The liver is one of the busiest organs in our bodies. As we’re constantly absorbing toxins from the air we breathe and maybe even the food we eat, it’s the liver’s responsibility to detoxify the bloodstream. Every now and then, though, the liver itself requires a cleanse to ensure it continues running smoothly. And among the best natural detoxifiers is turmeric, a mustard-colored member of the ginger family. Keep reading to learn more about liver health, turmeric benefits and some of the best turmeric supplements to look out for.
What is Turmeric?
The spice we call turmeric, also known as Curcuma longa, grows as a narrow plant that can reach heights of up to six feet. The part used for medicine and cooking, though, is the root. As a spice, turmeric is known for its bright yellow color, its pleasant aroma and its bitter taste.
Native to South Asia, turmeric has long been a staple of both Indian cuisine as well as Ayurvedic medicine. It’s been traditionally regarded for its ability to balance the three doshas, as well as boost digestion, eliminate toxins and improve the circulatory system.
More recent studies into the health benefits of turmeric have revealed its strong anti-inflammatory benefits, its ability to detoxify, and its effectiveness in preventing and curing liver cancer , . Its ability to cleanse and detoxify makes it the best natural remedy for an overworked liver.
Dangers of an Overworked Liver
Over time, an overworked liver becomes less efficient at removing toxins from the body. This can result from things like inhaling too much polluted air, eating lots of processed foods and of course, too much heavy drinking. Basically, the more toxins we put into our bodies, the more our liver has to work. And as the liver is such an important organ for our overall health, symptoms of an overworked liver can manifest in a number of ways. , .
Here are some signs your liver may be overworked:
- Spots and blotches on the skin
- Chronic fatigue
- Brain fog
- Muscle or joint pain
- High blood pressure
- Hormone imbalance
- Cravings for processed sugar and refined carbs
- Mood swings and depression
- Bloating and other digestive issues
These symptoms, of course, could have a number of other causes as well. However, if you’re experiencing some problems in the list above on an ongoing regular basis, an overworked liver may very well be the cause.
Not giving your liver a break and allowing detoxify itself could potentially result in more serious diseases down the line. A few of the dangers of toxic overload in the liver include:
- Kidney disease
- Autoimmune disease
- Neurological disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Liver failure
When it comes to liver health, the importance of cleaning up your diet, limiting your exposure to toxins and curbing your heavy drinking habits cannot be overstated. But combining turmeric with an already healthy diet can work wonders for the health of your liver and your body overall.
Turmeric for Liver Detoxification
Curcumin, the phytochemical responsible for turmeric’s bright yellow color, is incidentally the reason why turmeric is such a strong detoxifier. Studies conducted at the University of Maryland Medical Center showed that it achieves this by stimulating the gallbladder to produce more bile. This highly expedient digestive serum doubles as a useful chemical which is necessary for the breakdown of harmful toxins , .
A similar clinical trial that was published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal highlighted the regenerative properties of turmeric, particularly on liver cells and tissue. Follow-up tests at the Chonbuk National University Hospital Center for Functional Foods revealed that its regenerative properties greatly improve the overall functioning of the liver. Therefore, it not only assists the liver in the breaking down of toxins but also makes it more efficient in detoxifying the bloodstream .
Turmeric literally fights to keep our livers healthy. This was observed in the clinical trials where a significant drop in AST (aspartate transaminase) and GGT (glutamyltransferase) enzymes, commonly associated with liver damage, indicated that liver health had improved .
Another common ailment affecting the liver is known as Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). As the name suggests, it’s not caused by alcohol consumption but by an accumulation of too much fat in the liver. This is especially common among those also suffering from obesity or diabetes. 
A 2015 study was done on a group of cows at a factory, as these overfed animals are at high risk of NAFLD. After the cows were given a mix of turmeric and green tea polyphenols, both stress and irritation markers in the liver were reduced greatly. While a similar study has yet to be conducted on humans, it seems like there’s a lot of potential for turmeric in the treatment of fatty liver disease. 
Turmeric for Liver Cancer
Turmeric has also been proven to help fight against liver cancer. The most successful documented case involved the recovery of a 6-month old infant from a dangerous liver tumor after being put on dietary curcumin supplements. The malicious liver tumor was eliminated using turmeric extract and it showed no signs of recurrence even after a six-year follow-up period .
Turmeric is currently under serious consideration as a potential alternative to chemotherapy, as it comes without many of the dangerous side effects and risks of chemo. Another study was conducted to determine whether or not curcumin would be safe at higher dosages. In the study, amounts of curcumin of up to 8g were administered to patients every day for a period of three months. The result? A notable improvement in their conditions, and no adverse side effects or accumulated toxins whatsoever .
How to Take Turmeric for Liver Health
Over the years, turmeric tea has become the ultimate detox treatment for overworked livers. Turmeric, however, is also fairly easy to add to your food and beverages, be it by cooking with it or seasoning with it.
Despite its slightly bitter aftertaste, the spice can be consumed raw on food or brewed into a tea with other spices and sweetened with honey. Let’s first take a look at a simple turmeric tea recipe.
Simple Turmeric Tea
There are a lot of ways to brew turmeric tea, but many of the recipes out there require a variety of ingredients that you may not immediately have on hand. Therefore, let’s take a look at an incredibly simple turmeric tea recipe from Dr. Weil:
- 2 cups of water
- 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, either fresh or ground
- honey or freshly squeezed lemon to taste
- Bring the water to a boil and then add the turmeric
- Stir the turmeric around, cover the pot with a lid and reduce to simmer
- Wait for about 10 minutes
- Pour into a container through a tea strainer
- Add honey, lemon or even ginger as you please. Drink either hot or cold. 
Turmeric with Almond Milk
A lot of the most popular turmeric beverage recipes include almond milk. This one recommended by Carolyn Malcoun is one of the most straightforward (9):
- 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tablespoon of grated turmeric
- 1 teaspoon of grated ginger
- 2 teaspoons of honey or maple syrup
- Cinnamon (if you wish)
- Add everything to a blender and blend for about 1 minute
- Add the mixture to a saucepan, heat until steaming (not boiling)
- Pour it into a container and drink!
You can also experiment with adding a pinch of turmeric to your fresh juices or smoothies. And don’t be afraid to experiment with sprinkling it on whatever food you like. A lot of people like it on their salads.
A useful resource for people who’d like to learn more about how to take turmeric would be Dr. Jonny Bowden’s Book; The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, which recommends various recipes for turmeric tea and a number of ways it can be added to your diet., .
Where to Buy Turmeric Powder
If you live in Asia, you should be able to easily find turmeric at your local market. If you’re in a Western country, your nearby Asian market should have either the root or freshly ground turmeric, while more and more health food supermarkets are also carrying it these days. Of course, you can also order online.
This turmeric powder by Organic Wise is one of the highest-rated powders on Amazon. While average turmeric contains around 3% curcumin, this brand contains an impressive 6%.
Turmeric is generally not very efficient at absorbing into the bloodstream, but black pepper is an easy solution for that. A compound called piperine in the pepper can even boost absorption rates by a couple thousand percent!  That’s why you may want to consider buying your turmeric powder with black pepper mixed in, like this product by Arazo Nutrition.
The Best Turmeric Supplements
Turmeric is also available in supplement form. This is ideal for those who aren’t always able to brew turmeric tea or add the powder to the foods they eat. Supplements can also be beneficial for those who want to take specific doses.
For cancer treatment, turmeric should be consumed in larger doses, preferably as curcumin supplements. The Maryland Medical Center suggests that an average of 500mg of turmeric should be consumed at least three times per day to maximize on its anti-cancer effects . You don’t need to be treating cancer, of course, to benefit from turmeric supplements.
Ora Organic makes a very popular turmeric supplement which contains black pepper. As mentioned, black pepper greatly boosts absorption rates.
While supplements can never substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle over a long period of time, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t ever take advantage of recent scientific innovations which boost the bioavailability of already beneficial compounds. I have yet to try this, but this interesting product by Solgar is certainly on my list.
This pure curcumin supplement has somehow been transformed from a fat-soluble to a water-soluble phytonutrient. That means that the curcumin takes effect much more quickly and is also much more bioavailable. If true, that would make this one of the best curcumin or turmeric supplements on the market today.
Potential Risks of Turmeric
While it poses no significant risk to the wellbeing of a healthy individual, turmeric may cause nausea, stomach pains, indigestion and gas if consumed in excessively large amounts. Furthermore, it is not advisable to consume the spice in any form if you exhibit sensitivities to any plant from the ginger family or yellow food coloring.
The American Cancer Society specifies that these effects may only be experienced when turmeric is consumed to treat illnesses. Food-grade turmeric such as the one we use as a spice is considered relatively safe in all aspects .
As toxins and pollutants from our air and even the plastic packaging on our foods can put a lot of stress on our livers, it’s important that we help this vital organ out from time to time. And one of the best ways to do this is by consuming turmeric, either in supplement form or, ideally, by making it a regular part of our normal diet. Liver health isn’t the only thing the herb is good for, though. Other benefits include reduced joint pain, improved skin tone and an enhanced immune system.