Monday, June 4, 2012


Herbs that stimulate the liver and gall bladder (hepatics) also help chronic joint pain (arthritis) and skin conditions (eczema, psoriasis) by promoting digestion and absorption of nutrients as well as elimination of waste.

Dried dandelion roots
One mild hepatic right outside your door is dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale). Dry the leaves for a diuretic tea but clean and chop those taproots for tincturing. Dandelion root tincture tastes sweeter than the leaf and can be used similarly to burdock or licorice to harmonize an herbal tincture formula.  

Curly dock

To step it up a notch, look for yellow dock (Rumex crispus, R.obtusifolius) at unmowed edges of yards, fields, and woods. A tincture of the yellow root of this buckwheat is a cooling hepatic for colitis, diarrhea, or constipation. Dig the taproot after the plant goes to seed in mid-summer. Regional alternative hepatics include yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima) and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis).

Milk thistle in early summer
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is the ultimate hepatic, regenerating a damaged liver as well as helping to restore function. Like other thistles, this one will gladly colonize the garden but that's a good thing: It takes several milk thistle plants to provide enough of the oily seeds for tincturing.

HERBALIST'S NOTE: Seeds, barks, and roots that have a high oil or resin content usually require a higher percentage of alcohol for effective extraction


1) Gather milk thistle seeds in late summer or early fall when the flowers go to fluff;
2) Remove the hairs and place the seeds in a mortar and pestle;
3) Coarsely grind them to crack the shells and expose the seed flesh;
4) Spoon the crushed seeds into a jar with a tight fitting lid;
5) Cover the seeds with the highest proof alcohol available in your area, usually 75% grain;
6) Seal the lid and place the jar in a warm dark place for two weeks, swirling daily;
7) Strain off the tincture into another jar and label it with herb, date, method (folk), and alcohol percent and type.

DOCTOR'S NOTE: Ground seeds eaten in smoothies or made into capsules are better for people with hepatitis or cirrhosis because the alcohol in this high percentage tincture can be hepatotoxic for those with already compromised livers.

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