Sipping detox tea may help nourish your liver and support the body’s natural process for eliminating toxins from the body. Herbs that strengthen, tone, and stimulate the secretive functions of the liver are known in the Western herbal medicine tradition as hepatics. Although research is limited, many hepatics (aka ‘detox teas’) have been found to boost the activity of liver cells and support the functions of the liver and digestive system.
Pre-made versions of detox teas are widely available in health food stores. These products often contain ingredients that have long been used in herbal medicinal teas and Traditional Chinese Medicine, including herbs such as:
Burdock root, seeds, and leaves are recognized for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Burdock has been used to protect liver cells from damage, particularly for alcohol or acetaminophen-related damage, and to ‘purify the blood.
Dandelion leaves and roots have long been used by herbalists as a diuretic, antioxidant, and for anti-inflammatory effects.
Schisandra berries, among the most important herbs of traditional Chinese medicine, are used to protect the liver against inflammation. In some studies, schisandra berry extract has been shown to improve the health and function of the liver in people with fatty liver disease.
Milk thistle seeds are abundant in an antioxidant silymarin, a free-radical scavenger thought to help prevent toxins from entering liver cells and stimulate liver cell regeneration, among other benefits.
Other common detox tea ingredients include ginger root, licorice root, and fennel seeds to facilitate digestion, and decrease inflammation. These herbs also help tame the more bitter flavors from ingredients such as dandelion. Fresh lemon and maple syrup, can be used to flavor as well.
Some detox herbs interact with other medications. Check with your health practitioner to choose the best detox tea for you.
Mars, Bridgitte & Fiedler, Chrystle. Home Reference Guide to Holistic Health & Healing. (2015) Beverly, MA: Fair Winds Press.
SproutingHealthyHabits website. “8 Tasty Herbal Tea Recipes for Detoxing.” Accessed on January 13, 2016.
The following as cited in Pizzorno, Joseph E. (2013). Textbook of Natural Medicine. St. Louis, MO Elsevier.
Jones, D.S., Quinn, S, et al. “Functional Medicine” (chapter 2), 10, 14-15
Lyon, M. “Functional Toxicology” (chapter 53), 483-484.
Vasey, Christopher. “Eliminating Toxins.” The naturopathic way: how to detox, find quality nutrition, and restore your acid-alkaline balance. (2009), 81-95. Rochester, Vt: Healing Arts Press.
Ram, V.J., “Herbal preparations as a source of Hepatoprotective Agents.” Drug News Perspect. (2001) 14,6: 353. Accessed on January 13, 2016.
PinnacleHealth Patient Portal. “Schisandra chinensis; Schisandra spenanthera.” Accessed on January 12, 2016.
Abenavoli L, Capasso R, Milic N, Capasso F. “Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future.” Phytother Res. (Oct 2010) 24,10: 1423-32.
Medline Plus. Milk Thistle. Accessed on 1/4/2016. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/138.html
Smart Publications. Silymarin: A Potent Antioxidant, Liver Protector, and Anti-Cancer Agent. Accessed on January 12, 2016.
Johnson, R.L., S. Foster, Low Dog, T. and Kiefer, D. “Milk Thistle” in National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World’s Most Effective Healing Plants. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2012. p. 167-169.
Herb Wisdom.com. Benefits of Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). Accessed on Jan. 4, 2016.
El-Kott AF, Bin-Meferij MM. “Use of Arctium lappa Extract Against Acetaminophen-Induced Hepatotoxicity in Rats.” Current Thera Research, Clinical & Experimental. (2015), 77: 73-78. DOI:10.1016/j.curtheres.2015.05.001.