6 Herbs Toxic to Your Liver

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 04/30/2024

While herbs often provide some of the most potent natural remedies, some herbs can also be extremely toxic.

Learn about which herbs to avoid and what their effects are.

Understanding Liver Toxicity in Herbs

The liver is a crucial element in cleansing the body, yet some herbs can be beneficial while others could cause harm. It's crucial to understand that not all herbs are helpful for our health.

For instance, milk thistle and stinging nettle root are renowned liver-supporting herbs. They have been used traditionally to enhance liver function and promote overall wellness.

But there's another side of the coin. Certain herbs like kava kava or chaparral pose potential risks to liver health when consumed improperly or excessively. For example, consuming leaves and stems of kava kava instead of its roots might lead to toxic effects on the liver.

In short, we need an informed approach towards herbal intake – understanding which ones help our livers thrive versus those that could cause damage is critical.

The Dark Side of Kava Kava

Kava kava, a well-known herb for its relaxation and stress relief properties, carries a hidden danger. This stems from the difference in how it's consumed traditionally versus modern practices.

The Traditional Use vs. Modern Consumption of Kava Kava

Traditionally, the root of the plant was consumed by chewing. But today’s methods often involve using roots, stems, and leaves. Herein lies our problem.

Studies show that consuming these parts can be toxic to your liver, especially when combined with drugs or alcohol.

Chronic liver disease

Avoiding Liver Damage from Improper Use

To avoid potential toxicity risks associated with improper use of kava kava, always consume only the root part as traditionally done. Even then, moderation is vital because excessive intake may lead to health issues.

The Controversial Chaparral Herb

Chaparral, a powerful herb often used to address various health issues, has been the center of much controversy. Despite its benefits, it's banned in many countries because of potential liver toxicity.

The Medical Uses and Risks of Chaparral

This fascinating plant offers several medicinal uses that are worthy of discussion. Yet, its potential health risks can't be overlooked either.

Blessed with potent antioxidants known as nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA), some see chaparral as a possible solution for certain skin conditions.

But this same compound may have dark implications on your liver's detoxification process if consumed improperly or excessively.

Germander's Potential Harm to Liver Health

While the herb germander is often hailed for its antiseptic and antidepressant properties, it holds a darker side. Despite its advantages, germander can be linked to dangerous liver illnesses such as hepatitis and cirrhosis in certain people.

The Double-Edged Sword of Germander

This paradoxical nature of germander can be surprising. While you might seek relief from depressive symptoms with this potent plant, you could unknowingly harm their liver health in the process.

Certain studies suggest that excessive consumption or long-term use of germander may cause inflammation and scarring within your liver (known as cirrhosis). That's akin to eating too many sweets only to find out you've developed cavities.

Moderation and awareness are essential when using herbs such as germander for medicinal purposes. Never take an herb without first consulting a medical professional for advice.

Impila: A Dangerous Herb for Liver and Kidneys

Herbs have been employed for ages in conventional remedies, but not all are helpful. One such herb is impila, a plant indigenous to Africa.

It is commonly used to treat stomach problems and infertility and holds cultural significance among local communities. But its use comes with significant risks. Research shows that impila can be highly toxic to the liver and kidneys in certain people.

The Cultural Significance and Health Risks of Impila

Cultural practices often intersect with health outcomes, as seen with impila usage. This herb is integral to African cultures due to its perceived medicinal properties.

Despite this historical context, modern science highlights the potentially severe side effects of consuming impila. While some may benefit from its traditional uses without harm, others face high toxicity levels that lead to liver or kidney damage when ingested regularly over time.

Red Clover's Impact on Liver Health

Commonly known for easing menopause symptoms, red clover also harbors a darker side. Although it might be surprising, this humble herb can prove toxic to the liver in humans.

The situation gets more complex when we factor in that red clover has been shown to improve thyroid function potentially.

This duality raises essential questions about how herbs interact with our bodies. While they provide many benefits, some may come with unforeseen risks. In light of these findings studies, ensure you are fully informed before starting any new herbal regimen.

Medicinal herbs

Herbs for Liver Health

Liver cleansing herbs can be a natural and effective way to promote liver health and detoxification. Several herbs, such as milk thistle, dandelion root, and turmeric, are known for their beneficial effects on the liver.

Milk thistle, for instance, contains an active compound called silymarin that has antioxidant properties and supports liver cell regeneration. Dandelion root helps stimulate bile production, aiding in the digestion of fats and promoting liver detoxification.

Turmeric contains curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that benefit liver health. When used as part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle, these liver-cleansing herbs can contribute to the overall well-being of this vital organ.


In conclusion, while some herbs like milk thistle, dandelion root, and turmeric can support liver health, others such as kava kava, chaparral, germander, impila, and even red clover can be toxic to the liver if used improperly.

It's crucial to be aware of the potential risks associated with certain herbs and to use them under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

While some herbs can offer therapeutic benefits, many can be harmful, so staying informed

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