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Herbs and antioxidants to support detoxification

Based on centuries of experience, folk medicine recommends such herbs for liver and kidney problems that have stood the test of time also according to today’s scientific studies. The best known is the active ingredient silymarin extracted from the seeds of milk thistle, which is suitable not only as a dietary supplement, but also as a medicine, and can also help in liver diseases of various origins.

In a Thai study, a 4-week use of glutathione made the UV-radiation caused skin pigment spots lighter and reduced wrinkling and pore dilation.

Those who consumed glutathione for 12 weeks noticed enhanced anti-aging effects and further improved skin hydration. A similar test was performed in the Philippines: the use of glutathione made skin tone more even on both cloth-covered and uncovered skin.

The mechanism of action of glutathione is complex. Briefly, it is capable of facilitating the production of lighter-colored melanin, making darker skin spots less visible.

N-acetylcysteine, which is also an antioxidant, can have a similar effect to glutathione (see also in section “Kidney, Liver”). In fact, after entering the body, part of it is converted to glutathione, which can help lighten liver spots, freckles, or the pregnancy mask. The skin-lightening effect of glutathione and N-acetylcysteine can be further enhanced by Curcuma and vitamin C.


  • The role of systemic treatments for skin lightening. J Cosmet Derm. 2018; 17(6):1144-1157.
  • N-acetylcysteine in dermatology. Indian J Derm Ven Lep. 2018; 84(6):652-659.

The emergence of oxidative stress during the breakdown and excretion of medicines containing paracetamol or ibuprofen can damage or kill kidney and liver cells, leading to chronic renal failure in 3-5% of overdose victims. N-acetylcysteine is routinely used in several countries to treat intoxication with painkillers.

N-acetylcysteine is an antioxidant, which successfully counteracted elevations in liver enzymes and also supported renal function in experimental rats with paracetamol overdose.

As a result, fewer cells died in the kidneys, and signs of regeneration were found.

Kidney function is also supported by the Cordyceps Sinensis Tibetan caterpillar fungus.

In a renal fibrosis model in rats, the caterpillar fungus successfully inhibited excessive and pathological collagen accumulation during renal injury.

Silymarin supports the detoxifying function of liver cells.

For example, the toxic compound called benzo(a)pyrene which is present in small amounts in tobacco or smoke-exposed grilled foods can increase the risk of developing cancer and nerve damage. Supported by silymarin, liver cells can neutralize the harmful effects of the compound more effectively.


  • Taraxacum and N-acetylcysteine against acetaminophen-induced oxidative stress in rat liver and kidney. J Biochem. 2020; mvaa107.
  • Cordyceps sinensis attenuates renal fibrosis in obstructed rat kidney. Am J Transl Res. 2015; 7(5): 932–940.
  • Modulatory Effects of Silymarin on Benzo[a]pyrene-Induced Hepatotoxicity. Int J Mol Sci. 2020; 21(7):2369.

Fatty liver is caused most often by alcohol consumption, but the non-alcoholic fatty liver is also becoming more common. For example, obese people with high cholesterol levels and diabetic patients are more likely to suffer from it. This is in line with the observation that unhealthy, fat-rich food can cause fatty liver disease in experimental animals.

In one study, patients with the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease took one of the main components of silymarin, called silibinin, and vitamin E for one year. As a result,

A significant proportion of patients had decreased levels of liver enzymes related to hepatic impairment (transaminase: AST/GOT; gamma-GT) in the blood plasma, and the degree of inflammation and hepatic fibrosis associated with fatty liver was also reduced.

In another 1-year-study, ALT/GPT liver enzyme levels were lowered with the combination of vitamin C and vitamin E, which also prevented the progression of fatty liver and fibrosis in patients. An 8-week-long intake of curcumin also led to a decrease in liver enzyme levels, triglycerides, and cholesterol.


  • Silybin combined with PC and vitamin E in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Free Radic Biol Med. 2012; 52(9):1658-65.
  • The efficiency of ursodeoxycholic acid and combination of vitamin C and E in treatment of non-diabetic nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Georg Med News 2019; (288):81-85.

Based on laboratory and animal experiments, by interfering with chronic inflammatory processes and neutralizing the DNA-damaging effects of free radicals, silymarin suppresses the formation of liver cancers (hepatocellular carcinoma).

Moreover, silibinin can improve the quality of life in patients with liver cancer treated with sorafenib.


  • Silymarin/Silybin and Chronic Liver Disease. Molecules. 2017; 22(2): 191.

Hepatitis virus infection leads to chronic liver damage. During the treatment of patients infected with the hepatitis B virus, it has been observed that the use of silymarin in addition to antiviral agents (lamivudine, interferon) reduced serum levels of AST and ALT (also known as GOT and GPT) liver enzymes and lowered the markers of hepatic fibrosis.

Thus, the authors recommended the consumption of silymarin for Hepatitis B patients.

A flavonoid called quercetin has been found to be safe in phase 1 clinical trials for patients with hepatitis C, and there has been a trend-like reduction in viral load among those who were treated.

  • Silymarin and its combination therapy for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2013; 32(5):657-69.
  • A Phase I Study Demonstrates Quercetin Safety and Explores Potential for Bioflavonoid Antivirals in Patients with Chronic Hepatitis C. Phytother Res. 2016; 30(1):160-8.

The development of fatty liver is partly related to the condition of the intestinal flora. Through metabolic changes, the overgrowth of certain intestinal bacteria can make patients more prone to this disease.

In an experiment, where mice were fed a diet containing kombucha tea, the proportion of Lactobacilli (lactic acid bacteria) increased, and consequently, the process of fatty liver formation was hindered – as the authors said.

The glucuronic acid content of kombucha can also contribute to the removal of xenobiotics from the body by supporting the body’s antioxidant and detoxifying systems.

Cordyceps Sinensis polysaccharides also contribute to the maintenance of normal intestinal flora. In one experiment, mice were treated with a chemotherapeutic agent called cyclo-phosphamide. As a result, not only did their immune system get weaker, but the balance of their intestinal flora was also disturbed.

Consumption of caterpillar polysaccharides has led to an increase in the proportion of probiotic “good” bacteria (Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Bacteroides) and a decrease in the proportion of “bad” bacteria (Clostridium, Flexispira).


  • Effect of Kombucha on gut-microbiota in mice having non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Food Sci Biotech. 2018; 28(1):261-267.
  • Physiological activity and expected health effects of kombucha fermented beverage. J Med Food. 2014; 17(2):179-88.
  • C. Sinensis polysaccharides modulate intestinal mucosal immunity and gut microbiota in mice. Carbohyd Polym. 2020; 235:115957.

N-acetylcysteine can protect the body from the lung-damaging effects of inhaled toxins and is also used for faster recovery from mustard gas, phosgene, and smoke poisoning.

The effect of N-acetylcysteine has been studied in several other cases, for instance, it was observed to reduce the acute lung-damaging effect of an endotoxin produced by a bacterium in an experiment with rats.


  • N-acetylcysteine as a treatment for sulphur mustard poisoning. Free Rad Biol Med. 2020; 161:305-320.
  • N-acetylcysteine as a therapy for phosgene-induced lung injury. Toxicol Lett. 2018; 290:145-152.
  • Inhalation Injury in the Burned Patient. Ann Plast Surg. 2018; 80:S98-S105.
  • N-acetylcysteine abrogates lung injury induced by endotoxin. Clin Exp Pharm Physiol. 2006; 33(1-2):33-40.

Resveratrol, an antioxidant also found in red wine, can inhibit the development and worsen atherosclerosis.

Due to its effect on the cells of the vessel wall, it can also improve the condition of blood vessels, thus lowering blood pressure.


  • Resveratrol and anti-atherogenic effects. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2015; 66(6):603-10.
  • Blood Pressure–Lowering by Resveratrol. Circulation. 2019; 140(2):126-137.
The Basics

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By living the modern way of life, our body is exposed to countless amounts of chemicals and environmental pollutants, so it is no wonder that the popularity of detoxification is rising sharply. Instead of sonorous but scientifically questionable detoxification treatments, it is much more rewarding to support the health of our main detoxifying organs, the liver and the kidneys, but bowel cleansing, lung clearing or blood vessels “unclogging” can also help our bodies.

How often and when should we hold a cleansing cure?

For a healthy person, it is worth having a cleansing treatment even twice a year. This can be planned to start after a holiday since people usually drink more alcohol on vacation than usual, which puts a burden on the liver. It is also more difficult to say no to the street fast food and local specialties, and eating irregularly can upset the balance of our gut flora.

It is advisable and also recommended to have a detoxification cure after antibiotic treatment, in case of intermittent or regular medication use (e.g. acetaminophen used against the common cold slows down the cleansing function of the kidneys, thus toxins may be excreted in a decreased rate) or for those, who smoke or drink alcohol on a weekly basis. Consumption of illegal drugs is also likely to cause liver and kidney problems, as they can contain a lot of impurities or by-products with unknown effects.

For cancer patients, it is advisable to use detoxification after chemotherapy or radiation therapy, as most conventional chemotherapeutic agents, although they accumulate mostly in tumor cells, also poison the body. Many, who have undergone chemotherapy suffer from liver damage or kidney failure – the latter can also be linked to serious kidney stone disease. In this case, the only thing to look out for is to wait at least 24 hours after chemotherapy, because if you start detoxification right after treatment, you may reduce the antitumor effect of chemotherapeutic agents.

Considering the regenerative capacity of the body and liver, as well as the condition of the body, the duration of herbal treatment is usually recommended to be 1-3 months.

The diverse role of antioxidants

When our excretory organs are under pressure, metabolism increases, thus oxidative stress elevates. Antioxidants are able to neutralize free radicals formed as a consequence of oxidative stress. Some antioxidants can also be considered a “fuel” for detoxification, for example, glutathione can directly attach to the substance to be removed, facilitating its excretion. Other antioxidants help prevent liver cells from being damaged by reactive by-products formed during the breakdown of xenobiotics.