Liver health - Fatty Liver Disease - Hepatitis

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Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

Liver health

'The liver is the herbalist's favourite organ' said my first teacher, Dennis Stewart, and he was right. There are so many people in today's world who have a suffering or a struggling liver. Some people know about it, they have symptoms and a diagnosis that has told them they have something wrong. Some people suspect it, because they intuitively feel that their bodies are congested and over-burdened, and they know that the liver is the central player in the cleansing they think they may need. And some people are relieved to hear it, when they have been through a process with a holistic practitioner of Western or Eastern herbalism, because then they get a tangible reason for why their health has been so poor.

One thing is certain, if the liver is not in good health, the whole being can never be in good health. Not only is it central to keeping things clean, it is the most important 'factory' in the body for producing the essential elements for life and only the brain is more complex in its structure and function.

There are some simple steps, with herbs and food, that have been seen again and again to reliably improve the health of the liver, and these are outlined further below. Firstly, as fatty liver disease and hepatitis are both big subjects in their own right, an area that is most likely to need attention in each of them is summarised here


Fatty liver disease

Everything below about using herbs to help the liver and eating a clean diet applies as much to fatty liver disease as anything, but there must also be a readiness to closely examine the question - 'does the person with fatty liver disease have the metabolic syndrome?'

Put simply, if they have not been drinking alcohol to excess then the answer is highly likely to be yes. If alongside the fatty liver they show any such signs such as the 'apple shape' (excess abdominal fat), raised blood pressure, raised blood fats and low 'good' cholesterol, then it becomes increasingly likely.

It requires time and dedication to change the diet, but it is entirely possible to treat and cure the metabolic syndrome and it is clearly a life-changing, and probably life-saving thing for a person to do. This important subject, including more notes on diagnosis and what it is all about, is written up in detail here



Hepatitis means 'inflammation of the liver', it is a description of a problem that has many different causes including from different kinds of viruses, drugs, and toxins. The general recommendations given below for a cleansing diet and herbs for the liver are applicable to hepatitis, however acute or chronic it may be, but there also needs to be a careful enquiry based on this question - how healthy is the immune system?

Any such signs of difficulty in this area, such as a history of allergic conditions like asthma or eczema, or a history of recurrent infections, or a history of having a slow recovery from wounds or injuries, are highly likely to mean the immune system will need support for the hepatitis to be cured.

Along with the general approach to liver health outlined next, consider the need to take steps to strengthen immunity and/or to do things that relieve it of its burdens. This important subject is written up in further detail here



Surely, everyone who has a problem with their liver must understand that their system needs help with cleansing. Unfortunately, aside from the universal recommendation to stop drinking alcohol, conventional medicine has remarkably little to say about how to help the body improve its innate ability to detoxify itself. So, they are left with a watch and wait approach to review liver function tests and hope for the best. Repeated clinical experience has shown that we can do much better than that.

It is a simple historical fact that some of the most important interventions in all the old traditions of medicine revolve around helping the body rid itself of an excess burden of wastes or toxins. We have found the herbs and learned how to use them in a way that will work safely but effectively, and we have seen that reducing certain foods, and increasing others, ensures that the process of cleansing is as complete and speedy as possible.

For a more detailed discussion on the general subject of detoxification, read here. For a practical outline of the cleansing diet that is nearly always used to help return a liver to good health - read here

sources of toxicity


Herbs for the Liver

Whatever the cause of the liver problem, the use of certain herbal medicines that have been prized for their ability to work in this area for millennia, some of the best: include:

Dandelion Root

Dandelion root is one of the most certain and gentle of all the cleansing herbs, it “rinses the renal filter and squeezes the hepatic sponge”; more here

Burdock Root

Burdock is ideal for deeply cleansing the blood via the liver and kidneys and it is a particularly important herb for people with chronic skin problems related to toxicity, more about it here


Celandine is perhaps the strongest of all the liver cleansing herbs, it can have phenomenal effects, but its extract must be made from fresh herb and/or non-stale dried herb in order for it to convey its true potency and it must be taken with care, more here


Barberry may be the 2nd strongest liver cleansing herb after Celandine, it will certainly activate a marked increase in liver function and it also must be taken with care, more here

St Mary's Thistle

St Mary's is perhaps the most important herb for someone who has existing damage to their liver cells and needs help with regenerating healthy tissue. It is an indispensable ally in this area because it is a herb that, by virtue of certain flavonoids within it, has some extraordinary properties for both protecting and healing the liver.

It is also a medicine that can be safely given in high doses and some compelling research suggests that it may indeed be wise to use in significant quantities to be sure of its maximal effects.

Consequently, in this particular case, I recommend either using a concentrate in capsule or tablet from a reputable source that yields a high dose of its active ingredients or, to get the whole seeds of the St Mary's and powder them into a slurry that can be easily, and economically taken for as long as required. There are more details on these approaches in the page on St Mary's linked here

Silybum marianum (St Mary's thistle)


Liver Cleansing formula

Dandelion root 160mls
Burdock root 160mls
Barberry 100mls
Celandine 60mls
Licorice root 60mls

This will make 540 mls herbal tincture, which will just fit into a 500ml amber pharm bottle. The Licorice root is there to help the other herbs blend well together and to make it all a great deal more palatable than it would be otherwise. Peppermint extract could be used instead if a person had high blood pressure or an aversion to the taste of Licorice. There is also no problem whatsoever to simply leave any kind of 'flavouring' out. Some people want the strong, bitter, potent taste of the liver cleansing herbs, where is, as is.

One of the reasons I cannot advise people without seeing them in person is that I don't know the strength or the quality of the herbs they have and so the vital matter of how much to take is impossible to know for sure. Another compelling reason is that people, from different constitutions, ages, sex, weight etc. considerably vary in how much they need to get an effective response. The art of herbal medicine is hugely dependent on getting the right dose!

Obviously, too small a dose will be of little help but equally, too much is going to cause harm rather than good. This is why nearly all proprietary, over-the-counter, cleansing programs have the right sorts of ingredients but are very low in their doses, it's for safety, better they only work a little than they make people sick and wanting to sue!

In our own clinic, we make our own tinctures from raw, organic material so the doses given by example below may not translate to another preparation of the same herbs. They are certainly very much higher than any cleansing herbs you would buy in a shop or online. The reason the above example of a liver cleansing formula is given is to demonstrate how it is common to use a group of herbs together and also to show the kinds of dosages that are commonly given for us to be certain of a deep effect.

Typically, we might use anywhere between 4 or 5 or 6 mls, all the way up to 10mls of such a formula, before food, twice a day for a month or more. Again, dosage is critical to getting this right and, if in doubt, start low and gradually build up. They are safe herbs, but they are also very strong!


Drink Water

It is vital to drink plenty of water throughout the process of taking liver herbs and eating a cleansing diet. How much is enough? You should not be going to the toilet to pass urine less than every two hours, but neither should you be going more than once an hour. It may be helpful to get a jug, preferably glass, fill it with water and add some cut lemon or green herbs like lemon-balm or mint. It's a pleasant way to drink ample water and serves as a visual reminder to keep it going.


How does cleansing make you feel?

It is common that, in the process of getting rid of toxic substances, people experience one or more symptoms of what is known as a ‘healing crisis’ within a week or so of starting their treatment.

What is happening here is that the systems and organs of cleansing and elimination have all become highly activated and the waste products are really starting to move around and out of your body. Common experiences in this phase include feeling more tired, changes in body temperature, headaches that come and go, sore and stiff joints or muscles, disturbed digestive function.

Any of those symptoms are, of course, unpleasant, but people do not suffer unduly or for too long and, if they know to expect it and that it will definitely pass, they usually bear it well.

All cultures and traditions of medicines have given the greatest importance to cleansing and, If you have ever heard the phrase ''sometimes you have to get worse before you can get better' this is where it comes from. The main points to remember are

1) keep up your fluids
2) get as much rest as you need
3) be assured that it will pass

However, if you find that you are struggling too much with this phase, or that it is not shifting in a timely manner over just a few days, then it may be of much help to push things through the crisis point by doing some 'sweating therapy'. This is an intense process that requires a bath or sauna but, if needed, it should quickly move everything forwards, details here

Once they get through the initial phase of increased cleansing, people typically start feeling markedly better overall and it is usually smooth sailing from then on.


Constitutional Health Note

Finally, you might benefit from learning about your constitution to know what kind of foods, herbs, exercises etc. will work especially well for your health in general.

Constitutional health is an old and fascinating way of understanding our differences. There's a brief introduction here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd