Liver cleanse and detox drinks have gained a lot of buzz in the health community recently.
They’re promoted as natural remedies that can help heal your liver, eliminate toxins, and boost energy, among other benefits. However, it’s unclear how these drinks may offer these benefits, and there’s little science to support their use.
This article provides a scientific deep dive into liver cleanse and detox drinks.
Liver cleanse and detox drinks are beverages that contain a variety of herbs, fruits, and vegetables.
Their common ingredients include the following:
- milk thistle
- dandelion root
Manufacturers claim that these drinks confer many health benefits. For example, they’re purported to remove harmful waste and toxins, flush out impurities, improve energy, and support liver health. However, little scientific evidence backs these claims.
Plus, not all cleansing and detoxing drinks are the same.
Countless types are on the market, and they’re made with varying ingredients. Some are intended for daily consumption indefinitely, while others are meant to be used for a period of a few weeks to a few months.
Liver cleanse and detox drinks are beverages that claim to support your liver health, remove harmful waste and toxins, and improve your energy. However, there’s little scientific evidence to support these benefits.
Currently, no scientific studies show that liver cleanse and detox drinks are effective. In fact, most claims made by manufacturers are simply marketing gimmicks — or at best, based on anecdotal evidence.
Although the drinks are claimed to remove toxins, it’s rarely clarified which specific toxins they remove or how.
Furthermore, no studies have shown that healthy people have a buildup of toxins in their bodies, nor are there studies confirming that herbal detoxes can improve your natural detox systems.
However, people with certain medical conditions have a decreased ability to detoxify toxic substances due to factors like their age, sex, health, genetics, medication regimen, and diet (
For example, because most of the body’s detoxification processes take place in liver cells, those with liver disease may be unable to carry out normal detoxification processes, which can lead to the buildup of harmful substances like ammonia (
Still, your body can’t remove certain chemicals easily, as they can collect in fat tissue or blood. These include bisphenol A (BPA), persistent organic pollutants (POPs), heavy metals, and phthalates (
These chemicals tend to be concentrated in ultra-processed foods like fast food. Still, it’s not recommended that you consume detox or cleansing drinks to remove these potentially harmful chemicals from your body.
Instead, try to reduce your exposure to these chemicals by reducing your intake of ultra-processed foods like fast-food hamburgers and french fries, as well as processed foods in plastic packaging, such as chips or candy.
Although some people feel better after trying detox or cleansing drinks, it’s often because they simultaneously stop eating many low nutrient and processed foods. Thus, dietary changes — not specifically cleansing drinks — are likely responsible for any benefits.
No studies have shown that liver cleansing or detox drinks are effective, and no evidence supports most of their claims. In healthy adults, the liver is more than capable of rendering toxic substances harmless and removing them from your body.
Although liver cleanse and detox drinks may not work exactly like they’re touted to, they may still offer health benefits.
Contain healthy ingredients
Many liver cleanse and detox drinks contain ingredients that may benefit your health.
First, milk thistle is commonly found in these products. Studies have shown that supplementing with milk thistle may improve liver health in people with liver disease or damage. Still, more studies are needed in this area (
Other common ingredients found in liver cleanse and detox drinks are turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon, all of which may combat oxidative stress, reduce signs of inflammation, and reduce the risk of various chronic diseases (
What’s more, some liver cleanse and detox drinks contain ingredients like dandelion root and burdock. These may have health benefits, including fighting oxidative stress and reducing inflammation, although more research is needed (
However, most detox drinks contain proprietary blends of herbs, vitamins, and more, and they don’t list the amounts of these ingredients in each serving. This means you’d have no idea how much of an ingredient you’re consuming.
Generally, these drinks likely contain less of these nutrients than the amount recommended to obtain any of their potential health benefits.
Liver cleanse and detox drinks contain health-promoting ingredients. Still, they may not contain enough to make a noticeable difference in your health.
Before you try a liver cleanse or detox drink, it’s good to know about their potential risks and safety.
It’s important to note that most herbal cleanse and detox products are not tightly regulated.
Thus, they may contain ingredients that are either not listed on the package or present in much higher amounts than listed. This can lead to too high levels of certain nutrients in your body, which can cause various negative and potentially dangerous side effects (
As such, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has taken action on many herbal cleansing and detox products. For example, these products have been criticized for promoting false claims, containing harmful ingredients, and incorrect labeling (
Many herbs found in liver cleanse and detox drinks may interact with medications.
For example, milk thistle interacts with medications cleared by the liver, such as diazepam (Valium), warfarin (Jantoven), and various diabetes medications.
Also, many detox drinks contain herbs and other substances that aren’t listed on the label. These ingredients may likewise interact with various medications.
If you’re taking any prescription medications, you shouldn’t drink these beverages without consulting your healthcare provider.
Other side effects
If you’re using a liver cleanse or detox drink alongside a more elaborate cleansing or detox plan, there are more side effects to consider.
First, detox plans that promote rapid weight loss typically severely restrict your calories.
In the short term, severe calorie restriction can cause side effects like fatigue, irritability, and bad breath. In addition, severe long-term calorie restriction can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, electrolyte imbalances, and even death (
Also, detox plans may be harmful if you normally follow a specific diet to treat or manage a condition like diabetes, heart disease, or kidney disease. In those cases, it’s especially important to speak with your healthcare provider first (
Moreover, any extreme diet, including low calorie cleanses, may lead to unhealthy eating behaviors and a disordered relationship with food.
Liver cleansing and detox drinks have various health risks. For example, they may interact with medications and contain unknown ingredients in varying amounts.
To support your overall health, including the health of your liver, it’s important to follow a nutritious, well-balanced diet and avoid certain lifestyle factors like excessive drinking and drug use.
Additionally, studies show that adding certain foods and beverages to your diet may be especially beneficial for your liver. These options may also be more affordable than trendy beverages.
Here are some foods that benefit your liver:
- Coffee. This delicious beverage may boost antioxidant levels in your liver and lower the risk of liver disease (
- Tea. Popular teas like black and green tea may improve liver enzyme levels among people with liver disease and fight oxidative stress (
- Berries. Berries are packed with antioxidants, which have been shown to protect your liver from damage in various animal studies (
- Beetroot juice. This colorful drink contains healthy compounds like nitrates and antioxidants, which may help protect your liver from oxidative damage. Also, research suggests beetroot juice may increase your liver’s natural detoxification enzymes (
29, 30, 31).
- Nuts. Nuts are high in healthy fats and nutrients like vitamin E. Studies show that supplementing with vitamin E may help lower your risk of liver disease (
- Fatty Fish. Studies show that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids, which are naturally found in fatty fish, may reduce liver fat and improve liver enzyme function (
Below are some herbs and supplements that may benefit liver health:
- Milk thistle. This plant contains compounds like silybins, silychristin, and silydianin, all of which may aid liver regeneration, reduce inflammation, and improve liver health among those with liver disease (
- Ginseng. This herb has anti-inflammatory properties and may help protect against liver damage in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (
- Turmeric. This delicious herb has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It may reduce inflammation in the liver and signs of liver damage in people with liver disease (
- Ginger. Studies show that supplementing with ginger may significantly reduce signs of liver inflammation and liver fat in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, compared with a placebo treatment (
- Licorice root. Studies show that supplementing with licorice root may reduce signs of liver damage and inflammation in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (
If you’re looking for natural ways to boost your liver health, try incorporating some of these foods, herbs, or supplements into your diet.
Liver cleanse and detox drinks are herbal beverages touted to provide health benefits, such as improving your liver health, removing waste and toxins, and boosting energy.
However, there’s little to no evidence to support these claims.
Although these drinks often contain healthy ingredients, they also pose various health risks. For example, they may contain unknown ingredients or interact with medications.
If you’re looking for natural ways to boost your liver health, try adding some of the foods, herbs, and supplements listed above, such as berries, tea, beetroot juice, fatty fish, milk thistle, ginger, and licorice root, to your diet.
Just one thing
Try this today: Brew your own liver-health-promoting tea. In a saucepan, simmer about 4 cups (approximately 1L) of water, 2 bags of green tea, 3–4 slices of fresh ginger, and a pinch of ground turmeric for 4–5 minutes or until it reaches your desired strength. You can add a cinnamon stick, dash of honey, or fresh lemon juice for extra flavor.