Virginia Ahearn, B.S. CPM PCDCertified Professional Midwife • Practitioner of Herbal Medicine • Certified Postpartum Doula
Herbal Cleanses? Liver Cleanses? What you Need to Know-Part I
We hear about ‘herbal cleansing’, ‘spring cleanse’ and ‘liver cleansing’ often. There are products on the market with all kinds of claims, sometimes about weight loss, sometimes about boosting energy, sometimes about liver cleansing and ‘detoxing’. Does any of it help? Which herbs are best to take?
I will start by talking about what the liver does and why we might want to ‘detox’. The liver is rather amazing, it processes and ‘takes apart’ or de-activates chemicals, excess hormones, pharmaceutical products, and much more. It is the organ that ‘catches’ anything that shouldn’t go down any further, sending it through the blood stream, or kidneys to circulate it out of the body.
It is possible for the liver to get bogged down and backed up with all it’s jobs, especially if you eat lots of fatty foods, take lots of medications, work or live in a place with lots of chemicals, drink lots of alcohol. What the liver needs is support to be healthy and to get its work done.
Our western culture has a fascination with ‘getting the bad stuff’ out of our systems, and a lot of folks like to do it aggressively. Many think that the best cleansing is through our digestive system, that we can just poop all this bad stuff out. While most of us could use liver support, we don’t necessarily need intense cleanses. I think we believe if we ‘clean out all the toxins’ that we can then ‘start fresh’, that it will make us feel so much better we will be bounding with energy. It IS an alluring idea.
Well, we CAN feel better and be bounding with energy, it is probably a different approach than with a ‘cleanse’.
Here is the deal: Most of us in this culture are exhausted. Our systems are stressed, tired, and the fatigue we are feeling is more from lack of rest and too much stress, than from ‘toxicity’. We need to nourish and support our livers, not try to get them to expel all these toxins we think we have. While some of these nourishing herbs WILL help the liver be more efficient, we don’t need to take an herbal ‘Drano’ to feel better. Unless you are eating tons of fried foods, never exercising or getting outdoors, not drinking enough water or eating enough green veggies, working around smog, exhaust fumes or other environmental toxins, you probably don’t need a ‘cleanse’. You probably could use some routine nourishing liver and nervous system herbs, and maybe some herbs for your lymphatic system.
What most of us REALLY need though, is more rest and less stress. Even more rest and less stress will help the liver to function more optimally. I will write about stress hormones, and rest, and it’s relation to the liver in the next segment, and will close this segment with one of my favorite herbs for the liver that just about everyone can benefit from.
Dandelion Root-this earthy tasting and slightly bitter root helps nourish and support the liver, and all digestive processes, by increasing bile production (something you need to help digestion). It helps balance blood sugar, helping reduce the high and low swings some of us have. It helps increase our body’s ability to absorb nutrients from our food! It can reduce sugar cravings, in fact, all bitter herbs and foods will do this. As soon as the bitter taste hits our tongue, our digestive juices start flowing. It is great to take dandelion root-or any bitter- 15 or so minutes before a meal. You can take the tea by simmering dried root for about 15 minutes. Use about 2-3 teaspoons per 16 oz of water. Drink 2-3 ounces at a time. Or you can take the tincture.
Remember-you have to taste the bitter taste-you cannot sweeten it or take a capsule of ground up dandelion. The bitter is a big part of the medicine!
Feedback welcome on this article! Thank you for reading!