The liver serves hundreds of functions within the body. The following is a partial list of some of these functions. Detoxification: A protein called albumin circulates in the blood and binds to medications, toxins and other substances and carries them back to the liver where they can be metabolized by the liver. The liver also breaks down some substances produced in the body that can be harmful in excess including cholesterol, hormones, aldosterone, norepinephrine and insulin. Hormone balance: The liver breaks down excess levels of sex hormones estrogens, progesterone, and testosterone, and binds them with other substances to assist their excretion through the kidneys. The liver also breaks down sex hormone mimickers known as xenoestrogens including dioxin and DDT. Xenoestrogens exert a powerful and dangerous hormonal effect on the body and can be up to 100,000 times stronger than the estrogens produced by the body. Poisonous ammonia, produced from protein break down, is converted into less toxic urea by the liver so that it can eliminated from the body as urine. Kuppfer cells in the liver remove bacteria and other dangerous materials. Cholesterol: The liver synthesizes cholesterol for the production of hormones and vitamin D. Though the liver also breaks down excess cholesterol when working properly. Cholesterol lowering statin drugs work by blocking cholesterol synthesis by the liver. These drugs are well known for damaging the liver though, which could lead to a subsequent rise in cholesterol. Blood sugar control: The liver converts sugars, amino acids and fats into glucose. The liver converts some of this glucose into glycogen and stores the glycogen for future use. When glucose levels drop, the adrenal glands normally release cortisol, which in turn releases the stored glycogen from the liver to help raise glucose levels back to normal. Insulin growth factor, which is involved in maintaining proper blood sugar levels, is also produced in the liver. Energy: Stored glycogen serves as emergency fuel in times of crisis. During emergency situations cortisol is released raising glucose levels to give the body, especially the muscles, extra energy. The liver also converts some proteins and sugars into fats, which serve as an additional fuel source for the body. Vitamin and mineral storage: The liver stores copper, and stores iron in the form of ferretin. The fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K are stored in the liver as well as the water soluble folate, and vitamin B12. Digestion: The liver assists in the breakdown of foods and many medications so they can be used by the body. Bile is produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder for use in the digestion of fats. Blood clotting: The liver helps regulate blood clotting through the production of various clotting factors. Immunity: The liver plays a role in immunity by producing antibodies. Healing: The liver synthesizes some amino acids and regulates their levels in the blood. Amino acids are required for growth and repair of tissues, and for the production of neurotransmitters and hormones. Complement proteins are produced by the liver, which are involved in the regulation of the inflammatory process. Inflammation is a necessary part of healing because inflammatory prostaglandins help increase blood flow to injured areas. This helps speed healing by increasing oxygen and nutrient levels to the injured area. The liver also produces growth hormones, especially insulin growth factor (IGF) and epidural growth factor (EGF). Fluid regulation: A plasma protein produced by the liver, known as albumin, helps maintain the pressure between intracellular and extracellular fluid. Cell recycling: The liver breaks down old cells and antibodies that need to be removed from the body and recycles some of these cellular materials for the production of new cells, hormones, and other substances required by the body.
These are only some of the many functions of the liver. And with so many functions, disorders of the liver also come with many potential side effects. Side effects of liver dysfunction include long term elevation of liver enzymes, fatigue, itchy skin, anal itching, loss of appetite, muscle weakness, easy bruising from decreased clotting factors, bleeding gums or nose, malabsorption of fats, and foul smelling diarrhea from these fats being expelled in the feces, light colored stools, dark urine, hormone imbalances; which may lead to endometriosis, fibroids, cysts, breast enlargement, shrunken testicles, insomnia, thyroid dysfunction, decreased libido, hair loss etc., spider angiomas, clubbing of the nails or whitening of the nail beds, increased cholesterol levels, peritonitis, varicose veins, decreased detoxification, and alteration in the metabolization of medications or prevention of the medications being metabolized.
More severe liver dysfunction may lead to liver damage, liver enlargement, spleen enlargement from portal hypertension, hardening of the liver or cirrhosis, jaundice, fluid accumulation, vein varices in the stomach and esophagus, which can rupture leading to vomiting of blood, loss of blood through the feces, and possibly shock and death. Excess ammonia levels, or the consumption of high levels of protein, may lead to a condition known as hepatic encephalopathy resulting in mental confusion.
The most common cause of liver dysfunction is hepatitis, which literally means inflammation of the liver. Contrary to popular belief hepatitis is not always caused by hepatitis viruses. Hepatitis may be from other viruses as well including various herpes viruses. In addition bacteria, fungi, and parasites may also cause hepatitis. Many pharmaceutical drugs are known, or believed, to cause chemical induced hepatitis. These drugs include, but are not limited to anti-inflammatories, and other pain relievers, anti-cholesterol drugs, erythromycin, methotrexate, dilantin, isoniazid, nitrofurantoin, methyldopa, baycol, serzone, accutane, duract, lamisil, zithromax, and arava. Hepatitis may result from trauma or autoimmunity as well.
Tobacco contains many chemical additives known to cause liver damage, and alcohol may cause liver damage especially when pharmaceutical drugs are taken in conjunction with alcohol. Compounds, known as pyrrolizidine alkaloids, found in some plants, may cause hepatitis if the fresh plants are taken orally over extended periods of time. These alkaloids are destroyed in dried and aged plants. Common sources of these alkaloids are comfrey, germander, and coltsfoot. Other forms of liver damage include cirrhosis, Wilson’s Disease, and hereditary hemochromatosis.
Historical uses of the ingredients:
Bupleurum- Used in Chinese medicine to cleanse the liver and to treat liver problems, such as hepatitis. Bupleurum increases levels of the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune stimulating enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD).
Turmeric- Turmeric is equally effective as milk thistle in protecting the liver from toxins. Turmeric has stronger anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties though than milk thistle. Turmeric is an excellent antiseptic, and has been shown in studies to block the formation of cancer through a variety of mechanisms. Turmeric helps prevent gallstones.
Chaparral- Possesses strong antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal activity. In addition chaparral is a powerful antioxidant, working in both the water and lipid portions of the cell. Chaparral reduces inflammation, and boosts the immune system by raising vitamin C levels in the adrenal glands. Sulfur compounds in chaparral help to detoxify the body and strengthen the antiviral effects of pau d’ arco.
Milk Thistle seed- The entire plant has liver protecting properties, although the seeds have the strongest effects on the liver. Milk thistle seed contains silymarin, a compound shown to protect the liver and to accelerate the regeneration of liver cells. As an antioxidant milk thistle can help reduce oxidative damage to the liver.
Phyllanthus- Phyllanthus is used in Ayurvedic, Chinese, and South American medicine for its strong antiviral and antibacterial effects. Phyllanthus is commonly used to treat hepatitis and other conditions of the liver, as well as to protect the liver. As a bitter phyllanthus can help prevent gallstones.
Andrographis- Many medical studies have been conducted on this plant. Andrographis has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-parasitical, cancer destroying, liver protective, blood purifying, and immune enhancing (elevates number and activity of white blood cells) properties. As a bitter andrographis can help prevent gallstones.
Pau d’ arco- Also known as lapacho, ipe roxo, taheebo, or tabuei. The bark of this South American tree is antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-parasitical, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, and has immune enhancing properties. Many of pau d’ arco’s properties are due to 18 antiseptic anthraquinones and napthaquinones, and 5 anti-inflammatories.
Jiaogulan- This herb contains high levels of immune modulating and anti-inflammatory sterols. Jiaogulan also supports the adrenal glands, which produce the body’s own anti-inflammatory steroids and helps to regulate the immune system. This makes jiaogulan beneficial for the treatment of autoimmune disorders. Jiaogulan increases levels of SOD and elevates white blood cell counts. Studies have shown jiaogulan to be effective in the treatment of hepatitis and to protect the liver from liver damaging chemicals.
Amla- This berry from India is Nature’s richest source of stable vitamin C. The vitamin C in amla is 12 times stronger than synthetically produced vitamin C. Amla is antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and helps to protect cells from heavy metal damage. Amla reduces inflammation by supporting adrenal function and by significantly elevating SOD levels. Amla improves liver function by cleansing the liver.
Chinese licorice root- Licorice root is a steroidal anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antitumor, and stimulates the immune system by elevating interferon levels. Interferon stimulates SOD to form hydrogen peroxide, which in turn activates white blood cells. This makes its use even more beneficial when mixed with SOD elevating herbs. It is an excellent herb to support adrenal function, which reduces inflammation and regulates the immune system. Licorice root is commonly used in other countries to support the liver and treat liver problems including cirrhosis and hepatitis. The Chinese variety is calming, as where the American variety is slightly stimulating.
Schisandra berry- These berries are one of the best herbs to support adrenal function, which reduce inflammations and supports proper immune function. Schisandra directly reduces inflammation by interfering with platelet activating factor, an inflammatory promoting compound. Schisandra raises levels of the antioxidant glutathione in the liver to assist with liver detoxification. Schisandra has been shown to protect and regenerate the liver and to lower liver enzymes, a marker for liver damage.
Picrorrhiza- This Ayurvedic herb is used in India to treat hepatitis and liver cancer. The herb is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and has liver protective properties. Considered to be equally or more effective than milk thistle.
Poke root- Poke contains a compound, known as poke activating factor (PAF), which is structurally similar to interferon. PAF also functions like interferon, but unlike pharmaceutical interferons PAF is not tissue specific. Therefore PAF works on multiple tissues, including the liver.
Bladderwrack- This seaweed is a source of immune stimulating polysaccharides, which stimulate white blood cells. Bladderwrack supports various systems in the body due to it being rich in a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
Recommended use is 1/2 teaspoon of the powder 3 times daily on an empty stomach at least 20 minutes before meals. The powder can be mixed in juice, water, or unsweetened applesauce, or may be placed under the tongue and washed down with water.