Medical Herbalism: Clinical Articles and Case Studies    

Search entire site by keyword(s)
Free electronic MH newsletter
Information on Distance Learning in Herbalism
Back to articles index page
Back to

Hepatic - Liver - Sluggish or damaged

by Sharol Tilgner

Medical Herbalism 12-31-93 5(4): 4

Sometimes the liver is damaged and needs nourishment and repair. At other times there can be sluggishness or congestion that has not yet damaged hepatocytes (primary liver cells). The types of herbs given in these two conditions are different. In the case of a liver that has damaged hepatocytes, it is usually inappropriate to give stimulating liver herbs. The correct approach is to give nourishing and healing herbs such as Silybum marianum (Milk Thistle), Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice), Curcuma longa (Turmeric). These are herbs that will gently repair the damage to the tissues, and build healthy new cells.

In a case where the liver is sluggish and needs a little nudge, you want to give herbs which will stimulate the liver and gall bladder as well as the other digestive organs. These herbs are almost always bitter. They range from mild-acting herbs such as Taraxacum officinalis (Dandelion), Arctium lappa (Burdock), and Cynara scolymus (Artichoke), to the stronger actions of Berberis spp. (Oregon Grape or barberry), Rumex obtusifolius or crispus (yellow dock), and Chelidonium majus (Celandine). The strength of the herbal action can often be gauged by how bitter the plant tastes. All bitter plants will stimulate the liver.

One side note should be addressed. The liver makes bile and the gall bladder stores bile, releasing it as it is needed to digest lipids. Be careful there is no blockage in the gall bladder or biliary ducts. In that case, stimulating the liver can increase bile production, causing discomfort and a possible medical emergency due to gallstones in your patient.
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    177