How Do Herbs Help Us Detoxify?
A toxin is something that places stress on the body - altering DNA, causing inflammation, damaging cells and encouraging disease states. Detoxification reduces the body’s overall stress load.
In herbal medicine, we have a large arsenal of plants which aid detoxification by stimulating the elimination of waste through the kidneys, the lymphatic system and colon. There are also fibre-rich herbs which can act like a sponge, attracting toxins and shuttling them out of the body. However, the most invaluable herbs for detoxification are those which enhance antioxidant processes in the liver.
The Liver Rocks Detoxification
The liver is where all chemical compounds are metabolized for safe transport out of the body - it is the great neutralizer of toxins and free radicals, which would otherwise damage cells, age the body, and cause disease. The liver performs this critical task with the help of cellular antioxidants like glutathione.
Glutathione is so important for humans, it is referred to as the ‘master antioxidant.’ It is the most abundant antioxidant in the body and can regenerate itself in the liver. Glutathione plays a vital role in protecting the body from oxidative stress but it can also be depleted through sustained levels of oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is a big feature of modern life with our high glycemic diets, grilled meats, fried foods, alcohol, NSAIDs and the hundreds of man-made chemicals that we are exposed to daily.
Medicinal herbs which target the liver increase glutathione levels by providing the critical building blocks needed for glutathione production in the body. They also increase total antioxidant levels which help to neutralize free radicals produced during the intermediate stages of liver detoxification.
Meet the Liver Herbs
Some of the most commonly used liver include:
· Milk Thistle
· Yellow Dock
Herbal medicine for the liver supports detoxification in two key ways:
1) They increase antioxidant status in the liver to enable the neutralization of toxins;
2) They facilitate the excretion of toxins through bile fluid as a carrier.
Herbs like Milk Thistle and Dandelion not only facilitate the crucial antioxidant stage of liver detoxification but they also stimulate the final excretion phase as well. Once a toxin has been made safe for transport it is released into the bile fluid and carried to the colon for excretion. The liver produces bile and the gall bladder stores and releases it.
Herbs which target the liver will also stimulate the bile flow from the gall bladder to the colon. For this reason, they are called ‘cholagogues’. Cholagogue herbs improve the digestion of fats, protect the body from lipid peroxidation and facilitate the removal of toxins from the liver after being neutralized.
Why Plant Antioxidants Are the Best
Plants don’t make antioxidants just for us! They make them to survive. In the process of breaking down H20 and C02, plants are exposed to the damaging effects of pure oxygen all the time. For this reason they have evolved highly sophisticated antioxidant responses.
Several recent reviews and meta-analyses have made it clear that antioxidants supplements made from isolated nutrients, like vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene, do not have the intended health benefits effects and under certain circumstances have adverse outcomes. It has also come to light that dietary antioxidants are poorly absorbed and have low bioavailability and researchers are still unclear of their benefits.
There are two reasons why medicinal herbs and spices have an edge over supplemental and food-based antioxidants:
· They contain the widest spectrum of antioxidants.
· They have a significantly higher content of antioxidants compared to all food groups, including fruits.
Herbal medicines provide the highest diversity of phytochemicals, which produce an array of therapeutic effects. We value the liver herbs in particular because they don’t just work on a single aspect of detoxification but enhance the detoxification process as a whole.