Sunday, December 04, 2005

Herbs that de-liver

Sometimes called the master chemist of the body, the liver, known as Yakrit in Ayurveda, has many important roles. For instance, according to Ayurveda the liver is responsible for converting clear plasma (Rasa Dhatu) to blood (Rakta Dhatu). It is the liver’s task to scrutinise and identify toxins in the plasma and filter them so they don’t enter the blood.

Liver is the seat of Pitta and hence any violation in terms of food and habits will affect liver, which invariably leads to Pitta disorders.

One of the common problems encountered is jaundice, known as Kamala. When someone with anaemia exposes himself to excess hot and spicy foods, with lots of fat and allergenic ingredients, liver function is affected. If this stage is left untreated, it may result in advanced state of liver dysfunction called Kumbha kamala.

Cichorium intybusstimulates the production of bile and empties the gall bladder, and thus acts as a cholagogue (an agent that promotes the flow of bile into the intestine).In advanced stages of the disease, the liver tends to enlarge and cause imbalances in blood and kapha. This results in obstructive liver disorders described in Ayurveda as yakritdalyudara. This condition is characterised by mild fever, loss of appetite, and can result in anaemia.

Ayurveda describes several formulas containing herbs that are important to support the liver. These are more targeted for liver health and function, and also focus more on balancing the liver enzymes and their activities.

Amongst the herbs and their combinations, Triphala, a blend of three fruits, Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia) and Neem (Azadirachta indica), will help to overcome the problem of jaundice.

Similarly, Trikatu helps to overcome indigestion, Haridra (Curcuma longa) and Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) act as antioxidants and help to support the liver enzymes. Also Kasani(Cichorium intybus) is helpful in various liver conditions.

Bhumyamalaki (Phyllanthus amarus) is known to be an effective antiviral and is useful in hepatitis B, and Katuki (Picrorrhiza kurroa) has been found to support the liver and help shield it from infectious viruses.

Kasani/Chicory (Cichorium intybus
Popularly known as Chicory, Cichorium intybus possesses liver protective properties. This plant, with attractive light blue flowers, had been used as a potherb by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

It stimulates the production of bile and empties the gall bladder, and thus acts as a cholagogue (an agent that promotes the flow of bile into the intestine). These actions make it an herb of choice in cases of biliary insufficiency.

The extract of chicory has been shown to have potent free radical scavenging activity1. Further, the herb has been shown to have antimicrobial properties as well. In fact, studies show that chicory has antimicrobial activity against Salmonella typhi, a common pathogenic microorganism of the gastrointestinal tract2.

What’s more, chicory is also a prebiotic, a natural substance that enhances the growth of good bacteria in the intestine.

Many studies have demonstrated the liver-protective actions of chicory. Extracts of the herb were found to normalise the increased levels of liver enzymes in livers damaged by chemicals.
Biranjasipha/Yarrow (Achillea millefolium

The 100 or so species of yarrows to which Achillea millefolium belongs to are herbaceous perennials and are native to Europe and Asia. Achillea millefolium is used in Brazilian folk medicine to treat infectious diseases and in traditional medicine, yarrow has been used as a “strengthening bitter tonic”, astringent and has carminative, digestive and antispasmodic properties.

A decoction of the herb is known to provide relief from chronic colic. The extract of the herb has been used to treat hepatitis in the elderly3.
Radish (Raphanus sativus
Radishes are moderately high in Vitamin C and contain properties that appear to be beneficial for colds, flu, fever, cough, respiratory problems and digestive disorders. Radish is a native of southern Asia and has been used for medicinal purposes by the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Chinese.
Radish stimulates the appetite and the digestion. The juice of the black radish is drunk to counter gassy indigestion and constipation. Black radish juice has a tonic and laxative action on the intestines, and indirectly stimulates the flow of bile. Consuming radish generally results in improved digestion, but some people are sensitive to its acridity and strong action. In China, radish is eaten to relieve abdominal distention.

Numerous studies have also documented the potent antioxidant effect of radish4.
Pippali/ English long pepper (Piper longum
Piper longum is a slender aromatic climber with perennial woody roots. The fruits are used for diseases of the respiratory tract, for example, cough, bronchitis and asthma.

It is also known as a counter-irritant and analgesic when applied locally for muscular pains and inflammation and as general tonic and hematinic. It is known to enhance the bioavailability of food and drugs as well as being a carminative.

Various studies have demonstrated the antioxidant potential of Piper longum.
Solanum nigrum or Black night shade has been found to be effective in the treatment of cirrhosis and is also credited with emollient, diuretic, antiseptic and laxative properties.
The extract of the dried fruits were found to normalise the increased levels of liver enzymes due to chemical-induced liver damage5.

A healthy liver is a sign of good life. Adopting healthy lifestyle habits such as regular exercise, consuming a liver-healthy diet and weight loss can go a long way in keeping your liver healthy.

1. Schaffer S, Schmitt-Schillig S, Muller WE, Eckert GPAntioxidant properties of Mediterranean food plant extracts: geographical differences. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2005 Mar;56 Suppl 1:115-24.
2. Rani P, Khullar N. Antimicrobial evaluation of some medicinal plants for their anti-enteric potential against multi-drug resistant Salmonella typhi. Phytother Res. 2004 Aug;18(8):670-3.
3. Harnyk TP. [The use of preparations of plant origin in treating and rehabilitating elderly patients with chronic hepatitis] Lik Sprava. 1999 Oct-Dec;(7-8):168-70.
4. Lugasi A, Blazovics A, Hagymasi K, Kocsis I, Kery A. Antioxidant effect of squeezed juice from black radish (Raphanus sativus L. var niger) in alimentary hyperlipidaemia in rats. Phytother Res. 2005 Jul;19(7):587-91.
5. Raju K, Anbuganapathi G, Gokulakrishnan V, Rajkapoor B, Jayakar B, Manian S. Effect of dried fruits of Solanum nigrum LINN against CCl4-induced hepatic damage in rats. Biol Pharm Bull. 2003 Nov;26(11):1618-9.
The above article is contributed by Himalaya Herbal Healthcare. For more information e-mail The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely that of the author’s. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.
Source: Malaysia Star - Malaysia

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