written by Andrea Jorgensen
The liver’s function in our body is vital. A healthy liver means a body that can channel elimination properly and stay healthy. The liver has multiple functions including producing the chemicals for the body to function normally, it breaks down and detoxifies substances in the body and works as the body’s storage unit. It makes bile that aids in food digestion and plays an important role in detoxifying the body. In addition, the liver breaks down insulin, medications, and drugs.
With the nature of our modern lives, it is easy for the liver to get overworked, stagnant, in a state of disease or, in extreme cases, fail -resulting in death. As always though, the plants are our allies and are packed full of actions and medicine to support our bodies with tissue regeneration on the cellular level and when taken tonically, they can protect the tissues from further toxic environmental exposure and damage.
As a new herbalist, I have so much to learn every day. While diving deep into the herbs included in our Liver Life formula, the role of the plants, Milk Thistle in particular, began speaking to me and to the wounding/trauma I experienced 20 years ago, as a 9 year old, and am facing now. The trauma I speak of involves a dis-eased liver that did not get the chance to recover. But more on that later.
Our Liver Life Formula contains four ingredients: Dandelion, Burdock, Yellow dock and Milk Thistle. Here is a rundown of each of those plants, what gifts they offer and what medicine they bring to the table.
Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, is an abundant plant. All of the plant is medicinal from the roots to the arial parts. It is resilient in its capacity to grow under almost any circumstances and environment. It is vitamin rich and contains vitamins A, B, C and D and the minerals Iron, Manganese, Magnesium and Potassium. It is diuretic, but unusual in being a diuretic that it does not deplete the body’s potassium supply. Since it contains the mineral Potassium abundantly, it counteracts the diuretic loss of this mineral. Dandelion is bitter, detoxifying to the liver, hepatic (which means that in may tone, strengthen and, in some cases, increase the flow of bile) and helpful for inflammation and congestion of the liver and gall bladder. In addition, Dandelion helps to protect the liver cells from damage due to alcohol and chemotherapy drugs.
Next, we have Burdock, Arctium lappa. In general, Burdock offers excellent liver support. It also helps with skin imbalances such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis through the action of blood cleansing alterative. Burdock can help with digestion and appetite as it stimulates digestive juice secretion. Burdock moves the gastrointestinal tract into health, healing the body from the inside out and improving indicators of systemic imbalance such as psoriasis and dandruff. It also can be added to meals and is a staple in Chinese cuisine. The roots are added to a salad in Japan which is made similar to coleslaw. Also, fresh roots can be added to a simple stir fry with other vegetables.
The third addition to this formula is Yellow dock, Rumex crispus. Yellow dock is a strong addition to the formula. It is blood cleansing and is a digestive aid. The root is used for skin condition support, especially to those experiencing chronic psoriasis. Yellow dock is a general tonic (mean it's safe to take over a long period of time), alterative (mean it can stimulate the elimination channels of the body) and has special influence on skin imbalances.
Finally, included is Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum. Milk Thistle is hepatoprotectant, meaning it protects the liver and its functions from stress and disease. Milk Thistle counteracts liver damage caused by effects of cumulative pharmaceutical drugs and has low herb drug interactions, which means it is safe to take while on other medications. The constituents of Milk Thistle protect liver cells from chemical damage and can restore liver function impaired by disease ( such as viral hepatitis) or exposure to toxins (such as ethanol, mushroom toxins, chemotherapy drugs, solvents, and psychotropic medications). It is wildly effective in the case of the need for extreme liver support, which can include toxic or metabolic liver disease (source as drugs and alcohol included), acute viral hepatitis, chronic-persistent hepatitis, chronic-aggressive hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver and fatty degeneration of the liver. According to a study looking at the antioxidant and hepatoprotective effects of silymarin, “the significant improvement in liver function in the milk thistle extract and phytosomes treated groups compared to CCI4 toxicant group could be attributed to the hepatoprotective and antioxidant effect of silymarin. (Lia et al., 2012). Silymarin is effective in the treatment of various types of liver diseases including hepatitis, cirrhosis, fatty infiltration of the liver (chemical and alcohol induced fatty liver), and inflammation of the bile duct (Wellington and Jarvis, 2001)”.
Check out that source here.
And now here we are. We have arrived at the trauma, at the grief. After this, it is on to the healing. While getting to know Milk Thistle, it was when I came upon those specific indications that I was brought to my knees. This year, 2021, marks the 20th year that my father has been dead. I was young when he transitioned, 9 years old, and in complete honesty, in the past 20 years I have not put much attention into dealing with the overwhelming grief of losing him. But this year, and right now, by choice and invitation I am giving this wounding the attention it has deserved for two decades. I am looking at why it hurts, how it hurts and where it hurts to release stuck emotion and behavior patterns.
Since I accepted this invitation about a month and half ago, it has come up in the wildest and most unexpected places, like in an herbalism book about Milk Thistle. On the list of indications above, my father had at least half including liver disease, hepatitis, and cirrhosis of the liver. With a liver that unwell, without care and attention, liver failure was the inevitable result.
I was so young, I didn’t really realize or understand what was happening and why it was happening. The cosmic breadcrumbs of the details, effects, and outcomes of that time in 2001 are mysterious. And show up just enough for me to follow, one by one. This knowledge of Milk Thistle is the next breadcrumb. Being an herbalist, I feel aligned in purpose and this knowledge allows me to connect the dots further: to feel connected to my father, to reminisce about Milk Thistle growing abundantly in the yard of my childhood home, to feel rooted in taking the herbal path and healing myself and others while in service to my community and the plants.
Herbal liver support was not, for whatever reason, a part of my father’s recovery. Because he never recovered. But this is a reminder that, even 20 years later, the plants can bring healing. The plants in the Liver Life formula heal. They heal the liver, and, in my experience, their spirits and emotional wisdom heal the soul too. They have the power to unearth emotional stress that hasn’t seen light for two decades and to do so with the utmost support, compassion, and purpose. Once the unearthing and the emotional releasing has been done, this whole experience feels like a warm blanket and a great big hug from the green, rooted beings of this earth. In sum, I feel the plants saying, “You’re on the path. Keep showing up for us. We got you.”
I’m looking at this old wounding at the perfect time of year to unload: spring. Spring is the time to decongest not only our homes and our emotional landscape, but our livers also. When we start to see our body as participating in a seasonal rotation, we can tune into the times of the year when emotional releasing makes sense. That time is now and most of us naturally feel and crave the lightness and cleansing energy of spring as we shake off the heavy, stagnant, darker energy of winter.
In Chinese medicine, gone unchecked, anger gets stuck in the liver. So, looking at any anger you have failed to acknowledge is important now too. Also, liver stagnation can lead to amenorrhea, also known as the absence of menses or menses stagnation. So, if that is something you are experiencing, giving some support to your liver may help you to begin to flow again.
We are in a great time of transition and moving energy now and with the help of our Liver Life formula this movement can do wonders for your body and soul. The Liver Life formula comes in capsules, tincture, and decoction form at Holistic Pathways. Stop by to get stocked up and see us soon!