We’ve heard for some time that turmeric is one of the most potent medicinal herbs with numerous healing properties. In Ayurvedic medicine, our ancestors used turmeric powder extracted from the Curcuma longa plant for thousands of years.
Turmeric contains approximately 3-6% curcuminoids, which are responsible for the vast majority of its health benefits. But, can turmeric help improve liver health, and is it good for detoxification and cleansing?
Turmeric and Liver Health
Recent studies show that curcumin has many beneficial effects derived from its antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. These trials have demonstrated positive results with several inflammatory conditions such as allergies and asthma, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and even skin conditions like psoriasis.
New evidence suggests curcumin’s antioxidant activity can improve liver health by behaving as a detox agent in the body, reducing the risk of liver disease. This research brings promising news if you’re looking for a natural liver cleanse or a way to flush out toxins. (1)
Before we cover the studies in more detail, let’s analyze the job of the liver in the human body.
What Does the Liver Do?
The liver is arguably the most dynamic and essential organ in the body. Think of it as the master filtration system that metabolizes medications and detoxifies dangerous chemicals. As you can imagine, without a functional liver, your time on earth is quite limited.
Admittedly, most people take liver health for granted. While it’s not always top of mind to maintain a healthy liver (as opposed to say heart or brain health), it’s just as important.
There are several primary functions of the liver. They are:
- Flushes Toxins: The liver breaks down all of the food and beverages we consume, and turns them into “less risky” molecules for the body to process.
- Helps Digestion: Anything with fat in it gets broken down by the liver with a chemical called bile. This procedure turns fat into smaller particles where the cells can more easily absorb the available nutrients.
- Stabilizes Blood Sugar: Works hand in hand with the pancreas to stabilize blood sugar (glucose) after every meal. When blood sugar elevates, the liver filters the glucose and stores it as glycogen. If blood sugar is too low, it breaks down glycogen and releases it into the bloodstream.
- Provisions Iron: Processes and stores the majority of the iron we consume and distributes it throughout the body where it is needed.
- Creates Vital Proteins: The liver also manufactures proteins necessary for blood clotting and other critical bodily functions. Half of the body’s cholesterol gets produced by the liver as well, which serves as a building block for many hormones like testosterone and estrogen.
- Germ Protection: When the body gets infected, the liver releases cells called phagocytes, which detect and eliminate bacteria and viruses, especially those that interfere with the digestive system.
Now that we recognize the many functions of the liver, you can see why an occasional liver detox or cleanse is a good idea. The liver performs so many vital tasks for our survival. Thus, if we can provide it with supplements or nutrients to reduce its workload, that can only benefit us long-term. (2)
Why Turmeric Curcumin?
We’ve seen many studies confirm the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity of curcumin. By reducing inflammation and lowering oxidative stress in the body, researches have seen significant potential for turmeric to prevent and treat several chronic conditions.
For this reason, scientists believe curcumin may also be able to prevent liver disease and help it dispel toxins from the body. Additionally, current studies have shown excellent results in turmeric’s ability to lower cholesterol and triglycerides in the body, which prevents liver damage and improves health.
In this article, we’ll analyze the studies regarding curcumin’s capacity to enhance liver detox efforts and cleanse the body of harmful toxins.
Turmeric for Liver Health: Is Curcumin Good for Detoxification?
The first study we’ll look at tested turmeric’s efficacy on detoxification in a group of rats exposed to mercury. Following a 3-day treatment period, the rats treated with curcumin experienced a protective effect from oxidative stress induced by mercury.
The results showed that curcumin was effective in reversing serum biochemical changes, which are the markers of kidney and liver injury. There was also a notable reduction in mercury concentration in tissues, suggesting a potentially enhanced liver filtration and detox effect from turmeric’s antioxidant properties. (3)
Curcumin also exhibits shielding effects against other heavy metal toxicity including lead, copper, arsenic, cadmium, and chromium poisoning. Turmeric’s mechanisms improve and repair liver health by maintaining antioxidant status, stabilizing mitochondrial function, and free radical scavenging. (4)
Another study with turmeric further supported the theory that curcumin can be used for cleansing and detoxing the liver. This animal study tested turmeric’s protective effects from carbon tetrachloride (CCl4)-induced liver damage in a group of rats for a 4-week treatment cycle.
This trial found that turmeric extract significantly reduced lipid peroxidase (oxidative degradation of lipids), which helped protect the liver from injury. Curcumin suppressed hepatic oxidative stress suggesting that it may have therapeutic uses in the prevention and treatment of liver disease. (5)
Further research-tested turmeric’s capacity to cleanse and detox the liver in a group of rats with alcohol-induced liver damage. Again, the results showed a superior ability to perform liver detoxification. The treated rats reversed almost all of the pathological effects caused by alcohol due to curcumin’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. (6)
Besides enhancing your liver’s filtration system, turmeric may also prevent liver disease. One trial administered curcumin on a group of human subjects to monitor its therapeutic potential for treating nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). In this condition, fat builds up in liver cells from sources other than alcohol.
Researchers found that oral curcumin administration inhibited the high-fat diet (HFD)-induced liver damage. Turmeric also prevented metabolic alterations by stabilizing multiple pathways involved in the pathogenesis of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). (7)
Additional research in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, and randomized trial administered curcumin to human subjects with NAFLD for eight weeks. The formula contained an equivalent of 70 mg of curcumin per day. The results showed:
- Substantially reduced liver fat content (78.9% improvement in turmeric group vs. 27.5% in placebo)
- Significant decreases in triglycerides, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol), and blood sugar (glucose)
It appears that curcumin may be an effective natural treatment option for NAFLD in humans. Thanks to its modulation of several pro-inflammatory markers, along with its antioxidant activity, turmeric demonstrates a propensity to thwart certain hepatic disorders. It may even reverse conditions to some extent, such as cirrhosis. (9)
Is Turmeric Bad for Your Liver?
Hepatotoxicity, which refers to chemical-driven liver damage, is not currently associated with turmeric or curcumin use. Currently, there is no consistent evidence that suggests turmeric harms the liver, even following several clinical trials that used curcumin as a therapy for chronic liver injury.
With that said, in rare cases, users may experience problems by consuming abnormally large doses over an extended period. Usually, these doses are significantly larger than administered through a typical dietary supplement.
Final Thoughts on Turmeric Benefits for Liver Detox
Is turmeric good for liver cleansing and detoxification? The answer appears to be, yes. Although more human studies would be helpful to confirm this particular benefit.
Turmeric extract has shown potential in several studies to reduce toxicity induced by heavy metals, as well as modulate many signaling pathways involved in inflammation and antioxidant activity. Turmeric has also shown excellent results in preventing liver diseases by correcting metabolic imbalances and exerting potent hepatoprotective effects on the body. (10)
If you’re considering using turmeric for detox or liver health and repair, consult with a certified medical professional, first, for best results.