Detox Learning Center

6 Herbs to Enhance Kidney and Liver Function

“Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.”

-Hippocrates


Your body is an amazing framework of interwoven processes. You are in fact a system of systems! For the most part, thousands and thousands of these processes happen every day without an issue. You aren’t even aware of a fraction of everything that happens in your body moment to moment. You eat, think, and move without being aware of everything it took for your body to do it.

But that doesn’t mean that our bodies couldn’t use a little help. They are happy to serve us day in and day out. But giving some extra attention to our detox organs can help all these interwoven processes run smoothly. After all, we only have this one body. We cannot trade it in like a car.

True detox leads to true health. As Hippocrates said, the natural forces inside of us are what truly do the healing. Yet what happens when the organs for detox -- the liver and kidneys -- aren’t working well? All other processes will suffer. We need to keep these organs in top shape!

This leaves us wondering, how do I cleanse my liver and kidneys? How can I detox my liver and kidneys at home? Fortunately, nature has provided us with some fantastic herbs to optimize their ability to function.

But first... what exactly do the liver and kidneys do? It’s important to understand how hard they work and how vital they really are.

What Do The Kidneys Do?

Well functioning kidneys are vital to us having great health. They eliminate water-soluble wastes and help to balance our electrolytes. They help to maintain the pH of our body. The kidneys help to regulate our hormones and blood pressure and are involved in making our red blood cells. The kidneys express over 1,548 of our genes. (1) They filter 120 to 150 quarts of blood per day. Then wastes and toxins are removed through urine to protect us. We simply cannot live without healthy kidneys.

Fun kidney fact: our right kidney is usually lower and slightly smaller than our left because of the placement of our livers.

What Does The Liver Do?

The liver is involved in hormones, digestion, and detox. It takes harmful substances (non-soluble) found in our blood and deposits them into bile. Then the bile gets released for digestion and the harmful toxins get swept out with our stools.

It’s also involved in breaking down old red blood cells. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Science has discovered over 500 critical functions that the liver is involved with. (2) There are genes expressed in the liver alone and not other organs. (3)

Amazing liver fact: The liver is the only major organ that can regenerate. In fact, over two-thirds of a healthy liver can be removed and it will regenerate! (4)

As astonishing as these organs are, they still need help to function at their highest capacity. Toxins you are exposed to daily (whether by choice or chance) make these organs sluggish in their tasks. You need to make sure they are draining properly.

Let’s explore the herbs that help our liver and kidneys detox:

6 herbs to improve kidney and liver function

1. Milk Thistle

This herb has been used in medicine for thousands of years. Records show first century Romans using it for liver health. The active ingredient that helps our kidneys and liver is called silymarin.

What Does Milk Thistle Do For The Kidneys?

Silymarin can help our kidney tissue recuperate faster when it’s been exposed to damaging chemicals.

Milk thistle also has flavonoids, is full of antioxidants, and can help you produce more of your own antioxidants. Milk thistle helps to increase the expression of genes involved in generating three of your own powerful antioxidants in the kidneys:

  • Glutathione
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Catalase (5)

Milk thistle also helps to reduce inflammation in our kidneys and may even help to protect you from kidney cancer. The active ingredient in milk thistle has been shown to down-regulate cancer-causing genes so cancer cells don’t multiply effectively. (6)

What Does Milk Thistle Do For the Liver?

Milk thistle is one of the best herbs for our liver detox because it has such a powerful influence on liver function. It helps to:

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Stabilize membranes in the liver
  • Increase glutathione production
  • Boost Superoxide Dismutase
  • And decrease liver tumor cell division

It also will help to protect your liver from the damage created as it detoxifies toxic substances. Milk thistle even increases the survival time of people with alcohol-related liver cirrhosis! (7)

Milk thistle has very similar effects on our two detox organs. It’s our top pick for natural kidney and liver detox.

2. Marshmallow Root

Marshmallow comes from a Greek word meaning “to heal.” It creates mucilage when you ingest it and has traditionally been used to treat sore throats. It is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal. (8) Fortunately, this herb does great things for our kidneys and liver as well.

What Does Marshmallow Root Do For The Kidneys?

One potential concern that people have is developing kidney stones. How do you flush your kidneys to help prevent them? By taking herbs that have a diuretic effect. Diuretics can increase the amount of urine you produce and flush out debris from the kidneys with it. Marshmallow root can act as a diuretic to help you do a natural kidney cleanse. (9)

What Does Marshmallow Root Do For The Liver?

Marshmallow root has polysaccharides that help in our wound healing because of its high antioxidant capacity. (10) Our liver bile ducts can become damaged over time. Marshmallow root acts to soothe this damage. In fact, it stimulates the production of our epithelial cells. (11) These are the cells that line the inside of our organs and ducts. Having a strong, healthy bile duct can better help your liver detox.

One additional benefit from marshmallow is its ability to bind to heavy metals. (12) Binding heavy metals and ushering them out of our body before they can create damage is another reason we love this root for liver and kidney detox.

3. Parsley

This green herb is much more than a garnish on your plate at a restaurant! It is full of flavonoids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Parsley has some powerful kidney and liver detox properties we can take advantage of.

What Does Parsley Do For The Kidneys?

Parsley is another fantastic herb to help us prevent kidney stones because it is a diuretic. When studied against other substances, parsley reduced kidney stones the most. Not only did the size and number of stones significantly go down, but the kidney tissue was also healthier. (13) Parsley is a powerful natural kidney cleanse herb.

What Does Parsley Do For The Liver?

Parsley is considered a “bitter” herb. Bitter herbs can help stimulate your release of bile, helping the liver detox. Parsley also helps to produce glutathione which helps protect your liver from damage. (14)

Parsley can also help to lower your blood glucose levels, which can inflame the liver if they are too high. It can help protect your liver by lowering inflammatory liver enzymes. (15)

Similarly to marshmallow, parsley can help to bind onto and remove heavy metals from our body. (16)

Parsley’s diuretic and protective roles make it an especially good kidney detox herb that also has benefits for our liver!

4. Gynostemma

This herb has been used for thousands of years. It’s been nicknamed “poor man’s ginseng” since one of its chemical constituents is the same as Korean ginseng. It’s good for the immune system and supports energy levels. It also supports our liver and kidney detox process.

What Does Gynostemma Do For The Kidneys?

When our organs are injured from exposure to toxins, a process called fibrosis can occur. This is when our cells create scar tissue instead of healthy tissue. Scar tissue doesn’t function like healthy tissue and inhibits our kidney's ability to detox optimally. High levels of fibrosis can lead to the loss of kidney function altogether. Gynostemma can influence the genes in our kidneys to help produce healthy, well-functioning tissue and reduce fibrosis. (17)

What Does Gynostemma Do For The Liver?

Gynostemma has the same fibrosis reducing effects in the liver as it does on the kidney. Scar tissue ends up being thick and unyielding, preventing your liver from performing properly. One study showed that liver tissues can thin out and severe liver fibrosis can be reduced by 33% in as little as 8 weeks! (18) Healthy tissue will help your liver detox at its best capacity.

It also influences your genes involved in liver cancer cell growth and has been shown to inhibit them from multiplying, which would help protect you from liver cancer. (19)  

Gynostemma is a powerful anti-inflammatory for our intestines as well. (20) The intestines are the next step in your liver detox. The liver dumps its toxins into this part of your drainage system to be taken out of the body. Gynostemma does triple duty by helping our kidneys, liver, and intestines. This makes it one of our favorites to enhance your natural detox.

5. Beetroot

Beetroot for kidney and liver detox

Beetroot is so much more than the vegetable you didn’t like as a kid. They’ve been eaten for thousands of years because of their health benefits. Beets were found in Egyptian pyramids dating back to the Third Dynasty. Even without knowing it, they were helping their liver and kidneys detox by consuming beets.

What Does Beetroot Do For The Kidneys?

Beetroot can enhance your production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels which increases blood flow. This additional blood flow can help your kidneys work better than when your blood flow is restricted. (21)

The bright red pigment of beetroot is called betanin. It helps reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. It can also help protect your kidneys from damage. (22)

Beetroot can also help protect your kidneys from being injured from antibiotics, which can sometimes cause kidney failure. It helps to increase catalase, your own natural in-house antioxidant which is crucial for effective kidney detox. Beetroot helps you to downregulate proinflammatory substances in the kidneys as well. (23)

What Does Beetroot Do For The Liver?

Your liver is the organ that protects you from foreign substances often referred to as xenobiotics. Xenobiotics include items you are probably exposed to daily like pesticides, pollution, and food additives.

They are carcinogenic (cancer-causing) so your liver wants to deal with them immediately. However, they can still damage the liver as it neutralizes them. Beetroot helps to increase your own natural antioxidants to protect the liver from damage. (24) Injury to your body's DNA can also be reduced.

The process of getting rid of these foreign substances is called phase II metabolism. The red pigment betanin helps quench the free radicals that are a byproduct of this detox pathway and make it more efficient for us. (25)

Beetroot is another herb that influences our genes. It can help downregulate the genes involved with liver cancer. (26)

Beetroot’s protective pigment and gene influencing properties make it high on our list of natural liver and kidney detox herbs.

6. Ginger

Ginger is the most widely used spice in the world. We often use this pungent herb for nausea, but it’s helping your liver and kidneys detox as well.

What Does Ginger Do For The Kidneys?

Ginger can have a powerful effect on your kidney detox capabilities!

It’s been shown to:

  • Increase the body’s natural antioxidants in the kidneys
  • Lower inflammation
  • Help remove toxins from the kidneys
  • Reduce fibrosis
  • Help create healthier kidney tissue (27)

This simple root herb is a powerhouse for kidney detox.

What Does Ginger Do For The Liver?

Ginger does not disappoint when it comes to our liver detox either.

Researchers aren’t sure how ginger does it, but it can influence our genes involved with producing fat in the liver. It helps to prevent lipid storage which can help protect us from fatty liver disease. (28) Having fat accumulate in the liver prevents it from doing its 500 tasks properly. It leads to fibrosis and decreases the blood flow to the liver, which greatly reduces detox.

Ginger reduces inflammation, and once again, helps us produce our own antioxidants.

Another benefit that goes for both our liver and kidneys, is protection from heavy metals. Cadmium can change gene expression and upregulate cancer genes. Ginger reverses this and helps protect you from heavy metals. (29)

Ginger is a simple, but powerful addition to your kidney and liver detox protocol.

Nature Enhancing Nature

We’ve gone over 6 herbs that improve kidney and liver function:

  • Milk Thistle
  • Marshmallow Root
  • Parsley
  • Gynostemma
  • Beetroot
  • Ginger

They all have similar effects. They are anti-inflammatory and change the gene expression in the kidneys and liver for the better.

But are the herbs doing the healing for you?

No, it’s you!

You have incredible detox and protective measures in place within every organ system.

There is a caveat though.

These fantastic systems can become overwhelmed when you are exposed to too many toxins. They are hindered in performing their essential jobs. They also decrease with efficiency as we age.  

Which herbs do you think would help you with kidney and liver detox the most? 

Consider a blend that contains a few of these herbs to maximize your protection and detox potential.

Helping to restore your optimum kidney and liver detox pathways can help protect you from a host of health challenges and will also help you live your best, healthiest life now.

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