute ethanol-induced liver injury through reducing CYP2E1-dependent oxidative stress. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, 99, 537-542.
- François, C., Fares, M., Baiocchi, C., & Maixent, J. M. (2015). Safety of Desmodium adscendens extract on hepatocytes and renal cells. Protective effect against oxidative stress. Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmacology, 4(1), 1.
- Liu, Y. K., & Shen, W. (2003). Inhibitive effect of Cordyceps sinensis on experimental hepatic fibrosis and its possible mechanism. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 9(3), 529.
- Ayala, I., Cámara, P., & Fernández-Pardo, J. (2008). Modelos animales experimentales de enfermedad de hígado graso y síndrome metabólico. In Anales de veterinaria de Murcia (Vol. 24).
- Diamond, A. M. (2015). The subcellular location of selenoproteins and the impact on their function. Nutrients, 7(5), 3938-3948.
- Pérez-González, A., Gómez-Peralta, J. I., Garza-Ortiz, A., & Barba-Behrens, N. (2012). Importancia del molibdeno en los sistemas biológicos y su papel en enzimas mononucleares como parte del cofactor Moco. Educación química, 23(1), 24-33.