by Prashanti de Jager
Welcome to 2012! Have you started your New Year resolutions yet? Have you written them down? This newsletter is aimed at helping you with a very popular resolution: attaining optimal weight. What many people don’t understand is the role of an organ that I am sure has been working overtime for many people during the holidays: the liver!
Many people believe that attaining optimal weight is all about right diet and exercise, and of course there is great truth in that. But equally important is having a strong and balanced metabolism and digestive capacity, and when it comes to healthy fat metabolism a happy liver is the headline act. This is a major reason why excessive use of alcohol can demolish any hope of attaining one’s optimal weight. Have no doubt, many people will not be able to attain their optimal weight unless they first enjoy greater liver health, as it is in the liver that fat metabolism is centered.
Besides lack of exercise and poor quality diets, one of the main factors causing weight gain is environmental and dietary pollutants which act as endocrine disruptors, or “endocrine disruption compounds” (EDCs), as they impede fat metabolism in the liver and tragically trigger cascades of dysfunctional reactions.
The list of EDCs, also called xenobiotics, includes thousands of different man-made chemicals which have direct hormone-like effects on all animals, including humans. These EDCs are known to cause devastating effects systemically, sending many fundamental mechanisms, including metabolism at all levels, completely awry.
Threats to our immunity as well as the ingestion of toxins in our diet attenuate liver function and make attaining optimal weight a challenge to say the least. Here are some of the main criteria to look for when choosing herbs to help support healthy liver-based fat metabolism:
I know that this list is pretty demanding and one may wonder if there is any herb that can even accomplish half of the required criteria.
Without proper protection of the liver from these molecular xenobiotic thieves of health, the American waistline has grown. However, literally thousands of studies in the international peer-reviewed scientific literature show that Katuki, Bhumyamalaki, Punarnava, Tulsi, Turmeric, and Neem all relentlessly and effectively protect liver function from the tsunami of xenobiotics, the very beguiling poisons that we have created and seem so willing to ingest. All of these herbs have all of the required characteristics as described above as their mechanisms of direct action. This is exactly why Dr. Narendra Singh, one of the original scientists to unveil the secrets of adaptogens, created a formula featuring the powerful synergy of the first three herbs: Katuki, Bhumyamalaki and Punarnava; a wonderfully effective formula he simply calls Liver-Kidney.
An adaptogen renown for optimizing physiology deep in major organs, Katuki is considered one of the world’s strongest liver herbs, an excellent “hepatoprotective” as described in the scientific journals, which also state that Katuki is significantly more effective than other herbal allies for the liver. Katuki, a relatively rare high Himalayan herb, is so effective at supporting liver health because dozens of its molecular constituents have the ability to maintain or restore balance to liver function. Potent antioxidant molecules like Katukiol, Katukisterol, Kutkoside, Picrorhizin, the Picrosides, and Apocynin, all have been the focus of a significant amount of western scientific research that confirms millennia of its traditional pro-liver uses.
In a randomized, double-blind placebo controlled trial Katuki was shown to be able to maintain healthy liver function amidst many different acute and chronic challenges, which also means supporting healthy liver metabolism of fats. Below is a chart showing this.
In the graphic above, the “vehicle” is a normal healthy diet while “HFD” is a high fat diet similar to what many Americans consume. Silymarin is a potent hepatoprotective molecule from Milk Thistle, and the two P. kurroa columns describe how Katuki can lower liver fats by drastically increasing liver fat metabolism in a mere 6 weeks! No wonder that one of the ancient Sanskrit names for Katuki is Amaghni, which literally means the “destroyer of congestive toxins.”
A small and almost delicate herb that springs up after the summer rains, Bhumyamalaki grows in various places around the planet, and for the most part all the cultures that incorporate it into their healing traditions not only use it for much the same purpose but also give it the same name: its Spanish name, Chancapiedra for instance, means Stone Breaker. Needless to say Bhumyamalaki is as excellent an herb for the kidneys as it is for the liver.
Phytochemical studies have shown the presence of many valuable compounds in Bhumyamalaki, such as lignans, flavonoids, hydrolysable tannins (ellagitannins), polyphenols, triterpenes, sterols and alkaloids. With such powerful constituents it is no surprise that in a meta-study of nine randomized trials, including a total of 936 patients, it was shown that Bhumyamalaki is able to restore healthy function to previously dysfunctional livers.
Punarnava means “rebirth,” referring to its ability to literally restore both anatomy and physiology, especially in the liver and kidney, to healthy balanced functionality. For millennia Punarnava also has been known as one of the best herbs to systemically support healthy responses to inflammation, an activity readily confirmed by contemporary science which has found the whole herb as well as many of its molecules, including the alkaloid Punarnavine, to be just that. Add the fact that Punarnava possesses strong immunomodulatory properties and you have an herb that will protect the liver’s ability to properly metabolize fats and the kidney’s ability to control homeostasis, thus profoundly assisting people in attaining their optimal weight.
Without doubt, herbs skillfully combined follow the dictum: The sum is greater than the parts. In the case of Dr Singh’s Liver-Kidney formula, the synergy of Katuki, Bhumyamalaki and Punarnava cause an “emergence” of results so incredible that it has astounded even the most brilliant of medical minds.
Thousands of years of use as well as thousands of recent scientific studies have shown that Tulsi leaves, Turmeric rhizome and Neem leaves are hepatoprotective, assisting in protecting the liver from toxins and supporting healthy fat metabolism in the liver.
Tulsi is actually renowned for its ability to balance metabolism and digestion at all levels, from the stomach to the liver and deeper to subtler levels. And as Tulsi lends itself to making such a wonderful tea, it is excellent to use when taking any of these herbs as the Tulsi Tea tends to both balance and amplify any other medicine that you take with it.
Turmericis clearly one of the most useful all-around herbs in the world, and part of that usefulness is definitely being a very potent liver and blood herb. Turmeric’s dozens of major mechanisms of actions, including supporting healthy levels of blood lipids and blood sugar, makes it a fantastic ally to support optimal weight.
Neem, a cold bitter herb that is an excellent replacement for the endangered Goldenseal, is known for having a massive pharmacy of unique phytochemistry that has a special affinity for the liver, blood and skin as well as being one of the strongest invigorators of immunocompetence. Hundreds of studies have shown that even in livers inundated with strong and otherwise devastating toxins Neem can maintain healthy liver structure and function.
It is widely known that antioxidant activity mediates a majority of the wellness-inducing actions we receive from quality herbs and pure foods. As with Katuki, Bhumyamalaki and Punarnava, these three herbs, Tulsi, Turmeric and Neem, have in addition to a very strong protective antioxidant activity, the ability to radically boost the number and activity of endogenous antioxidants, including the most important of the liver wellness molecules such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase. Using plant intelligence to stimulate the antioxidants that are innately present as part of the fundamental intelligence of our physiology is certainly one of the best ways to ensure that the healthy metabolism of fats, the foundation of attaining optimal weight, will occur with increased efficiency and ease.
When it comes to pumping fats out of the liver via the bile duct, which all these herbs support, it is important to know that unless there is a sufficient amount of the appropriate fiber in the colon then most of these fats will be re-absorbed and circulated back to the liver. One of the vital keys to attaining optimal weight is to break this vicious cycle.
Here is where a combination of Liver-Kidney and a diet abundant in healthy fiber is key. To ensure this, you may want to add a tall glass of organic Psyllium to your wellness protocols, which of course also has other mechanisms of supporting your optimal weight. It is important to use certified organic Psyllium as conventional Psyllium is teeming with xenobiotics.
With the right synergy of herbs one may progress quickly, but to really turn the tide, long term protocols including the right herbs, diet and exercise are key. If you feel you are presently not at your optimal weight then chances are very good that that imbalance accrued over many years. Like a squatter with bad taste slowly building more ugly shacks in the beautiful garden of your bodymind temple, the imbalance has years of momentum built into your anatomy and physiology. In the same way, it can take a while to build up a momentum of wellness to counter that of the imbalances, so long term protocols are required, which also means long term discipline, and often a whole shift in lifestyle.
One rule of thumb in herbal medicine is that it takes a month of skillful protocols to balance every year that the imbalance has been accruing momentum. These herbs are fantastic as restoring original terrain, but Rome was not built in a day. To achieve optimal results be persistent and consistent in your use of these herbs and the imbalance will gently dissolve into a terrain of true wellness like an ice cube melts into a cup of hot Tulsi Tea. You need to be patient and yet inexorable.
The following is a sample herbal protocol to support healthy liver function, and would be used in conjunction with proper exercise and a truly healthy diet:
The liver burns fat (triglycerides) to produce energy, synthesizes the lipoproteins that are responsible for transporting fat throughout the body, converts excess carbohydrates and proteins into fats to be stored in fat cells (adipose tissue) throughout the body, and synthesizes cholesterol and bile. So it makes sense that careful management of liver wellness is fundamental to maintaining optimal weight, and so much more.
The liver is central not just to fat metabolism, but also to much of the sugar and protein metabolism, and as many hormones are intricately entwined with liver function, then all the facets of life so critically controlled by liver metabolism will also more likely come into enduring balance as liver wellness deepens. These include the support of dozens of precious wellness facets like healthy growth, vibrant immunity, delightful moods, and inspired reproduction/sexuality.
May 2012 be your year of finding and addressing the root of challenges and imbalances so that who you are really meant to be can blossom and thrive. May you build a community of those who are going in the same direction that your heart yearns for, a collective that can supply the support and discipline required to attain your wisely chosen goals. And in the face of all the exponential curves of change, may you simplify and allow your mind to kindly choose happiness, your optimal way, again and again and again.