Weedy Treatments for Liver Heat and Congestion with a Special Emphasis on Viral Hepatitis
These are therapeutic suggestions for conditions that can be caused by underlying constitutional imbalance, that are in turn aggravated by food allergies and deficiencies, lifestyle, environmental factors, solvent poisoning and diseases such as viral Hepatitis.
I personally feel that the overall constitution should be taken into account before treatment, which means if you are a airy, cold, dry and thin type of person who gets liver inflammation from alcohol abuse or the like you should use treatments specific to your body and your condition. The treatment picture below corresponds directly to the symptom picture (Pitta types with liver qi stagnation, liver yin deficiency and liver heat… how do you like that mix of metaphors?)
A Symptom Picture:
rapid, wiry pulse,
red to purple with redder tip, usually uncoated, often somewhat cracked tongue,
stomach upset with poor fat digestion, bloating and gas,
headaches behind the eyes or near the temples,
hot, itchy psoriasis and/or eczema,
irritation, moodiness and bursts of anger,
hot flashes and night sweats, hot palms of hands and soles of feet
frequent sighing (no, for real!)
dry, red eyes,
sharp pain in the liver area
Useful Approaches & Plants
First, address underlying dietary problems such as allergies. Many people with this particular symptom picture have gluten intolerance, try a six week elimination diet if in doubt. Nourish any nutritional deficiencies with whole foods and supplements as needed. Essential Fatty Acids, Magnesium, Selenium, Alpha-lipoic acid, E, C and B vitamins are especially important. It’s always best to get these through your diet but if you can’t or need to get a big boost in something like Magnesium where dietary sources may be difficult to obtain (or digest), make sure you get a very high quality supplement. I’m usually in favor of fairly high fat diets, but in the case of an impaired, inflamed liver, go light on the fat, and eradicate any low quality processed fat (margarine makes your liver scream, don’t do it). Preferred fats include clarified butter (or lacking that, unsalted, cultured butter but clarified unsalted butter is the best), olive oil, coconut oil and of course, fish oils.
People with an inflamed, congested liver often do better with several small meals per day rather than one or two large meals that are difficult for the liver to digest all at once. Especially for people with a Pitta type constitution and (often) accompanying liver inflammation and blood sugar problems, eating regularly throughout the day will help with general mood, digestion, skin and liver health.
This is not an exhaustive botanical list, but rather a compendium of the plants I’ve found most useful for this condition(s) over the last few years. Most are weeds or very common plants that can be found just about anywhere. A majority of the herbs listed are heat clearing, relaxant nervine, liver protective/tonifying and/or immune modulating.
Many Hep C regimens recommend the use of warming, immune stimulating herbs such as Astragalus, but in hot, acute, inflamed viral Hepatitis or any similar liver disorder it’s very important to use primarily cooling, heat clearing herbs(but always with a small amount of warming/stimulating herbs in the formula). Using Astragalus, Garlic etc., as primary herbs will simply aggravate the existing condition. Also note that uses listed are only those that pertain to this condition.
These herbs can be combined in various formulas as infusions, decoctions, tinctures and whole plant depending on your need and the nature of the plant.
Primary Tastes: Bitter and Sweet, with some Sour & Pungent
Primary Energies: Primarily relaxing and cooling, with some spicy Chi regulating herbs
Western Mugwort (probably regular Mugwort would work too, A. capillaris is commonly used in TCM for acute hepatitis and jaundice) – Bitter, pungent – Protects and cools liver and digestive system, moves qi and blood and relieves liver congestion in a big way. A primary remedy for Hep C with inflammation. Relaxant nervine.
Lavender – Bitter, pungent – Cools & relaxes the liver, moves qi, relaxant nervine. Relieves pain and depression related to liver qi stagnation.
Sage – Bitter, astringent, pungent – Similar to lavender in many respects. Cools liver, assists the body in fluid distribution, strong moves blood and qi, relaxant nervine. Relieves pain and depression related to liver qi stagnation.
Skullcap – Bitter – Relaxes and rebuilds in the nervous system, helps to mellow the moods swings and CSN irritability typical of liver inflammation. Stimulates gastric juices for a more relaxed effective digestion process, something of a big deal for many people with liver associated IBS.
Peach leaves/twigs – Relaxing and moistening, helps calm hyper immune response, good for nausea and stomach upset where an inflamed liver is the source of the problem.
Rose petals, leaves and hips – Astringent/Sour – Cooling, liver relaxing, blood moving, relaxant nervine, lymphatic
Dandelion root – Bitter – Bile stimulating, cooling, clears heat, relieves liver congestion (you’ll notice I repeat that a lot, it’s VERY important to keep the liver unstuck and moving).
Peony Root – Bitter, Sour, Sweet – Strongly blood moving and somewhat blood building, clears heat, relaxant nervine. Relieves pain and depression related to blood congestion.
Elderberry – Sour, Sweet – Immune modulating, stress relieving, gently relaxant nervine, liver nourishing as well as supportive to the whole body. Decreases liver related allergies.
Milk Thistle Seeds -Neutral – Liver protective Best prepared as ground seed and sprinkled into foods for this condition rather than tincture or even decoction.
Orange Peel -bitter, pungent- Moves stuck qi, especially liver qi
Evening Primrose Whole Plant- Neutral – Liver nourishing, relaxant nervine, supports liver health and heals inflamed stomachs. Useful for highly driven people with stressed out livers that have resulted in anxiety, GI troubles and eventually, depression.
Honeysuckle Leaves & Flowers -Bitter, Sweet- Strongly heat and infection clearing, lymphatic, helps with pain and anxiety.
Stinging Nettle Leaves -Salty- Nourishing, drains dampness, clears heat, assists with clearing up psoriasis, eczema and other liver related skin conditions.
Reishi -Bitter, Neutral- Immune stimulating, liver protective, adaptogenic, spirit calming, helps with insomnia, restlessness and anxiety often associated with liver inflammation. I make a long decoction (2 or more hours) in a Ginseng cooker and give separately from other formulas. Larger doses (8-10 grams per day) seem to be most useful in acute liver inflammation. Lower doses (appr. 5 grams per day) work well with chronic low grade liver problems.
Mallow Whole Plant -Sweet, Salty- Moistening, nourishing, immune stimulating . Very useful for chronic dryness and inflammation. Well help heal an overheated stomach and system. Also a nice overall tonic for the dry, irritated Pitta type person.
Licorice Root -Sweet- Adaptogenic, strongly liver protective, very useful for harmonizing other remedies in a formula, the contradictions for Licorice are rarely present in those with a hyperimmune constitution and liver inflammation, regardless, the amounts used in formula should not present a problem for most people.
Asparagus root -Sweet, Bitter- Moistening, cooling tonic for overall constitutional balancing. Helps moderate inflammation and gently increases liver function.