The Liver Detox, is it a thing? 

I know you may be thinking, why am I, as an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist, debunking the “Liver Detox”, one of the most common concepts in the alternative/complementary health field? 

Well, it’s just that we have a sophisticated detoxifying organ on board already. It doesn’t really need any help from so called ‘miracle’ products. Our superhero, the liver, is always working for us. Its effectiveness to detox really hinges on what we don’t consume, not so much what we do.

The liver carries out so many vital functions in the body that there is too many to list as I fear I’d lose your interest at about number 387. But let’s talk about one of its significant functions.

A key detoxification process in the liver happens after we ingest food, drinks, and drugs (medication or the recreational kind). After digestion, blood exits the gut and travels straight into the liver. This deoxygenated, nutrient rich blood is also full of all the toxins and waste product that accumulates during digestion and absorption.

This blood travels to the liver where an anti-inflammatory and detoxification process occurs, with special Liver cells called Hepatocytes cleaning up all the crappy toxins. 

So, the notion of needing a special detox diet just to aid the liver is misleading.


The liver is already equipped to handle detoxification without the need for products or wacky diet ideas. It’s like having a built-in filtration system that operates efficiently when provided with the right conditions.

But what are the right conditions I hear you ask?


  1. You need to eat and drink real foods that are not overloaded with trans fats, sugars, and artificial additives. 
  2. If you are on a medication that can make the liver work a little harder, you need to be that little kinder to allow it to carry out the detox process. 

If you constantly consume junk and naughty stuff, your liver’s ability to detox will become laboured and fatigued. One could say the liver might become a little grumpy.

To get a little hippy on you now…

Chinese medicine connects the organs with particular emotions. If the organ is under duress this can exacerbate how or what we feel, and guess what emotion is connected with the liver…something like, vexation, frustration, anger, and despair. So it’s best to keep the liver happy and not give it too much to do.

What about all the herbs out there that are meant to help the liver’s ability to work properly?

It’s a good question. Many of the herbs that are said to assist with the liver function, have a cooling and sour nature. This means they will have an astringent action on local tissues, meaning they’ll help with swelling and other symptoms of inflammation.

Circulation is often facilitated with such treatments, but these prescriptions should only be used when then there is a need for them and should be prescribed by someone in the know.

So, in short, try and keep it clean in the food and beverage department. It’s ok to have a little fun sometimes, the liver is quite resilient. But you know how you can feel tired, stagnant, grumpy and inflamed after too much of a good thing. Well, that’s how your liver feels when it’s got too much work to do.

That is all for now. Let’s talk about what stress can do to our Liver next time.

– Nick

Published on March 14, 2024