Liverwort, (Marchantia polymorpha), is a perennial herb that has a long history of medicinal herbal use especially for liver ailments. It is a type of small, non-vascular plant belonging to the division Marchantiophyta. They reproduce via spores and are considered one of the earliest land plants, dating back millions of years!

Liverworts typically have a flat, lobed, or ribbon-like structure and can vary in color from green to brown. They are fascinating organisms with unique characteristics, contributing to the diversity and complexity of terrestrial ecosystems.

Habitat of Liverwort

Liverwort is often found in damp, shaded habitats such as forests, marshes and along streams or rivers. It prefers deciduous forests with loamy soil, but the plant has been found in clay soils, lime soils and in grasslands.

Liverwort is indigenous to the eastern United States, ranging as far north as Iowa and south to the Florida panhandle. Typically a lowland plant, it has been spotted in the Allegheny mountain range.

Many variations of the species hepatica exist around the world, including those on the Asian and European continent. At least one variation is indigenous to Japan. Taxonomists continue to argue over liverwort’s standing in relation to these relatives.

Liverwort is a deep-rooted and hardy plant. It requires good drainage and can survive in most soils that meet this requirement. Unlike other medicinal herbs, this one actually prefers a rich, porous soil and shelter, hence its profusion in lowland, deciduous forests.

Liverworts play important ecological roles, contributing to soil formation and providing habitat and food for various organisms.

The liverwort plant is considered to be endangered in many areas, though it’s broad, dark-green leaves can still be found in temperate forests and grasslands across the world. Many early herbalists treated the plant dismissively, and modern science has yet to widely investigate the qualities that have been ascribed to it for centuries.

Historic and Modern Uses of Liverwort

Liverwort was first identified by the Doctrine of Signatures and has been mistaken numerous times over the centuries for other herbal remedies. The first pharmaceutical reference comes from Tournefort’s 1708 Materia Medica. References to liverwort can be found in the pages of Maude Grieve’s 1931 Modern Herbal and in the Physician’s Desk Reference for Herbal Medicine.

Liverwort has been classified as an astringent, gentle herb suitable for topical applications in healing wounds and biliary complaints, from gallstones to jaundice. Grieve considered Liverwort as an expectorant useful in bronchial conditions. Due to conflicts between authors, who were promoting their own herbal remedies through publication of herbal lists, liverwort appears prominently in some texts and is utterly ignored in others.

Health Benefits of Liverwort

Some species of liverwort have also been used in traditional medicine for their purported medicinal properties, although scientific evidence supporting their efficacy is limited. Preparations of liverwort are now primarily used for liver ailments.

Herbalists may occasionally provide a topical rinse or liniment of the herb for skin conditions. Owing to the lack of scientific evidence confirming the actions of liverwort, it may be best thought of as a gentle tonic for the liver, instead of a primary remedy.

Active Constituents in Liverwort

Primary constituents of prepared Liverwort include flavonoids and saponins. Saponins are also found in a number of more widely known medicinal herbs including; ginseng, soybean and onions. Saponins have shown immuno-modulating, anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties. This suggests early uses of liverwort in lung illnesses were correct.

Flavonoids are considered the active constituents of liverwort and include flavo-glycosides, anthocyanins, and lactone-forming glycosides. Anthocyanins are what give red fruit its colour. They have been investigated extensively for anti-inflammatory action with positive results. The flavo-glycosides in hepatica include quercitrin, isoquercitrin, and astragalin. Astragalin has shown some efficacy in treating dermatitis.

Isoquercitrin is a superior form of quercetin, due to better absorption, and both have been proven to aid capillary health by strengthening vessel walls. Quercitrin is broken down to quercetin and glucose during digestion.

How to Prepare Liverwort

Liverwort is typically not prepared or consumed as food due to its bitter taste and potential toxicity. While liverwort has been used in traditional herbal medicine for various purposes, including liver ailments and digestive issues, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before using liverwort or any herbal remedy, as it may interact with medications or have adverse effects.

The leaves are the medicinal part and should be harvested whilst the plant is in bloom, and dried in the shade. The plant must be prepared carefully prior to use, because the fresh plant contains the precursor ranunculin, which produce protoanemonin on contact with the skin and mucous membranes. These compounds can cause blisters, which heal slowly. Severe irritation of the digestive tract follows ingestion of the unprocessed plant.

If liverwort is being used for medicinal purposes, it is often prepared as an herbal infusion or decoction.

Here’s a general guideline for preparing liverwort infusion:

Dried Liverwort: Start with dried liverwort herb, which can be obtained from herbal stores or online retailers.

Infusion: Place about 1-2 teaspoons of dried liverwort in a cup or mug.

Boiling Water: Heat water to near boiling, then pour it over the dried liverwort in the cup.

Steeping: Allow the liverwort to steep in the hot water for about 5-10 minutes, depending on desired strength.

Strain: After steeping, strain the liquid to remove the liverwort leaves.

Optional: Sweeten with honey or another natural sweetener if desired, as liverwort is known for its bitter taste.

Usage: Liverwort infusion can be consumed as a warm or cold beverage. It is typically recommended to drink 1-2 cups per day, though dosage may vary depending on individual health conditions and the advice of a healthcare provider.

Liverwort Dosage Forms and Amounts

The fresh plant should be avoided, due to irritating constituents that are destroyed through drying and preparation. There is no defined dosage for liverwort rinses or liniments. Alcohol, oils, and fats have been used successfully as topical carriers.

Internal dosage has traditionally been through infusion or extract of the herb. Dosage should not exceed 3.8 grams of the dried herb, which is roughly the equivalent of 4 teaspoons of a 3-6 percent infusion. Tinctured extracts may be more precisely calculated, depending on the reputability of the source. Capsules of powdered liverwort are now available to simplify dosage.

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Liverwort Herb Notes / Side Effects

Latin Name

Marchantia polymorpha

Common Names

Common hepatica, kidneywort, pennywort.


Liverwort, also known as Marchantia polymorpha, is a type of moss that is sometimes used in traditional medicine. While liverwort has been used for various purposes, including treating liver conditions, there is limited scientific evidence to support its effectiveness or safety.

It’s crucial to exercise caution when using liverwort or any herbal remedy and to consult with a healthcare professional for guidance on proper usage and potential risks.

Potential side effects of liverwort may include:

Allergic reactions: Some individuals may experience allergic reactions to liverwort, particularly if they are sensitive to mosses or other plants in the same family.

Digestive upset: Ingesting large amounts of liverwort may cause gastrointestinal discomfort, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Liver toxicity: Despite its historical use in treating liver ailments, there is insufficient evidence to confirm liverwort’s safety and efficacy for liver health. In some cases, liverwort may actually pose a risk of liver toxicity, especially if consumed in excessive amounts or in combination with other medications or substances that affect liver function.

Drug interactions: Liverwort may interact with certain medications, supplements, or herbs, potentially affecting their efficacy or causing adverse effects. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before using liverwort, especially if you are taking other medications or have underlying health conditions.

Contamination: Liverwort products sold for medicinal purposes may be contaminated with other substances or impurities, which could pose additional health risks.

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