The liver is the largest organ in the body. When it is fully grown, the liver weighs 3.3 pounds, roughly the same as the brain. It fills most of the central abdomen just below the diaphragm. Big baby bellies are due to the fact that the liver is disproportionally large in infants.
The liver is busy all the time, and, if for any reason it shuts down, you will be dead within hours. Needless to say, keeping your liver healthy is important. Altogether the liver takes part in some five hundred metabolic processes.
Among its many jobs, the liver manufactures hormones, proteins, and the digestive juice, bile. It filters toxins, disposes of dead red blood cells, stores and absorbs vitamins, converts fats and proteins to carbohydrates, and manages glucose. This last job is so vital for the body that if it goes awry for even a few minutes, it can cause organ failure and even brain damage.
The liver holds about one pint (13-25%) of the body’s blood supply at any given moment. The liver consists of 2 main lobes. Both are made up of 8 segments that consist of 1,000 lobules (small lobes). These lobules are connected to small ducts that connect with larger ducts to form the common hepatic duct. The common hepatic duct transports the bile made by the liver cells to the gallbladder, where it is stored, and onto the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine).
The liver secretes about 1 quart of bile daily. Bile is a carrier for many toxic compounds but once secreted into the small intestine, the bile is eliminated via the stool. This is why it is so important to eat high levels of soluble fiber which keep the bile from being reabsorbed. If soluble fiber is low, bile reabsorption will increase circulating toxins.
The liver’s main job is detoxification.
The liver filters up to 2 quarts of blood a minute. A healthy liver will neutralize 99% of bacterial toxins during the first pass. It will lessen the dangers of:
- Drugs, both pharmaceutical and recreational – alcohol and nicotine, phenobarbital, steroids, sulfonamides, acetaminophen
- Pesticides and herbicides, carbon tetrachloride, exhaust and paint fumes, yellow dyes, dioxin
- Toxins from the GI tract
- Used hormones and neurotransmitters
- Metabolic waste
All the blood leaving the stomach and intestines passes through the liver. The liver processes this blood and breaks down, balances, and creates the nutrients and also metabolizes drugs into forms that are easier to use for the rest of the body or that are nontoxic. More than 500 vital functions have been identified with the liver. Some of the more well-known functions include the following:
- Bile Production and excretion
- Excretion of bilirubin- Bilirubin is an orange-yellow pigment that occurs normally when part of your red blood cells break down. Your liver takes the bilirubin from your blood and changes its chemical make-up so that most of it is passed through your stool as bile. If your bilirubin levels are higher than normal, it’s a sign that either your red blood cells are breaking down at an unusual rate or that your liver isn’t breaking down waste properly and clearing the bilirubin from your blood.
- Excretion of cholesterol, hormones. and drugs
- Metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates
- Enzyme activation
- Storage of glycogen -The body breaks down most carbohydrates from the foods we eat and converts them to a type of sugar called glucose. When the body doesn’t need to use the glucose for energy, it stores it in the liver and muscles. This stored form of glucose is made up of many connected glucose molecules called glycogen.
- Storage of vitamins, and minerals
- Synthesis of plasma proteins, such as albumin (the main protein in your blood), and clotting factors
- Blood detoxification and purification
When the liver has broken down harmful substances, its by-products are excreted into the bile or blood. Bile by-products enter the intestine and leave the body in the form of feces. Blood by-products are filtered out by the kidneys, and leave the body in the form of urine.
The working cells of the liver are known as hepatocytes. Hepatocytes have a unique capacity to reproduce. Liver regeneration can occur after surgical removal of a portion of the liver or after injuries that destroy parts of the liver. Although the liver’s ability to react to damage and repair itself is remarkable, repetitive insults can produce liver failure and death.
After its formation in the liver, bile is stored in the gallbladder. When stomach contents, especially fats and proteins enter the first part of the intestines, cholecystokinin is released from the duodenal mucosal cells to stimulate contraction of the gallbladder and release bile into the small intestine.
Our livers regenerate between 11 pm and 3 am. These are the hours you can give your liver a break by not eating or drinking anything other than water.
Liver disease can be inherited (genetic). Liver problems can also be caused by a variety of factors that damage the liver, such as viruses, alcohol use and obesity.
Over time, conditions that damage the liver can lead to scarring (cirrhosis), which can lead to liver failure, a life-threatening condition. But early treatment may give the liver time to heal.
Liver disease doesn’t always cause noticeable signs and symptoms. If signs and symptoms of liver disease do occur, the may include:
- Skin and eyes that appear yellowish (jaundice)
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Swelling in the legs and ankles
- Itchy skin
- Dark urine color
- Pale stool color
- Chronic fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Tendency to bruise easily
To prevent liver disease:
Drink alcohol in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. Heavy or high-risk drinking is defined as more than eight drinks a week for women and more than 15 drinks a week for men.
Use medications wisely. Take prescription and nonprescription drugs only when needed and only in recommended doses. Don’t mix medications and alcohol. Talk to your doctor before mixing herbal supplements or prescription or nonprescription drugs.
Keep your food safe. Wash your hands thoroughly before eating or preparing foods. If traveling in a developing country, use bottled water to drink, wash your hands and brush your teeth.
Take care with aerosol sprays. Make sure to use these products in a well-ventilated area, and wear a mask when spraying insecticides, fungicides, paint and other toxic chemicals. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Protect your skin. When using insecticides and other toxic chemicals, wear gloves, long sleeves, a hat and a mask so that chemicals aren’t absorbed through your skin.
Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity can cause nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Ancient herbalists, like Hildegard of Bingen in the 12th century, recognized burdock’s power in helping their patients recover from illness. Over the centuries, burdock root has been used to alleviate constipation, ease childbirth, break up kidney and bladder stones, promote sweating, remedy stomach and intestinal disorders, and control arthritis and gout pains. In medieval times it was also commonly used as a cure for syphilis.
Burdock may be considered a weed in some states due to its ability to spread. Though all aspects of the plant are used, it’s the carrot-shaped white root that can grow to two feet that contains the greatest amount of nutrients. The root contains numerous phytochemicals, including lignans, triterpenoids, and polyacetylenes, some of which have been shown to promote blood circulation,h ence its reputation as a detoxifying agent, and are linked to antidiabetic properties.
Other components include flavonoids that have shown cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects, which may explain its use both internally and externally for many skin conditions , such as acne, burns, boils, and eczema. Research shows that burdock root is also a source of inulin, a type of prebiotic fiber that feeds the good bacteria in the large intestine to improve digestion.
The inspiration for Velcro actually came from the burdock burr. In 1941, its inventor, a Swiss engineer named Georges de Mestral went for a walk in the woods and wondered if the burrs that clung to his trousers could be turned into something useful. After nearly eight years of research he successfully reproduced the natural attachment with two strips of fabric, one with thousands of tiny hooks and another with thousands of tiny loops. He named his invention Velcro and formally patented it in 1955.
In a 2017 study, diabetic mice pretreated with 200 milligrams and 300 milligrams of burdock root extract for a month increased the levels of insulin and also helped control body weight. Researchers also reported beneficial changes in blood lipid profiles, including decreased levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and increased levels of HDL cholesterol. In a study to identify potential genes that may be involved in lipid metabolism, burdock root extract reduced body weight and cholesterol levels in rats, possibly by modulating the expression of genes.
A 2002 study found that burdock helped reverse liver damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption in rats. In another animal study, burdock helped to protect against liver damage caused by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Tylenol (acetaminophen) and carbon tetrachloride, a chemical solvent.
One of the most common traditional uses for burdock root has been to purify the blood. Studies show that there is evidence that burdock root can remove toxins from the bloodstream. A 2011 study found that burdock root effectively detoxified blood and promoted increased circulation.
Burdock is one of the key ingredients of Essiac and Flor-Essence, herbal formulas marketed as wonder remedies for people coping with cancer. A 2011 study also found that burdock seeds had “potent inhibitory effects” on the growth of tumors caused by cancers like pancreatic carcinoma. Another 2016 study found burdock root significantly interfered with cancer cell growth.
The antioxidants in burdock are able to inhibit enzymes that led to wrinkling and excess pigmentation. One small study from 2014 that used a homeopathic preparation of burdock found significant improvements in number and types of pimples. Burdock root has long been used to treat skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and eczema. The anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of the root can help resolve skin issues when it’s applied topically to the skin.
One study from 2014 even found evidence that burdock root may help treat topical burns.
An experiment in rats found that an extract of burdock root enhanced sexual behavior, though not to the same degree as Viagara (sildenafil), a drug used to treat erectile dysfunction. It also increased serum testosterone levels, compared with the control. According to the researchers, the results support the traditional use of burdock root for treating impotence and sterility.
An important part of the immune system and the body’s inner drainage system, the lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body. Burdock root strengthens the lymphatic system.
Diuretics can help to stimulate the kidneys, allowing urine to be passed more frequently and in greater quantity. This helps to cleanse the kidneys and can prevent water retention. By increasing the rate of urination, burdock root can help to remove waste from the blood and body.
Burdock Root is also “diaphoretic”, meaning it increases sweating which is another important way the body eliminates toxins.
Burdock Root contains inulin, a soluble and prebiotic fiber that helps improve digestion. Acting as food for healthy gut bacteria, inulin helps regulate inflammation and remove toxins from the body. Burdock root also contains mucilage which acts as a protection for the gastric mucosa (the mucous membrane layer of the stomach), helping it to heal. This is especially useful if it has been damaged by acidity or inflammation.
Burdock is high in the antioxidants quercetin, luteolin, and phenolic acids which will lower inflammation, including joint issues such as arthritis in numerous studies. One 2014 study found that burdock root reduced inflammatory markers in the blood for patients with osteoarthritis.
These antioxidants in burdock help to protect the liver against poisonous substances. The compounds that give burdock its bitter taste can help stimulate bile production, helping the liver flush away toxins with more speed and ease.
Burdock contains plant chemicals known as “polyacetylenes” which have anti-fungal and antibiotic qualities. This is especially useful in cases of acne, helping to fight off acne causing bacteria such as streptococcus.
Burdock Root acts on the blood and circulatory system and contains active compounds such as arctiin and lignans which have matrix-stimulating properties, thus promoting supple and younger looking skin. It can also be beneficial for eczema due to its blood purifying activity.
Burdock is a modest source of iron and calcium and contains vitamins B-complex and E
A typical dosage of Burdock Root Powder is one to two grams of powdered dry root up to three times per day.
Burdock root can be made into a herbal Tea. Use 1-2 teaspoons per cup of boiling water and steep for 3-10 minutes.
Burdock Root Tincture is traditionally taken 2-3ml, 2-3 times per day or as directed by a Herbal Practitioner.
Burdock root is generally regarded as safe, however, some people should avoid it. For instance, people with diabetes who take blood-sugar lowering medicines should not use burdock root as it may cause hypoglycemia. Burdock has been used traditionally as a diuretic to increase urine output and taking additional diuretics while using it isn’t recommended as it may cause dehydration. Burdock may also trigger an allergy in people sensitive to daisies, chrysanthemums, or ragweed. Discontinue use and see your health care provider if you suspect an allergic reaction. If you have a sensitivity to foods high in inulin (such as artichokes, asparagus, or leeks), you may experience temporary gas or bloating after eating burdock root. Avoid use if you’re pregnant, as the herb has been reported to stimulate the uterus and possibly cause premature labor.
How to Buy
When looking for health burdock, look for firm, unbroken roots with taut skin. Burdock will store for many months.
Many health food stores offer burdock supplements, as well as dried root powder, tinctures, and liquid extracts.
How to Store
To store burdock, wrap it in a wet paper towel and seal in a reusable silicone bag. Refrigerate in the vegetable compartment . It will keep for several months.
If root becomes limp, soak in water until firm again.
How to Cook
Burdock has an earthy, mildly bitter taste and can be eaten raw like a carrot, but is most often sliced and added to a stir-fry. When cooked, burdock changes color from milky white to shiny grey or brown. Its bark-like skin looks thick, but is actually paper thin and can be scraped away with a fingernail or light scrubbing, much like the skin of a carrot.
Although burdock may come covered with soil, especially if you buy it at a farmers’ market, the peel of the root is brown and shouldn’t be confused for dirt. Just scrub the burdock lightly with a vegetable brush to remove any soil. The peel contains nutrients and shouldn’t be removed. Trim off the very tip of the root if it looks soft and black. Cut it into small pieces and drop immediately into cold water to prevent oxidation.
Liver Rescue Broth
- 1 bunch celery, diced
- 6 carrots, diced
- 1 winter squash (I use butternut), cubed
- 2 yellow onions, diced
- 1 inch ginger root, minced
- 1 inch turmeric, minced
- 1 cup sliced burdock root
- 1 cup cilantro
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 12 cups water
- bunches of whatever fresh herbs on hand
Place all the ingredients in a large stock pot. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 4 hours.
I puree the leftover vegetables for soup. Add curry or more herbs.
If you cannot tolerate high sulphur foods like garlic, onions or turmeric, pass on them. The broth is still excellent and good for you!
I double the cilantro and often add mushrooms.
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