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The combination of spices that protects the liver from toxins, medicines and heavy metals

July 06, 2023
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The combination of spices that protects the liver from toxins, medicines and heavy metals

Discovered the best combination of spices to protect the liver and counteract liver damage caused by various factors, including heavy metals, medicines, alcohol and aflatoxins. This synergy is offered by rosemary and turmeric, which, together, enhance their properties and prove to be valid allies in protecting the liver. This emerges from a very recent scientific research, published in the journal Molecules by an Arab and Egyptian team (Mohamed et al, Molecules, Dec 2022).

The properties of turmeric

The active principle of turmeric is called curcumin and it is the substance that makes the spice one of the most interesting and studied remedies in recent years. Curcumin is in fact antimicrobial, antioxidant, anticancer, antithrombotic, hypoglycemic and anti-inflammatory, as well as proving capable of protecting the heart. Not only that, curcumin is also hepatoprotective and protects the liver in the event of damage of a different nature, caused, for example, by the accumulation of heavy metals, but also by aflatoxins, which are mycotoxins produced by a type of fungus that can contaminate cereals, legumes and nuts, by alcohol and some drugs such as paracetamol. However, it has not yet been possible to understand by which mechanisms curcumin can protect the liver.

Then, as regards the intake of turmeric, it must be said that, once this spice is ingested, curcumin alone would not be able to overcome the stomach barrier. Here, the combination with a fat, such as extra virgin olive oil, and black pepper piperine can increase the availability of curcumin by 2000%.

The properties of rosemary

Rosemary, scientific name Rosmarinus officinalis, is an aromatic plant with a proven antioxidant power, useful for counteracting cramps and pains in the gastrointestinal tract, inflammation, depression, cellular degeneration and relieving peripheral circulatory disorders. Not only that, rosemary has been shown to protect the liver from damage caused by chemicals, such as carbon tetrachloride, used as a solvent and diluent, and drugs. Again, the hepatoprotective mechanisms are not fully understood.

The perfect synergy to protect the liver, the study

To shed light on the beneficial action of turmeric and rosemary on the liver, scientists conducted laboratory research on a population of mice. In particular, scientists have been concerned with understanding what happens following the ingestion of curcumin and rosemary oil, alone or in combination, in case of liver damage caused by paracetamol. Liver damage was evidenced by an increase in certain indicators, such as ALT, AST and ALP, which are higher in liver problems. First, the scientists observed that, following the intake of rosemary oil and turmeric alone, the values of ALT, ASP and ALP decreased, demonstrating the hepatoprotective action of these natural substances. The combination of rosemary oil and curcumin has been shown to induce a greater reduction of ALT, ASP and ALP, thus highlighting a more powerful hepatoprotective action, with a greater synergistic effect than that induced by the substances taken individually. So, in this first part of the experiment, the scientists proved that rosemary and turmeric protect the liver and do it even better when combined with each other.

Then, the scientists tried to understand what are the mechanisms that lead to improved liver health even in the presence of hepatotoxic substances. First, both rosemary and turmeric and even more their combination have shown a valid antioxidant action, capable of reducing lipid peroxidation, which is the degradation by free radicals of fatty acids in the liver. In fact, an increase of products generated by lipid peroxidation can cause lesions at the level of proteins, DNA and lipids and increase inflammation causing a worsening of liver health and an eventual progression of liver damage with the development of fibrosis and loss of function of the liver. Not only that, both curcumin and rosemary and, to a greater extent, their combination are able to reduce the inflammation triggered by hepatotoxic substances. In fact, the scientists detected a reduction in inflammatory cytokines, such as IL-6 and IL-1β.

In addition to this, rosemary and turmeric have reduced a protein, called Bax, capable of inducing apoptosis, namely the programmed death, of liver cells. The combination of rosemary and turmeric has shown an enhanced action, greater than that expressed by the substances taken individually. Finally, it was observed that the combination of rosemary and turmeric increased the availability of curcumin, as a result of an increase in the absorption of this substance by the body or a decrease in its elimination from the body. Scientists have not yet fully understood which of the two mechanisms is called into play.

Conclusions

Turmeric and rosemary are candidates for being valid liver-saving remedies, both alone and used in combination! This research, so interesting and promising, will probably lay the foundations for the creation of treatments aimed at protecting the liver with the active ingredients of these spices. Meanwhile, we can certainly take advantage of the results learned so far and enrich our dishes with condiments based on turmeric, extra virgin olive oil and black pepper and why not, a little chopped rosemary, capable of working in synergy to guarantee flavour, help use less salt and counteract free radicals, inflammation and, as we have seen today, liver damage.

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