Considering the excellent information herbal research has been giving us for years now, there is no reason for anyone to worry about having to take prescription drugs when they really need to. Even if it is something that you have to take on a daily basis – no worries. We don’t have to choose entirely between ‘nature’ and ‘synthetics.’
Nature is good enough to even protect us from the toxicity of chemical medicines, preventing most side effects as well as protect us from industrial/modern toxins and pollution that many of us encounter daily. Even medicines toxic enough to make you nauseated and very sick can go down smoothly with few if any side effects if taken with one or more of the following herbs listed on this page.
Here is a list of my favorite herbs full of powerful antioxidants that protect the liver and body when taken at least twice daily.
1. Yerba Mate – Ilex paraguarensis
This member of the holly genus has antioxidants that are even more powerful than those in Green Tea. In addition, it is full of minerals and B-vitamins. A better choice for those who want a more well-rounded tonic effect.
This is a warming, circulating stimulant that is unique for this type of herb because of how much nutrition it contains. So it can be considered tonic so long as you don’t overdose/overuse it.
For fullest extraction of the antioxidants without damaging them brew at 160° for 5-10 minutes and increase brewing time for greater extraction. Yerba Mate tastes great sweetened with its native South American companion herb Stevia.
Another species of Ilex know as Guayusa (Ilex guayusa) has started showing up on shelves in natural energy drinks. A normal serving is said to have as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, but twice as much antioxidant content as most green tea. Its phyto-nutrient and medicine content is probably very much like Yerba Mate.
2. Tea (Camellia sinensis) White, Green, Black
Green Tea has half the stimulating xanthine alkaloids and twice the antioxidants of black tea. Green has twice the stimulating effect and half the antioxidants of White Tea, however. (The decaffeinated variety is best for those who want the antioxidants without the stimulation/bronchial dilation effects).
Green tea acts upon the lungs, skin (pores) and brain and is the best choice for smokers and those with asthma. It protects the body from the toxins while opening the bronchial for proper breathing.
Never pour boiling hot water over Green Tea as it makes a bitter-tasting tea as it immediately begins extracting tannins. Instead pour the hot water (160-185°) first, then dip your tea bag or tea leaves. Brew only briefly to avoid extracting much of the tannin content (bitter part). Brew at 180-190° for 1-4 minutes. A second half cup can be made from the used tea leaves. If you prefer to benefit from the tannins for an astringent toning effect for the whole body then the herb can be taken in capsules.
3. Milk Thistle Seed (Silybum marianum)
Sometimes sold as Silymarin extgract, this seed is a favorite of birds and should be of ours! It not only protects the liver from serious toxins, but can actually rejuvenate liver tissue. The seeds are a bit hard so it is quite a job for the jaw to chew these up, although I’ve done it many times, so you may want to get your Milk Thistle in tablets, capsules or liquid extract.
This herb is cooling and modestly astringent, so it works well in a lot of conditions, since any condition of the liver inevitably can benefit from an anti-inflammatory/cooling effect. It pairs very well with Ginseng and all tonics herbs I’ve taken.
I can tell you from long-term personal experience that it is not true that these seeds must be extracted by water/heat/alcohol for their properties to become effective in the body. Just take the herb with a meal and they will digest just fine and be properly absorbed.
Anyone with liver disease should take this excellent herb. I don’t care what kind of disease. Milk Thistle Seed is the best nourishing tonic for the liver. If I am having consistent liver area pain that is not relieved by my usual herbs or remedies I start taking Milk Thistle Seeds and the pain goes away within 24 hours.
I take the seeds ground into powder: 1/2 – 1 tsp, 2-3 times daily, sometimes even more. It can’t hurt you even if you take Tablespoon doses at each meal. If you a large enough dose Milk Thistle Seeds can protect your body from the worst poisons on this planet. Ingest Milk Thistle Seeds as quickly as possible after the incident. If it is within 20 minutes and you take a dose that is large enough, you will suffer no toxicity whatsoever.
4. Turmeric Root (Curcumae longa)
This is one of our finest and most available (thus least expensive) blood movers (emmenagogue). It is both a tonic, stimulant, digestive, and analgesic that helps clear the liver and gall bladder. It acts especially well upon the heart and liver. This makes it a great choice for those with liver and heart issues, but can be used preventively. It is warming in nature, so it should not be the primary herb in inflammatory conditions in which there is already too much heat in the body (showing as reddened skin conditions, heat flashes, etc).
The antioxidant power of Turmeric compared to the first three herbs is still pretty good, but because it is more blood-moving and stimulating the amounts used must be more moderate. It is an excellent choice for those with sluggish digestive systems who would like to better digest meat and heavier foods or fats.
5. Whole Leaf Aloe Juice (or Gel) (Aloes spp.)
This plant’s antioxidant powers are very good especially for those whose constitutional needs require a more cooling, moistening herb to supplement their natural body fluids. Many Chinese Traditionalists who have discovered Aloe extol its virtues above many of their traditional herbs.
Aloe repairs cells and injuries, particularly burns. It prevents/heals injuries due to burns – either chemical or radiation-caused burns. Nothing is better used both topically and internally. Apply to the skin for sunburns, but take internally before an outing to the beach. It should be taken internally if you must undergo chemo or radiation treatments.
It is important that you get the Whole Leaf variety. What is commonly available in bottles is produced through the Russian process which removes the purgative component. This is important as it distinguishes it from the Aloe you may have in your house (probably Aloe vera). If you ingest pieces of your house plant, just know that it comes with a ‘price.’ Stay near the restroom. However, if this were the only antioxidant available in an emergency, don’t hesitate to use it.
6. Grape Seed Extract
This one has astringent and hemostatic qualities that make it a great tonic for the cardiovascular system. Take it with food. Grape Seeds contain important nutrients like Vitamin E, and essential fatty acids. Grape Seeds contain polyphenol antioxidants similar to Green/White Tea.
Can reduce blood pressure and heart rate, so it makes a good pair with Turmeric for those who want those benefits.
There are other herbs that have been associated with antioxidant, liver/body protecting qualities: Wolf Berries, Schizandra Berries, Rooibos Tea, but in my experience these are not as powerful or effective as the herbs listed previously. Feel free to contribute your comments, experience or links to good information on any other plants containing effective antioxidant properties. Acai berry also contains antioxidants, but not in the quantity to impress me. I do not yet have experience in using it to determine if it is capable of significant liver protection.
JiaoGuLan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) is an energy tonic long used in folk medicine in China and southeast Asia. It is safe for summertime use because it is not heating like Ginseng can be (and other warming Qi tonics), and has a significant antioxidant content, especially if it is processed minimally (best when the leaf is simply dried and taken or encapsulated, or just as a long-brewed tea.
The caffeinated herbs listed here (Guayusa, Tea, Yerba Mate) are not compatible with many tonic herbs, in particular Ginseng and Yang tonics that can combine with them to create irritability, over-stimulation, and even over-heating of the blood. Be sure to build your personal herbal program around your primary herb of need (constitutional herb). If liver protection and prevention of toxicity is of primary importance, then be sure to leave off tonic herbs like Ginsengs (all forms), Epimedium (“Horny Goat Weed” an anti-rheumatic aphrodisiac and bone/joint strengthener) or other strengthening Yang tonics.