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Herbs for liver and GB

Wormwood, Sage, Dandelion and Golden Seal

Just a few hundreds of years ago, herbal medicine was the main medical practice.

Today, thanks to medical science (read medical business), you can hardly find anyone practicing this highest of healing arts.
In the nature, around us, there is a cure for every single ailment and illness.

There are many herbs that have protective efect on liver and gallbladder.
Every herb that promots the discharge of bile from the liver and the gallbladder (Cholagogue) have positiv efect for people who do not suffer attacks.

Cholagogue = promots the discharge of bile from the liver and the gallbladder

There are many herbs that are used for dissolving or destroying stones in the gallbladder.

Cholagogues by David L. Hoffmann B.Sc. (Hons), M.N.I.M.H.

This is an action that has the specific effect of stimulating the flow of bile from the liver. In orthodox pharmacology there is a differentiation between ´direct cholagogues´ which actually increase the amount of secreted bile, and ´indirect cholagogues´ which simply increase the amount of bile being released by the gall bladder. This differentiation is not very important in holistic herbal practice, especially as we are not going to use purified ox bile!

Most bitters and hepatics are also cholagogues. A whole range of plant constituents will have that action on the liver tissue, but without it being forced or damaging.

The secretion of bile is of great help to the whole digestive and assimilative process, and as we are what we eat- we are what we digest.

The role of bile is partially that of facilitating fat digestion but also of being a natural laxative, and thus cleansing to the system. Without exploring the vast complexities of liver function, it is worth noting that bile formation and flow are fundamental to it all. Thus, these herbs have a much deeper value than ´simply´ the release of bile, they help ensure a strong and healthy liver and so enliven the whole being.

Indications for cholagogues

-for long term maintenance of dyskinesia of the bile duct and to stimulate normal contractions to deliver bile to the small intestine.
-for disorders caused by insufficient or congested bile, such as intractable biliary constipation, jaundice and mild hepatitis.
-for the treatment of autonomic functional disorders in the epigastric area; for symptoms of indigestion to aid in the digestion of fat-soluble substances.
-for helping the liver´s detoxification work.
-for gallstones, unless they are lodged in the bile duct and causing a great deal of pain.

Contra-indications of cholagogues

-painful gallstones; the increased contractile activity could further constrict the bile duct leading to incredibly intense pain.
-acute bilious colic.
-obstructive jaundice; the same reservations apply here as with painful gallstones.
-Acute cholecystitis unless gallstones have been ruled out; cholecystitis can be caused by infection, but you should determine the cause before using a cholagogue.
-Acute viral hepatitis.
-Extremely toxic liver disorders; a cholagogue may be too stressful for a liver that is damaged to this extent; but this must be weighed against the potential benefit to be derived from the liver-protecting properties of the particular herb.

Herbal Cholagogues

Artichoke; Balmony; Barberry; Black Root; Blue Flag; Boldo; Boneset; Butternut; Dandelion root; Fringetree bark; Fumitory; Gentian; Golden Seal; Greater Celandine; Mountain Grape; Rosemary; Sage; Wahoo; Wild Indigo; Wild Yam; Wormwood; Yellow Dock;


Artemisia absinthium (Wormwood)

Common Names: Absinth Sagewort [P], Absinth Wormwood [L], Absinthe [H,E], Ajenjo [E], Ajenjo Oficial [E], Common Wormwood [H], Feuilles Ameres [E], Niga-Yomogi [E], Old Woman [H], Oldman [B], Pelin [E], Wormswood [E], Wormwood [L,H],

Medicinal Uses: Anthelmintic; Antiseptic; Antispasmodic; Carminative; Cholagogue; Emmenagogue; Febrifuge; Homeopathy; Hypnotic; Stimulant; Stomachic; Tonic; Vermifuge.

Anthelmintic = Vermifuge = expelling or destroying parasitic worms especially of the intestine
Antiseptic = preventing or arresting the growth of microorganisms
Antispasmodic = capable of preventing or relieving spasms or convulsions
Carminative = expelling gas from the alimentary canal so as to relieve colic or griping
Cholagogue = Promoting the discharge of bile from the liver and gallbladder
Emmenagogue = agent that induces or hastens menstrual flow
Febrifuge = agent that reduces fever; an antipyretic
Hypnotic= Inducing or tending to induce sleep
Stimulant= An agent, especially a chemical agent, that temporarily arouses or accelerates physiological or organic activity.
Stomachic= Beneficial to or stimulating digestion in the stomach.
Tonic= An invigorating, refreshing, or restorative agent
Vermifuge = Anthelmintic

Wormwood is a very bitter plant with a long history of use as a medicinal herb. It is valued especially for its tonic effect on the liver, gallbladder and digestive system, and for its vermicidal activity[4, 238, 254]. It is an extremely useful medicine for those with weak and underactive digestion. It increases stomach acid and bile production, improving digestion and the absorption of nutrients[254]. It also eases wind and bloating and, if taken regularly, helps the body return to full vitality after a prolonged illness[254].

The leaves and flowering shoots are anthelmintic, antiinflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitumor, carminative, cholagogue, emmenagogue, febrifuge, hypnotic, stimulant, stomachic, tonic and vermifuge[4, 9, 21, 46, 165, 222, 254]. The plant is harvested as it is coming into flower and then dried for later use[4]. Use with caution[21], the plant should be taken internally in small doses for short-term treatment only, preferably under the supervision of a qualified practitioner[238]. It should not be prescribed for children or pregnant women[238]. See also the notes above on toxicity.

The extremely bitter leaves are chewed to stimulate the appetite[222]. The bitter taste on the tongue sets off a reflex action, stimulating stomach and other digestive secretions[254]. The leaves have been used with some success in the treatment of anorexia nervosa[244].

The plant is applied externally to bruises and bites[238]. A warm compress has been used to ease sprains and strained muscles[257].

A homeopathic remedy is made from the leaves[9]. It is used to stimulate bile and gastric juice production and to treat disorders of the liver and gall bladder[9].
As its name implies, wormwood has been used to expel worms from people and animals. However, Caius and Mhasker (1920) did not find oil of wormwood to be an effective antihelmintic when tested against the hookworm. Whatever antiparasitic properties wormwood has may be partially due to its -santonin content (Perez-Souto et al 1992), which is recognized as a medicine for parasitic diseases. Of course, wormwood´s measurable toxicity prevents modern herbalists from recommending it.Wormwood contains unidentified antimalarial substance(s). Alcoholic extracts of the dried leaves have ´considerable antimalarial potential´ when administered orally, subcutaneously, or intraperitoneally to mice (Zafar, Hamdard, & Hameed 1990).

Wormwood leaves are used traditionally in Pakistan as an antipyretic (anti-fever) and an active antipyretic compound has been isolated from the dried leaves. This compound alleviates yeast-induced pyrexia in rabbits (Ikramet al 1987).
Dilute (1:1000) oil of wormwood has some antimicrobial activity. Kaul, Nigam and Dhar (1976) found that the dilute oil inhibited the growth of 4 (out of 7) different types of bacteria.

Wormwood is also hepatoprotective (liver protecting). Gilani and Janbaz (1995) found that an aqueous-methanolic extract of Artemisia absinthium protected against acetaminophen and CCl4-induced hepatotoxicity in mice. This protection seems to be at least partially due to inhibition of microsomal drug metabolizing enzymes (MDME), since the plant extract prolonged the sleep-inducing effects of pentobarbital in mice. Gilani and Janbaz speculate that this putative MDME inhibition may be due to sesartemin, which has the methylene-dioxybenzene group common to MDME inhibitors. The presence of antioxidants and calcium-channel blockers in wormwood (Gilani 1994) also probably contribute to its hepatoprotective effects.
Known Hazards: The plant is poisonous if used in large quantities. Even small quantities have been known to cause nervous disorders, convulsions, insomnia etc. Just the scent of the plant has been known to cause headaches and nervousness in some people. The plant contains thujone. In small quantities this acts as a brain stimulant but is toxic in excess. Absinthe, Alcoholic beverage, popular in the nineteenth century in Europe, caused several cases of brain damage and even death and was banned in most places in the early twentieth century. Today, most alcoholic drinks cause brain damage, if used in excess, but, alcohol is still legal. Absinthe is not.


Botanical: Salvia officinalis (LINN.)

---Medicinal Action and Uses---Stimulant, as tringent, tonic and carminative. Has beenused in dyspepsia, but is now mostly employed as a condiment. In the United States, where it is still an official medicine, it is in some repute, especially in the form of an infusion, the principal and most valued application of which is as a wash for the cure of affections of the mouth and as a gargle in inflamed sore throat, being excellent for relaxed throat and tonsils, and also for ulcerated throat. The gargle is useful for bleeding gums and to prevent an excessive flow of saliva.

When a more stimulating effect to the throat is desirable, the gargle may be made of equal quantities of vinegar and water, 1/2 pint of hot malt vinegar being poured on 1 OZ. of leaves, adding 1/2 pint of cold water.

The infusion when made for internal use is termed Sage Tea, and can be made simply by pouring 1 pint of boiling water on to 1 OZ. of the dried herb, the dose being from a wineglassful to half a teacupful, as often as required, but the old-fashioned way of making it is more elaborate and the result is a pleasant drink, cooling in fevers, and also a cleanser and purifier of the blood. Half an ounce of fresh Sage leaves, 1 OZ. of sugar, the juice of 1 lemon, or 1/4 OZ. of grated rind, are infused in a quart of boiling water and strained off after half an hour. (In Jamaica the negroes sweeten Sage Tea with lime-juice instead of lemon.)

Sage Tea or infusion of Sage is a valuable agent in the delirium of fevers and in the nervous excitement frequently accompanying brain and nervous diseases and has considerable reputation as a remedy, given in small and oft-repeated doses. It is highly serviceable as a stimulant tonic in debility of the stomach and nervous system and weakness of digestion generally. It was for this reason that the Chinese valued it, giving it the preference to their own tea. It is considered a useful medicine in typhoid fever and beneficial in biliousness and liver complaints, kidney troubles, haemorrhage from the lungs or stomach, for colds in the head as well as sore throat and quinsy and measles, for pains in the joints, lethargy and palsy. It will check excessive perspiration in phthisis cases, and is useful as an emmenagogue. A cup of the strong infusion will be found good to relieve nervous headache.

The infusion made strong, without the lemons and sugar, is an excellent lotion for ulcers and to heal raw abrasions of the skin. It has also been popularly used as an application to the scalp, to darken the hair.

The fresh leaves, rubbed on the teeth, will cleanse them and strengthen the gums. Sage is a common ingredient in tooth-powders.
The volatile oil is said to be a violent epileptiform convulsant, resembling the essential oils of absinthe and nutmeg. When smelt for some time it is said to cause a sort of intoxication and giddiness. It is sometimes prescribed in doses of 1 to 3 drops, and used for removing heavy collections of mucus from the respiratory organs. It is a useful ingredient in embrocations for rheumatism.

In cases where heat is required, Sage has been considered valuable when applied externally in bags, as a poultice and fomentation.
In Sussex, at one time, to munch Sage leaves on nine consecutive mornings, whilst fasting, was a country cure for ague, and the dried leaves have been smoked in pipes as a remedy for asthma.

In the region where Sage grows wild, its leaves are boiled in vinegar and used as a tonic.

Among many uses of the herb, Culpepper says that it is:
´Good for diseases of the liver and to make blood. A decoction of the leaves and branches of Sage made and drunk, saith Dioscorides, provokes urine and causeth the hair to become black. It stayeth the bleeding of wounds and cleaneth ulcers and sores. Three spoonsful of the juice of Sage taken fasting with a little honey arrests spitting or vomiting of blood in consumption. It is profitable for all pains in the head coming of cold rheumatic humours, as also for all pains in the joints, whether inwardly or outwardly. The juice of Sage in warm water cureth hoarseness and cough. Pliny saith it cureth stinging and biting serpents. Sage is of excellent use to help the memory, warming and quickening the senses. The juice of Sage drunk with vinegar hath been of use in the time of the plague at all times. Gargles are made with Sage, Rosemary, Honeysuckles and Plantains, boiled in wine or water with some honey or alum put thereto, to wash sore mouths and throats, as need requireth. It is very good for stitch or pains in the sides coming of wind, if the place be fomented warm with the decoction in wine and the herb also, after boiling, be laid warm thereto.´

Taraxacum officinale

Dandelion leaves are widely recommended as a food supplement for pregnant and also postmenopausal women because of the many nutrients they contain. They also appear to produce a mild diuretic effect, which may be appreciated by those who suffer from fluid retention.

In the folk medicine of many countries, dandelion root is regarded as a liver tonic, a substance believed to benefit the liver in an unspecified way. This led to its use for many illnesses traditionally believed to be caused by a sluggish or congested liver, including constipation, headaches, eye problems, gout, skin problems, fatigue, and boils.

Building on this traditional thinking, some modern naturopathic physicians believe that dandelion can help detoxify or clean out the liver and gallbladder.2 This concept has led to the suggestion that dandelion can reduce the side effects of medications processed by the liver, as well as relieve symptoms of diseases in which impaired liver function plays a role. However, there is as yet no real evidence for any of these uses.

Dandelion root is also used like other bitter herbs to improve appetite and treat minor digestive disorders. When dried and roasted, it is sometimes used as a coffee substitute. Finally, dandelion root has been used for the treatment of rheumatism (arthritis) and mild constipation.
The scientific basis for the use of dandelion is scanty. Preliminary studies suggest that dandelion root stimulates the flow of bile.3,4,5 Dandelion leaves have also been found to produce a mild diuretic effect.6

Golden Seal
Botanical: Hydrastis Canadensis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Ranunculaceae

---Synonyms---Yellow Root. Orange Root. Yellow Puccoon. Ground Raspberry. Wild Curcuma. Turmeric Root. Indian Dye. Eye Root. Eye Balm. Indian Paint. Jaundice Root. Warnera.
---Part Used---Root.
---Habitat---The plant is a native of Canada and the eastern United States, the chief States producing it being Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana, New York and in Canada, Ontario. Most of the commercial supplies are obtained from the Ohio Valley, the chief market being Cincinnati. It is scarce east of the Alleghany Mountains, having become quite rare in New York State, where it has been almost exterminated by collectors. It is found in the rich soil of shady woods and moist places at the edge of wooded lands.

Medicinal Action and Uses---The American aborigines valued the root highly as a tonic, stomachic and application for sore eyes and general ulceration, as well as a yellow dye for their clothing and weapons.

It is official in most Pharmacopoeias, several of which refer to its yellowing the saliva when masticated.

The action is tonic, laxative, alterative and detergent. It is a valuable remedy in the disordered conditions of the digestion and has a special action on the mucous membrane, making it of value as a local remedyin various forms of catarrh. In chronic inflammation of the colon and rectum, injections of Hydrastine are often of great service, and it has been used in haemorrhoids with excellent results, the alkaloid Hydrastine having an astringent action. The powder has proved useful as a snuff for nasal catarrh.

It is employed in dyspepsia, gastric catarrh, loss of appetite and liver troubles. As a tonic, it is of extreme value in cases of habitual constipation, given as a powder, combined with any aromatic. It is an efficient remedy for sickness and vomiting.

---Preparations---Powdered root, 10 grains. Fluid extract, 1/4 to 1 drachm. Tincture, B.P. and U.S.P., 1/2 to 1 drachm. Solid extract, 5 to 8 grains.

As an infusion, it has great influence in preventing and curing night-sweats. It is sometimes used as a wash for ulcerated mouth.

Externally, it is used as a lotion in treatment of eye affections and as a general cleansing application.

It is said to be a specific to prevent pitting by smallpox.

In large amounts the drug proves very poisonous.

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