The liver is one of the most important organs in the human body, and one of the hardest working. Helping our liver to function well is of huge importance to our physical and mental wellbeing. Most people will be familiar with the filtering function of this brilliant organ – every minute of every day, your liver is removing unwanted toxins, microorganisms, metabolic waste and chemicals from your bloodstream. As our blood flows through the liver’s complex filtration system, substances are assessed and either removed or allowed to stay. Toxins do not build up in the liver, contrary to popular belief. In fact, any toxins that cannot be removed are re-homed into our body’s fat reserves.
But the liver is far more than just a filter – it restores vitality to our blood, the fuel of life.
As well as being responsible for toxic waste removal, the liver also produces bile for digestion of fats and fat-soluble nutrients; helps produce and store vitamins A and D; regulates and removes excessive oestrogen; and acts as an energy back-up by making and storing glycogen, a form of quick-access sugar for use during times of excessive energy expenditure and stress.
The liver has to work extraordinarily hard when we are under stress, sleep deprived, suffering emotionally, eating a poor diet or drinking alcohol. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver is the boss when it comes to balanced energy supply, hormone health and emotional wellbeing. An overworked, depleted body will lack the nutrients to support liver function. Energy and wellbeing will suffer as the liver struggles to function.
Your liver works hard to keep you healthy, so why not repay the favour by building in these easy tips to support this important organ:
Avoid ingesting and absorbing chemicals - through food, cosmetics, cleaning products and unnecessary medications. Your liver has a mammoth task filtering the many poisons the body is exposed to. Minimise the toxic burden by avoiding chemicals and selecting organic foods, and natural cosmetic and cleaning products. Regular use of non-essential medications can seriously burden the liver, in particular anti-histamines and painkillers, so find healthy solutions.
Avoid liver cleanses and fasts – your liver does not need to be ‘cleansed’, and regimes aimed at doing so may in fact damage the liver by creating an excessive toxic burden.
Eat cooked food – this is a principle of Traditional Chinese Medicine, as cooked foods are said to provide the best source of fuel. An added bonus is that cooking will kill any microbes and pathogens present in the food that the liver will otherwise be tasked with removing.
Eat a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods - the liver relies on a wide, varied diet to provide it with the complex list of nutrients needed for neutralising toxins. Include a rainbow of vegetables and fruits in your diet, especially leafy greens, as well as good quality protein, plus wholegrain carbohydrates for glycogen stores. 
Express emotions – referring to someone as ‘liverish’ affirms our awareness that emotions are strongly linked to the liver! In Traditional Chinese Medicine, unexpressed emotions damage the liver, with repressed anger to most toxic of all. Express your emotions, especially anger, regularly (by yourself rather than to others!). Susan Weed, renowned herbalist, credits her weekly practice of sitting aside for half an hour weekly to bring her anger to the surface as one of her most powerful tools for liver health.
Use liver supportive herbs – there are many safe liver-supporting herbs, commonly referred to as ‘bitters’. Dandelion, nettle, chicory or milk thistle can safely be added to many people’s daily regimes. We can add fresh dandelion and nettle leaves to our foods, or take teas and tinctures for ongoing liver support. Check with your herbalist for a suitable herb for your body.
As with all things in life, balance is key. And this rings especially true when keeping your liver healthy and happy.  

Fiona O’Farrell is an acupuncturist and natural health therapist running a vibrant clinic in Greystones. Co. Wicklow. For more information see or
Natural Health Therapist