As written previously, I was in treatment for heroin by my 16th birthday. I had already recovered from hepatitis by then. They called it serum hepatitis signifying you got it from injecting drugs then later classified it as hepatitis B. C hadn’t appeared yet. Then, a year later something happened they say can’t happen. I “relapsed” with hep, coming down with it again. After treatment I discontinued all IV drug use but maintained a prodigious alcohol regimen and, coupled with the proverbial candle burning at both ends, wore my poor liver out. Hepatitis isn’t just a specific virus, but, like most disease a spectrum of liver dysfunction. It’s characterized by inflammation, which is the issue with most all immune-system disorders, and a doorway into healing. A core goal and benefit of healthy nutrition is lowering inflammation.

I had been laid off, which gave me a bit of breathing room, so I quit everything and moved into a macrobiotic commune in Ann Arbor. Free rent for chopping broccoli. This led to cleansing, health building and renewed health. I’m not a huge fan of macrobiotic, due to over-alkalization, but it does have healing properties. After a couple of years of all that clean living, I figured I’d earned a beer or two. Slowly, over the next twenty years I worked my way back to a full-on heroin (and multiple-drug) addiction. You see, if you don’t actually treat the disease (and that means much more than abstinence) it comes back, stronger. That’s proof of the disease. I relate this not to bore you with my drug-a-logue but to paint a picture of how shot my liver (and kidneys) were once I finally accepted recovery.

So, beginning with my previous information, I set out to study and research how to repair and return myself to good health. THAT I’d much rather write about. A fascinating journey it has been.

I had no money for books so I just hung out in the stores (or library) reading, taking notes and pestering people with questions. By my first year in recovery I was running the juice bar at the newly built (first one in Michigan) Whole Foods where I figured I’d learn. Lots of knowledgeable people around were willing to teach. Wheatgrass juice, crushed out of sprouted wheat berries, an ounce at a time, is both deeply cleansing and nutritional (a dual property that is somewhat rare). Yes, it does taste like newly mown lawn. Start your day with a shot of that and you’ll get the flow going. I worked my way up to 4 oz. each morning. Actually I started my day with water and fresh squeezed lemon juice. You don’t need much and it’s very cleansing. Ayurveda teaches that any food is made healthier with a spritz of fresh lemon. It has to do with the pH balance, another doorway to reduce inflammation. Ayurveda is the oldest known health system on Earth, coming from India but really the preceding Rama Empire going back some 6,000 years and quite advanced. A great lesson from Ayurveda is their focus on nutritional balance, not “this is bad, this is good”. Let’s be clear I was not perfect, i.e. I still drank coffee. Speaking of coffee, here’s a good example of learning from my W. Foods job. This was the juice bar in the center of the store in the first store in the whole state and in the hipster burg of A2 so, over time, everybody including most of the professors at the University of Michigan Nutrition Department dropped by and (juice) bartender that I was I got to know them. They taught me a ton, for example, something they could not go on “record” about: the problem with coffee is when it’s regular coffee and regular tap water. The chemicals contained in both those products creates a “sludge of toxins” (that’s a quote) that is hard on the body. But to run studies that would contain all those chemicals in appropriate scientific method ways is way too expensive so you see the problem. Me I’m happy because, like always, I’m getting the inside skinny. So organic and reverse osmosis it is for me.

Next are the liver (and other organ) cleansing herbs, starting with milk thistle. This herb is prescribed in Europe by the doctors. What, you say, doctors prescribe herbs?! I was shown numerous studies (all from Europe) of herbs, including milk thistle, where it’s been documented to “bring back” people from cirrhosis. That’s right, heal cirrhosis. It is amazing what can be done to repair a liver. More fascinating stuff I didn’t know; the European medical societies never lost their herbal traditions, being more rooted in their tribal roots. Several centuries ago Europeans were agrarians who worked closely with the land and were in tune with diurnal impulses of nature. We turned from that maternal, life-giving emphasis of nature-consciousness to materialism and ownership with the rise of the merchant middle class followed by the Industrial Revolution. Europe did not lose that link so they studied prescribe/recommend herbs. Btw, my liver and kidneys sparkle today, from all this.

We had the same tradition here in the US of A by the late 1800’s. Doctors had studied with Native tribes, melding their western medicine with Native herbal knowledge. For example, native to the North American continent, the root cascara sagrada is excellent for cleanses and constipation and osha is an expectorant useful with colds and other lung issues. Those doctors became known as The Eclectics.

If you look at liver cleanse herbal teas and tinctures you’ll see combos with other herbs like dandelion root, burdock root, fenugreek, fennel and others. I learned from numerous respected herbalists the liver cleansing value of dandelion root and use this as a daily tea on its own. To think it’s a weed when it has such excellent properties is quite comical to me. We dig and spray it out when we need to cultivate and harvest them.

Turmeric is another all-purpose plant that is very anti-inflammatory and you can take in capsule form in the morning.

Of course, being in a juice bar I worked with and learned about the vegetable juices. All of this could fill a book and I should take a moment to point out and remind that I am not diagnosing nor prescribing but merely passing on knowledge (some ancient), experience, strength and hope for those who might need health-building. My desire is to summarize decades of experience into foundational guidelines, rules to eat by, if you will, yet it is true that there are differences between humans and the true journey of nutrition is a personal journey of discovery for each of us. We know a lot and it can be distilled into guidelines but ultimately only you know what is best for you.

Veggie juices start with a base of carrot but I would recommend you make at least half that base celery juice. Carrot, quite nutritious is also very sugary and needs to be tempered with the grace of celery, a juice that cools prodigiously. Cooling means anti-inflammatory as inflamed is the same as “hot”. My professors told me that if you can get it in someone, a glass of fresh celery juice will stop a heat stroke in its tracks. Once you have the base, numerous veggies are great to add, but particularly cleansing are beet, cucumber and pepper.

But hey back to the liver cleanse which is what they call this concoction: equal parts olive oil and fresh lemon juice with a small pinch of ginger, garlic and cayenne. You can start with just an ounce each of the oil and juice and just a little pinch on the powders. At its peak I was doing 8 oz. total. The oil actually “spasms” the liver. You can’t feel it, but it helps, in its “quiver”, to break up the toxins. Then the lemon juice flushes them out. The olive oil needs to be of good quality, virgin, first cold pressed. Cirrhosis ultimately is fibrotic tissue turning to hard non-functioning cirrhotic tissue. Overwhelmed by what’s being shoved through it, it crystallizes the toxins and becomes scar tissue. Hard, it won’t let things pass through and stops performing as a filter its necessary cleansing actions.

PS: You can add some fresh squeezed grapefruit juice to the liver flush to ease the taste if desired.

Also, a reason for the combo herb teas approach is as you flush out the liver into the blood stream, your body needs help evacuating the toxins all the way. The liver flush puts toxins back into the blood and the herbs finish the task at hand. We evacuate through breath, skin, urine, feces, etc.

I later got to work my way through rounds of protease regimens, Chinese medicine protocols and far infra-red blankets, leaving no reasonable stone un-turned. I worked hard to find the most practical and grounded practitioners and herbalists to avoid wasting my time with, how shall I say this, ‘frou-frou’. Some may call all this ‘frou’ but they would be misinformed.

Actually, for those who doubt the need and efficacy of natural cleansing techniques, I would recommend a recent documentary “The Human Experiment”, now showing instantly on Netflix. Our own government admits/states that 80% of all cancers are environmentally caused. This begins with smoking and diet and then moves on to the toxins. Here’s a glimpse of what it’s like in the developing world.

High levels of well-manufactured protease enzymes (there are some 1,000 different proteases) show great promise. They feed the liver the enzymes it needs to do its job. We need enzymes as much as we need vitamins. That is a core issue with our food; as we create an industrialized, processed food supply we, just for shipping/shelf life purposes alone, kill all that’s “alive” within it. That “alive” is the very stuff we really need. In the 1920’s and ’30’s much study was done by Dr. Weston Price on this. I recommend “Nourishing Traditions”. That’s the whole point behind culturing and fermentation. It “sprouts” the nutrition where it’s bursting with enzymes which facilitate proper digestion and assimilation.

Chinese medicine clearly leaves us at the door of not enough time/space. These are but just a few of the herbs with wisdom for the body, this being a thumb-nail sketch of the simple truth that the Universe is designed to work if we let it and get the support we need. That’s what herbs do, support the body.

I remember my first acupuncturist, a deeply respected 80 year old Chinese DOM in Windsor, Ontario, over the river from Detroit. After listening to my pulses (they state we have 9) for a while, he looked at me and proclaimed (in that wonderful accent), “Constitution good, but liver very hot!” Hot indeed! I’m so grateful to him and the many others who taught me how to seize my health and recovery.