The liver acts in the digestive process by excreting bile, which helps with digestion and the absorption of fats. By breaking fat down into miniscule drops, which are easily digested, bile acts as a buffer for the intestinal contents. When bile is combined with a fatty acid, the acids become water soluble and easier to absorb.
The liver is the primary site of lipotropic action. By definition, lipotropics are nutritional factors that serve to prevent the accumulation of fat in the liver, and they usually aid in the detoxification of metabolic wastes and other toxins. Some lipotropics help to emulsify fats so that the blood can more readily transport them.
Other lipotropics work more directly with the digestion, either by stimulating the liver to produce bile, which is then sent to the gallbladder or by stimulating the gallbladder to release its stored bile into the digestive tract to help emulsify fats.
Herbal lipotropics include dandelion root, barberry, bearberry, Oregon grape root, turmeric, milk thistle, wall germander, and Milk thistle (Silybum marianum): A member of the sunflower family, milk thistle has purple flowers and milky white leaf veins. The medicinal use of milk thistle can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome. This herb is a valuable component of any herbal purification program. Today researchers around the
world have completed more than three hundred scientific studies that attest to the benefits of this herb, particularly in detoxification of the liver.
A group of flavonoid compounds found in milk thistle seems to exert a tremendous effect on protecting the liver from damage as well as enhancing detoxification processes by acting as a powerful antioxidant. One of the key manners is by preventing the depletion of glutathione. The level of glutathione in the liver is directly connected to the liver’s ability to detoxify. When the glutathione content is higher, the liver has a greater capacity to detoxify harmful chemicals. Silybum marianum not only prevents the depletion of glutathione, it also increases the level of glutathione of the liver by up to 35 percent.
Silybum marianum has been shown to have benefits that include:
1. Treating liver diseases of various types including cirrhosis; chronic hepatitis; fatty infiltration of the liver (chemicaland alcohol-induced fatty liver); and inflammation of the bile duct
2. Aiding in the treatment and prevention of gallstones
3. Protecting the liver from toxins, including drugs, poisons, and chemicals
4. Helping to clear psoriasis many others. Several herbal lipotropics, including bearberry and turmeric, also act as insulin potentiators.
Some people report a reduction of fat and cellulite from the use of lipotropics; however, the biochemical explanations for such reports at this point are largely theoretical.