Love Your Liver: Herbal & Lifestyle Liver Support

Do you know where your liver is? Could you put your hands over it right this minute & give it some love? Many of us don’t exactly know where our livers are in our bodies — or the wide array of functions our lovely livers perform for us every moment of every day!

The liver is tucked under the lower right side of the rib cage, nestled in underneath the lungs and next to the  stomach. A healthy adult liver weighs about three pounds and performs more separate, diverse functions than any other organ in the human body.

What Our Lovely Livers Do for Us:

The liver play a major role in our bodies’ ability to metabolize the food we eat; to turn our meals into the components our bodies need to grow, heal, and thrive. The liver helps the entire digestive system to properly metabolize fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. It also functions as an incredible storehouse for vitamins A, B12, D, E, and K, along with iron and copper.  In addition to storing these important vitamins and minerals, it monitors levels and releases them when the body has need of more of them. The liver is probably most know for its detoxification abilities, which is an important chunk of the liver’s responsibilities. Liver detoxification processes help our bodies metabolize, break down, make use of, and get rid of the various components in alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, environmental toxins, and excess hormones that can be potentially harmful to our health.

Our livers work hard every day, all day!

What We Can Do for Our Livers:

Quit smoking, for one thing. Also, be mindful in your use of alcohol. Avoid drug use when possible, unless medically necessary. Reduce environmental toxin exposure beginning with limiting the use of plastics in food preparation and storage. Remember that food is medicine. Excess junk carbs and refined sugar products stress our livers out. Whole foods and plenty of good dietary fiber are the way to go. A daily bowel movement, at a minimum, is incredibly supportive for our livers as it prevents re-uptake of metabolized toxins and excess hormones. Proper hydration, moderate exercise, and addressing major stressors in our lives are also all common holistic lifestyle practices that benefit our livers, as well as, our entire bodies.

Bitters are a great way to show your liver some love and jump on one of the hottest herbal trends around these days. The pre-dinner cocktail actually has its roots in ancestral knowledge and practices around consuming bitters before a meal. Bitter flavors help prime the digestive system to make the most of the food we’re about to eat, to include stimulating the liver. Crafting your own bitters can be as creative and elaborate or as simple and quick as one would like. My current favorite bitters recipes are the two found in Emily Han’s fantastic book, Wild Drinks and Cocktails. I’ve also been experimenting with creating a few bitters recipes of my own. A basic formula to get started playing with for yourself is to start with one bitter herb, one carminative herb, & one herb you think would help the first two herbs taste delicious! Then steep those herbs in your favorite alcohol base for a couple of weeks, strain them out, and give them a try as part of your pre-meal routine.

In addition to bitters and all the herbs you can play with there, some of my favorite liver-lovin’ herbs include Yellow Dock root, Chamomile, Schisandra berry, Burdock root, Milk Thistle, Chicory root, and Dandelion.

Speaking of Dandelion, no show of enthusiastic Liver Love would be complete without taking a moment to, once again, wax poetic about the amazingness that is Dandelion. Dandelion is truly one of our best allies in showing our hard-working livers some serious love! Dandelion stimulates bile, provides the liver with much-needed phytochemicals, and had roots that are chock-full of highly bioavailable iron. And given the fact that every last bit of a Dandelion plant is edible, there are endless, creative ways to work the buds, flowers, leaves, & roots into our diets and remedies. The tender spring greens make a great, feisty addition to salads. Somewhat older leaves can be cooked into other greens, chopped up into all sorts of different egg dishes – frittatas, quiches, good ole’ scrambled eggs, etc. The blossoms make lovely fritters and a unique vinegar. The petals can be pulled out and tossed into sugar cookie or muffin batter. Roasted dandelion root makes for a great morning beverage for anyone looking to cut back on their coffee consumption. Dandelion, orange, & fennel are a great combination for salads, marinades, and even some simple homemade bitters. The internet is filled with incredibly creative ways to use this common backyard herbal ally.

Here is my current favorite Liver Love recipe, which a couple of herbal friends and I served up to the attendees of a recent class we taught together on spring health. It proved so popular that we ran out of this tasty brew in no time and had to scramble to whip up some more!

Liver Love Tea Recipe:

-1 part dried Dandelion Root
-1 part dried Burdock Root
-1 part dried Bitter Orange Peel
-1 part dried Cinnamon Chips
-1/2 to 1 part dried Licorice Root (depending on preference)

Combine all dry ingredients in these proportions in a glass jar with a secure lid. When you’re ready to brew up a batch, use 1 heaping teaspoon per cup of water in a small pot. Simmer on the stove for 20-30 minutes, strain, & enjoy! You could also mix the finished decoction with a bit of sparkling water over ice for a cooler version. Licorice root is contraindicated for those with high blood pressure, so feel free to leave it out of the recipe completely or try substituting Marshmallow Root instead.

Liver Love Meditation:

Now that we know where our livers are and how many amazing functions they serve for our bodies’ health, try brewing up a cup of Live Love Tea and giving this simple Liver Love Meditation a go.

Stand up tall, with your body in alignment. Reach up with both arms as high as you can, lengthening your torso and giving your liver a bit of space. Breathe in and out a couple of times to feel the space in your chest and belly loosen and expand, giving all your organs a bit more room.

Now relax, and bring your hands down to place them both over your lower right ribcage/belly area. Close your eyes and connect with a sense of gratitude for all your liver does for you throughout every breath of every day. Send your liver some love. Continue to breath, relax, and connect with your amazing liver until you feel the energy of the moment ebb away. 

Try this simple meditation any time you are feeling sluggish, loaded down, or generally blocked up. Or while your Liver Love Tea is simmering away! Then, go treat yourself and your liver to a soothing cup of tea, a delicious Dandelion salad, or simply a cool glass of fresh water.

 

Kate M. Brunner is a writer, healer, homeschooling mother, member of The Sisterhood of Avalon, & resident of Heartwood Cohousing. Kate hosts seasonal women’s gatherings, priestesses labyrinth rituals, and facilitates workshops on an assortment of women’s healing & spirituality topics. Follow her adventures and explorations of herbalism, art, poetry, & ritual on Facebook at Mandala Dreaming with Kate. Read more of her work in Flower Face: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Blodeuwedd and The Goddess in America: The Divine Feminine in Cultural Context.

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