inner life





Liver Protection and Rejuvenation
There is no joy with a sick liver!

It behooves each of us to take the time to understand the liver in a little more depth.  The liver is perhaps the hardest working organ of the body. It has hundreds of tasks to perform, including detoxification of the blood and removal of excess hormones.  It is also a reservoir for sugar and fat and is usually congested with surfeit, so much so that average people, so-called healthy people, often use more than 60% of their livers just for storage.

There are many systems of healing in the world.  The liver holds a prominent place in all of them.  For instance, in China, the liver is regarded as the seat of planning.  When it is not functioning optimally, it is difficult to see the future so people become less decisive.  In Ayurveda, the liver is associated with fire, both in its positive role of providing light and illumination and its negative expression as pitta derangement:  fevers, recklessness, anger, and even violence.

I have often noted that when people are apathetic, passive, or preoccupied with incidents in the past, they need liver formulas.  The moment someone bounces into the office saying, "You know what I decided," you know it is safe to cut way back or even discontinue these remedies.

It is important to differentiate congestion from toxicity.  Congestion is characterized more by sluggishness and "the blahs" whereas toxicity is more snarly and sometimes hostile.  When there is congestion, it is possible to use warmer and more stimulating herbs, but if you give these same herbs to someone who is grumpy growly, it is something like pouring kerosene on a fire and you turn a bit of hissing into an inferno.

Loosely Translated

What do these statements mean in practical terms?  Some people see floaters.  White or light gray floaters may indicate congestion whereas darker colored ones may point to more toxicity.  Any treatment of the liver helps with the fire element—light—and sense of sight.

When the metabolism is a bit more anabolic than catabolic, there are metabolic residuals that end up as reserves for future use or as blockages.  To tip the metabolism more in the direction of catabolism, one needs to augment the gastric fire and this can be achieved by increasing the flow of gastric juices through stimulation by savory and pungent herbs and spices or by eating food that is easier to digest like tempeh instead of animal protein, yogurt or quark instead of hard cheese, fruit instead of heavy carbohydrates, vegetable juices instead of microwaved meals, and bitter beer, like Guinness, instead of light beers.  As one follows such principles, metabolism can be balanced through better and better dietary choices.

When someone is already exhausted, stimulation may not work.  In this case, supplementation with digestive enzymes may be necessary, but the spices still help with digestion, assimilation, and peristalsis.  They are also purifying to some extent, the more so when the spices are fresh and still contain a lot of wonderful aroma.  The aroma arises from the presence of volatile essential oils and these neutralize toxic gases and increase absorption of food.  The stimulating effect of these oils also speeds transit time through the gastrointestinal tract so that nutrients are assimilated while they are still suitable for rebuilding the body and eliminated before becoming putrefactive.

In short, spices are important, but they have to be used much more carefully when people are already exhibiting signs of irritability.  In such instances, one uses cooler herbs like coriander (seeds and leaf), turmeric, and even anti-inflammatory spices like ginger, but in moderation.


Every herbal tradition places a lot of emphasis on foods and herbs that are bitter.  Chinese medicine recognizes five tastes, and Ayurveda has six:  sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent (the missing one in the Chinese system, but really it is included with the sour taste.)  Food and herbs are bitter because of the presence of alkaloids, and these are the opposite pH of acids.  As you know, pH is measured on a scale of zero to 14, with 7.0 being neutral.  The most alkaline substances are 14.  Many herbs are bitter, everything from very common herbs such as dandelions and gentian to Madagascar periwinkle which contains the mother lode of all alkaloids.

Other substances can also be alkaline, sea water or even Willard Water.  It has a pH of 14, but it is diluted before use so it is only a little bit alkaline.  The bases are used to antidote acids so they play a very important role in our lives, but many foods that have alkaloids have been supplanted by fast foods that are laced with sugar and salt.  These extend shelf life, but they play havoc on the body.  We need the bitter foods to aid fat metabolism so a burger with fries is a nightmare for the body because the combination of foods does not promote constitutional balance.

Leafy green vegetables are wonderfully alkalizing, but for some people, the only bitter they know is Angostura Aromatic Bitters, which famous as it has been for almost two centuries is a real herbal bitter.  It was developed on the banks of the Orinoco River in 1824 and is now produced in Trinidad.  However, people might try arugula, watercress, and endives as well a other bitter formulas.

I am used to talking to patients and am not quite so erudite on plant chemistry.  It is useful to talk about two basic kinds of digestive bitters.  There are warming digestive bitters and ones that are more cooling.  The most warming one is probably Draksha, a wonderful Ayurvedic tonic that is made with fermented grapes but is only about 3% alcohol.  It has lovely spices that feel really wonderful to people with gastric distress.  However, it is not quite so cleansing as a really bitter formula.

This said, next on the spectrum is probably the Floradix formula, also a bit warming, but because of the artichokes—a member of the thistle family—and other ingredients, it is not quite as luscious as Draksha.  These are digestive bitters and there are post-digestive bitters also.  Actually, the Floradix formula can be used both before and after meals.  I like to think of these two formulas as helping digestion and preventing liver congestion from becoming worse.

A really bitter formula can also be detoxifying . . . because organic toxins are acidic as are the by-products of the metabolic processes of yeast, mold, bacteria, and viruses.  Ideally, we want to arrest those organisms and clean out the acid wastes.

Liver Protection

Just as there is a difference between liver congestion and real toxicity, there is a difference between protecting the liver and treating it once damaged. Studies show that thistle protects the liver from damage caused by carcinogens as well as cytotoxic drugs.  Of all the thistles, milk thistle is probably the most famous of the liver herbs. The formulas are made from the seeds, and the plant gets its name from the appearance of white splashes on the leaves.  Many herb companies produce milk thistle formulas, but you need to be sure you are getting a superb quality and taking enough to make a difference.  This herb can be taken both for protection and regeneration.

There are tests to determine what percentage of the liver is actually free to do the demanding work required of the liver.  As indicated, most people are conking along with 40% use but some people are down to 5% and this is disastrous on several levels.

Traditionally, the liver was believed to be ruled by Jupiter:  big organ and a big planet, but the word jovial comes from Jupiter.  Without a healthy liver, not only can one not see the future or plan ahead, but one cannot be happy.  This is why the little Tibetan goji berries are so remarkable: they not only clean the liver and blood but they make you happy all day.  At least, this is the legend, but I suspect that if the liver is very toxic, this joy does not come after the first snack.


Every herbalist has a detoxifying formula or perhaps several of them.  We carry Ayurvedic ones, Western ones, Chinese ones, and even rain forest formulas.  All these formulas have to decongest and detoxify the liver, but they do this at varying rates of efficiency.  For instance, the Chinese bupleurum really dredges the liver, but if the detoxifying mechanisms are sluggish, there could be reabsorption of toxins that are not eliminated properly.  This can produce irritability and sometimes red blotches on the skin.  The spots could also be itchy and occasionally, they erupt and discharge morbid substances through the skin.  Basically, these developments suggest that the normal eliminatory channels are overworked or malfunctioning.

Because liver cells live 18-24 months, a good liver program might take two years, but the major gains are in the first weeks and months so relatively rapid improvement is possible. Try this math.  Assume your liver is only working at 5% but you regenerate 5% of the cells in the first month. That's a doubling of good hours in the day, and most people see the difference quickly.  However, as there is more and more progress, gains are less remarkable but nevertheless important.   Therefore, even when feeling better, it is advisable for most people to continue because a perfect liver is almost equivalent to bliss.


Cleansing can be reasonably thorough in 2-6 months.  It is not 100% possible to say how long detoxification will take.  However, a few comments might make it easier to guesstimate.  If someone is continually exposed to toxins as a result of environmental conditions or work, detoxification may take more time.  I have seen painters, both artists and house painters, who took more time than those with less exposure to volatile organic compounds, but printers often take longer still.  People who eat food with preservatives and dyes are usually in worse shape than those who eat organic food.  They may ingest a pound of chemicals a year.  Those who have been on prescription medications with serious side effects also take longer to detoxify, but the effort is warranted.

You will know when your liver cleansing program is complete because your skin will be more lustrous, your vision will be better, you will be free of red blotches and itchy spots on your skin, and perhaps even more importantly, you will be able to make plans for your future.


Regeneration takes longer than detoxification but it is also easier because the herbs are more demulcent and nourishing.  This is important because bitters are drying.  You need the slimier foods and herbs to restore moisture.  Remember, the liver is the seat of fire so it overheats.  For instance, people who repress anger may be more pleasant to be around, but the fire stays inside instead of lunging at others. 

When the point comes to shift protocols, you should be quite clear already.  Floaters should be gone and a few people will actually be less near-sighted. There will be more energy, clarity, and sense of the future.   I have seen enormous improvements in clarity in as little as one day on something like our Sundance Elixir.  It's actually a good detoxifier because in addition to supporting the liver and blood, it promotes peristalsis.  It is similar to the Hoxsey Tonic and can be taken indefinitely but at significantly lower doses after the first few months.

Very few people understand the connection between happiness and the liver.  Fire is exuberant so when it is "deranged", it damages our appreciation of life.  It is natural for fire to be enthusiastic, spontaneous, excited, and joyful, but when we become toxic, we do not feel "ourselves" and then criticism, impatience, anger, and even hostility can supplant our normal joie de vivre.  So, it's really important to the quality of life that we keep our livers healthy.

Worse, when the liver is not in good shape, the rest of the body tends to follow suit because the blood is passed through the liver and does not get recharged properly if the liver is torpid.  This results in immense fatigue and sometimes toxemia, chronic diseases, and that really archetypal liver syndrome:  apathy.  Keep in mind this is the antithesis of a normal liver which should be buoyant, confident, courageous, and even prophetic.

Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2006



There is a recipe on this site for a delicious lycium berry smoothie. Granted, not everyone will want to drink this every day, but it would be good to drink it often and take tablets or tonics on the days when no smoothie is consumed.


More suggestions: there is hardly any food better for the liver than artichokes! Eat lots of them.  artichokeEnjoy them like a fondue. Share one or two artichokes with your partner or best friend and let the meal linger to the tunes of your favorite music! A fabulous dipping sauce for artichokes can be made with flax oil or ghee, turmeric powder, freshly grated ginger, garlic, a bit of black salt (or none at all), and some nutritional yeast.  Artichokes are fun to eat and because you cannot wolf them down, you spend time enjoying your feast.


Article on the Bitter Taste right


Milk Thistle Extract
Milk Thistle Extract, 2 oz.



Detox, 50 vegicaps

Ingredients: standardized extracts of Amalaki, Emblica officinalis; Manjistha, Rubia cordifolia; Turmeric, Curcuma longa; Guduchi, Tinospora cordifolia; Anantmul, Hemidesmus indicus; Vidanga, Emblia ribes; Licorice, Glycyrrhiza glabra.

Liver Formula

Liver Formula, 90 tablets

Ingredients: Guduchi herb, Tinospora cordifolia; Bhumy Amalaki herb, Phyllanthus fraternus; Kutki root, Picrorhiza kurroa; Amalaki fruit, Emblica officinalis; Chitrak root, Plumbago zeylanica; Punarnava root, Boerhaavia diffusa; Vidanga herb, Embelia ribes; Manjista root, Rubia cordifolia; Haritaki fruit, Terminalia chebula; Bibhitaki fruit, Terminalia belerica; Coriander seed, Coriandrum sativum; Dandelion root, Taraxacum officinale; Musta root, Cyperus rotundus; Cilantro leaf, Coriandrum sativum; Guggulu resin, Commiphora mukul; reduced iron, Anantamul root, Hemidesmus indicus; Licorice root, Glycyrrhiza glabra; Pippali fruit, Piper longum.

Goji Tonic

Goji Berry Tonic, 4 oz. liquid tonic

Contains: Mongolian goji berries, hawthorn berries, milk thistle seeds, astragalus root, galangal root, cinnamon bark in alcohol extract with glycerite.

alcohol, $

glycerite, $

Sundance Elixir

Sundance Elixir , 16 oz.

Proprietary Formula Containing: concentrated extracts of Trifolium pratense blossoms, Mahonia aquifolium root, Stillingia sylvatica root, Chondrus crispus herb, Glycyrrhiza glabra root, Phytolacca americana root, Smilax officinalis root, Rhamnus frangula brak, Arctium lappa root, Cascara sagrada bark, and Zanthoxylum clava-herculis berries in distilled spring water, organic grain alcohol, clover honey, vegetable glycerin, and certified organic pure essential oil of sweet orange. Alcohol approximately 16%.

alcohol, $


Ingrid Naiman
8 August 2006




left up right



Sacred Medicine Sanctuary

Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2001, 2006, and 2014


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