To describe the liver as vital would be an understatement. It metabolizes fat, sugars and proteins, synthesizes proteins, produces enzymes, hormones and bile, stores glycogen, breaks down old red blood cells, detoxifies alien chemicals, and does hundreds of other necessary things to keep us alive and healthy.
There are quite a few diseases that can interfere with liver function, one of the commonest being fatty liver.
It's an asymptomatic and reversible condition caused by an accumulation of triglycerides in the hepatic cells, and is diagnosed as fatty liver when the proportion of fat in the organ exceeds five percent of the total by weight. This can only be determined with lab tests.
The primary culprits are obesity and excessive intake of alcohol, though there are many other possible causes such as diabetes and pregnancy. In severe cases, fatty liver can lead to the far more serious condition called cirrhosis.
Treating fatty liver is simple: cut down on the drinking, exercise regularly, and eat sensibly (more on this anon).
Dr Duong Thanh Trac says that heavy drinkers who stop imbibing alcohol will not develop cirrhosis even if they already have fatty liver, which rarely exhibits symptoms to the lay person.
He says that many people are understandably anxious after medical testing yields a diagnosis of fatty liver, but there is no cause for alarm.
Herbalist Nhu Ta says a fatty liver is not a true disease in itself, just a rich accumulation of fat in the hepatic cells over time.
He recommends cutting down on animal fat and viscera, egg yolk, alcohol, and other such substances, and eating more green vegetables like cabbage, water morning glory, cucumber, tomatoes, carrots, strawberries, corn, winter melon and shiitake mushrooms.
To this can be added green tea, fiber-rich fruit such as bananas or apples to fill the stomach, and plenty of exercise.
Studies conducted at Stanford University in the US show that fatty liver can interfere with metabolism and cause glucose and triglyceride levels to rise excessively while lowering the content of good cholesterol to an unhealthy level.
What's worse, a recent survey of more than 300 people by the London Health Sciences Center found that fatty liver tripled the risk of stroke.
Natural therapist Quoc Trung recommends drinking therapeutic tea to reduce the fat content in the blood and to shed fat from the body generally.
To make the tea, finely cut up 2g dried tea leaves, 10g yellow saffron, 5g brown dried cam thảo (liquorice) and 25g honey, put the lot in a jar, pour in some hot cooking water and let stand for 30 minutes. Drink it throughout the day.
As an alternative, finely chop up one fresh or dried lotus leaf and place it in a teapot, pour in hot cooking water and let stand for 20 minutes. This tea can be drunk every day instead of black or green tea.
Quoc Trung also advises limiting the intake of animal fat and liver, egg yolk, butter and other sources of fat, as well as too pungent or hot food.
Herbalist Dinh Cong Bay suggests trying out the following recipes and sticking to the one that feels appropriate and beneficial.
The first two are for people with tightness across the chest, swollen stomach, lower right rib pain, indigestion, or irritability.
One can be made by cooking 100g rice over a high flame for 30 minutes until it becomes porridge, mixing in 15g dried and mashed mandarin peel, and continuing to cook the porridge over a low flame until it is well and truly done. This dish should be eaten to get rid of hunger pangs.
The second is a beverage, for which the ingredients are 100g white turnip, five kumquats, 20g honey and 300ml hot cooking water. Peel, slice and juice the turnip in a blender, then cut each kumquat in two, discard their seeds, and crush them for the juice. Combine the two juices in a jar, add the honey, pour in the hot cooking water and stir well. This beverage should be drunk twice before meals.
* For people with lower right rib pain, palpably swollen liver or purple tongue, the following beverage is suitable:
- Dry 10g yellow saffron and 10g mandarin peel in the open, pound and mix them with 3g green tea, and put it in a clear, small jar. To make a therapeutic tea, place half the mixture in a pot, pour in one bowl of water, and cook for 10 minutes. Take twice daily.
* Here are two recipes for people who are obese, have swollen stomach, heavy arms and legs, or dull palette:
- To make a twice daily beverage, chop 15g sơn tra (medlar or docynia doumeri schneid) into thin pieces, and dry and crumble 15g lotus leaves. Place them in a pot, mix well, add 600ml water and boil until the liquid is reduced by half.
- To make a light porridge for filling the stomach, cook 30g sorghum (ý dĩ nhân), 50g fresh and sliced lotus leaves and 100g rice in water until it thickens. Eat twice daily when hungry.
* People who are tired and weak, short of breath, or have a poor appetite or diarrhea can try the following two recipes:
- To make a breakfast food, chop 15g sơn tra (medlar or docynia doumeri schneid) into thin pieces. Place 100g corn powder in a glass, cover with hot water and stir until it becomes corn paste. Put the sơn tra in a pot with one liter of water and cook over a low flame for 20 minutes. Add the corn paste to the pot and stir steadily until the paste dissolves.
- For a twice daily porridge, soak 20g yams (củ mài) in water until soft. Peel and slice 80g carrots, and cook the two together with 100g rice and water in a pot over a high flame until it thickens.
* Here are two types of porridge for treating lower right rib pain, dizziness, buzzing in their ears, stomach ache, weak knees, hot palms, soles or chest, dry skin, thirst or overly dark urine.
- Cook 30g hà thủ ô (multiflorous knotweed) in one liter water until the liquid is reduced by half, add 100g rice and five deseeded black jujubes and cook for 30 minutes until it turns into porridge. Eat twice daily when hungry, after stirring in some honey to sweeten the dish.
- Separately soak 15g hải sâm (holothurian) and 15g má»™c nhĩ trắng (white wood ear fungus) in warm water for 12 hours. Remove the fungus peduncle and cook the holothurian, fungus and 100g rice in water until it thickens. Season with sugar and salt before eating.