A growing health industry is centering on the voluntary detoxification of our livers at least twice a year. Special diets and drinks and practices are advocated to perform this detox process which is also marketed as a liver flush or a liver cleansing.

Do you need to do this to maintain your health?

If you’re a thinking person, the liver is interesting..VILAYANUR S RAMACHANDRAN

Your liver is essentially your body’s garbage system. It either purifies substances and sends them back into the body, or it pushes them out into the intestines. In a normally healthy person, it performs its job most effectively and does not require any outside assistance.

The growing popularity of liver detoxification is built on the assumption that the liver needs help to do its job. The idea is that if you detoxify your liver regularly, it will drive out harmful chemicals and germs as well as toxins, parasites, fats, and gallstones. This exercise has been linked hypothetically with helping you avoid many diseases, including cancer.

The process of liver detox involves having you drink some special juices with certain herbs and oils along with Epsom salts.

There is no body of scientific literature that suggests great harm will come to you from engaging in liver detox. Conversely, there is little to suggest that it will improve your health either, according to Harvard Medical School.1

However a study2 into milk thistle, often used as a component in liver detox, did indicate it might improve liver function and have few side effects.

Overall, however, there has yet to be a conclusive study that liver detox as a whole should be a recommended practice. That is not to say you cannot try such an alternative medicine; but you should check with your doctor first.

The American Cancer Society3, while acknowledging the growing popularity of the liver detox regime, nonetheless points out that “relying on this type of treatment alone and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer may have serious health consequences.”

No one is coming right out and saying don’t do it, and there is a wealth of anecdotal testimonials suggesting that some people feel better after it. But our approach to health advice is science-based, and because of that, we must be forthright in pointing out that what is lacking at this point in time is sufficient research published in peer-reviewed journals that points to the effectiveness of liver detox through a controlled study.

Meanwhile, the experts at Harvard Medical School point out that normally, the human body is well-equipped to defend itself against environmental toxins. By maintaining a healthy diet, getting sufficient sleep, and drinking enough water, you can support your liver effectively and let it do its job.


  1. Harvard Medical School: The dubious practice of detox


  1. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Milk Thistle: Effects on Liver Disease and Cirrhosis and Clinical Adverse Effects. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment no. 21. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2000. AHRQ publication no. 01-E025.
  2. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/pharmacologicalandbiologicaltreatment/liver-flush

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