Joe Whitfield’s Answer on Liver Health

Being in Croatia for the past few years and being an unofficial medical doctor has led to many questions; some about infections, more about their genitals, but the most questions I’ve gotten were about the health of their liver and their worries about alcohol consumption. Most of the time and to keep questions to a minimum (after multiple annoyances), I simply reply by, “Stop Drinking”. Of course most Croatians that I have met are considered alcoholics according to Western standards by drinking more than 12 units a week; and going cold turkey is not really the best way to do it because of the consequences.

Although I do enjoy the occasional beer and the rakija in this country, slowing down and drinking in moderation would be the best preventive step. However, most people’s compliance to either abstinence or moderation is close to zero. Thus I have found three solutions that alcohol users may or may not enjoy whilst trying to save their liver.

The first and most popular herbal remedy to recuperate the liver is milk thistle (Silybum Marianum) seeds. Milk thistle is native to the Mediterranean region and is in the family of daisies. The usage of the seed extract has been around for over 2000 years to treat cirrhosis of the liver. This is mostly due to the silymarin content of the milk thistle seed extract. Silybin, the major constituent of silymarin, has protective effects on the liver and is used to repair damages ranging from hepatitis to alcohol to liver toxins such as amanita phalloides (death cap mushrooms).

Other functions of milk thistle include lowering cholesterol levels, reducing insulin resistance in people with type II diabetes who also have cirrhosis, reducing the growth of cancer cells in breast, cervical, and prostate cancers, reducing the effects of a hangover and reducing liver damaging effects of chemotherapeutic drugs.

Since it takes about 7 kilograms of milk thistle seeds to make 1 kilogram of extract (maximum daily dosage is 800 mg) and that this is mostly preventive medicine and has to be taken daily, I would suggest getting silymarin capsules available in Croatia through Oktal Pharma d.o.o. Each capsule contains 150 mg and the recommended daily dose is 280 mg.

The second herbal remedy that is used to treat liver dysfunction is the Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), a plant native to the Northeastern Asian region. Although the Siberian ginseng, more commonly called eleuthro, is very different from traditional Chinese ginseng in composition and structure, it is still an adaptogen (a substance that increases the body’s response to stress) that has very similar effects to ginseng. Eleuthro thus increases endurance, improves memory function, has an anti-inflammatory effect, and is immunogenic (which I don’t get because it is opposite from an anti-inflammatory effect), chemo-protective and radiological protection.

According to some articles, eleuthro is also much more effective than Chinese ginseng for antioxidant properties. This is helpful in reducing the levels of toxins, such as alcohol from the body. Also, eleuthro has a few polysaccharides that enhance liver function and reduces the levels of certain enzymes that inhibit proper liver function. Since this great ginseng substitute is better at ginseng functions than traditional ginseng, naturally I can’t find it available in Croatia. So if anybody knows where to get it, please post it below as a comment.

The third and more directed to Joe’s sense of herbal remedy is the coffee enema. Also an old technique, the coffee is used to detoxify the liver by draining the toxins from the entero-hepatic circulation. The coffee causes the toxins to remain in the colon instead of getting reabsorbed to be processed in the liver. The caffeine also causes the bile duct to empty into the digestive system, thus allowing more toxins from the gall bladder or liver to be expelled. By removing toxins through the coffee enema, the liver has more capacity to handle the toxins in the body. Since reabsorption from the colon is disrupted, there might also be a possible positive effect on reducing the amount of fats and cholesterol in the system and also potentially increasing bile function.

According to s.a. Wilson’s Gold Roast Coffee, who states that they are the best coffee for enemas due to their high caffeine and palmitic acid content, enemas can be done as often as possible to eradicate the effects of the toxin. Their recommended directions are:

Empty 4 cups of filtered or distilled water into a non-aluminum pot or saucepan. Add 3 rounded tablespoons of organic coffee (finely ground and not instant), preferably s.a. Wilson’s Gold Roast Coffee. Stir the coffee to make sure all is mixed in the water, and then bring to a boil. Boil the coffee for 3 to 5 minutes whilst stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and cover pot or saucepan with lid and let it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the stove element and let coffee cool down to room temperature or cooler. Strain the coffee through a fine sieve to remove as much of the coffee grinds as possible. Avoid using a paper or cloth filter to strain your coffee as it removes much more than the grounds, much of the prime elements, such as cafestol, will be lost by using cloth or paper. Because of the boiling process, some of the water may have evaporated. So add plain filtered or distilled water to the coffee to bring it up to 4 full cups.

Clamp the end of the enema bag and pour 1 cup of the filtered coffee mixture into the enema bag. Release the clamp until the coffee begins to flow out, and then clamp the bag again immediately. Hang the enema bag at a height of a meter. Lie on the floor and gently insert the nozzle, using vegetable oil on the nozzle if needed. Release the clamp and let the coffee mixture flow into the sigmoid colon. Clamp the tubing as soon as there is a sensation of “fullness” or when the enema bag is empty. Remove the nozzle. If possible and without forcing yourself, retain the enema for 10 minutes, and then empty your bowel. After emptying your bowel, repeat the process with the remaining cup of coffee. If you cannot hold one cup of coffee mixture enema, take several smaller enemas.

When the bile duct empties, you will feel a squirting sensation in the area of your right rib cage. After feeling the bile emptying, you can stop taking enemas for that day. If you do not feel the bile duct emptying after one week of daily enemas, increase the strength of the coffee or take slightly larger volume enemas. You should not feel nervous or jittery after the enema because the coffee does not get absorbed systemically. If you feel nervous or jittery, have palpitations or irregular heartbeats; reduce the amount of coffee by half or more. Repeat enemas as needed.

To explain things further, cafestol is a potential anticarcinogen that has shown to inhibit the progress of Parkinson’s disease and also blocks cholesterol homeostasis and increases serum cholesterol by 8%. Palmitic acid is a fatty acid that is also used in napalm and paliperidone. If taken with a good diet high in HDL, palmitic acid has no hypercholesterolemic effect. However with an unhealthy diet, palmitic acid increases LDL, decreases HDL and has a harmful effect to the cardiovascular system.

This is why s.a. Wilson’s Gold Roast Coffee has a motto of being “recommended by more professionals than any other single brand of coffee”. Funnily, they did not specify the purpose or mentioned the quality of their roast in terms of great taste or aroma like the other coffee companies do. In short, when you have a hangover after a night of going out and feel like alcohol has won another fight against your liver, take a few milk thistle seed pills, brew yourself a cup of Joe and get ready to spend the morning on the toilet.

Which doesn’t seem like too much of a lifestyle change.


  1. joe

    Thanks dude.Being in the hospitality and drinks industry makes drinking and eating rich foods a daily occurrence, so preventative and detox are a must. I do think your first advice “stop drinking” is the safest bet, but we live in Croatia, so not that easy as you know….

    • I just heard that in Bosnia, whey is used for liver problems (especially with an enlarged liver). Whey is the by product of curdling milk in the process of making cheese and is high in proteins. Some research says that overdoing the whey can cause liver damage (seen in body builders), but home remedy states to go to cheese makers and drink a liter of whey juice a day. I would say for two weeks. It’s always good for two weeks to a month. Liver should be able to regenerate by that time anyways 😛

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