Kutki: Reviving Ayurveda’s #1 Liver Loving Herb

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Early on in my practice, kutki (Picrorhiza kurroa) was the most important herb in my Ayurvedic pharmacy.

The many studies on kutki’s effectiveness drew worldwide attention which resulted in severe over-harvesting and over-exploitation, threatening it into near extinction.

When it was classified as endangered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1997, I stopped using it. (1-7)

Sadly, since 1997, it has been sold illegally in the states and around the world without CITES certification—driving this precious herb even closer to extinction. This is why it is crucial to buy kutki through a trusted, CITES certified source.

RARE: Reviving Ayurveda’s Rare Ecology

We are proud to announce that LifeSpa, in coordination with The Dunagiri Foundation, is taking action to return kutki legally, ethically, and sustainably back into the market through the RARE project: Reviving Ayurveda’s Rare Ecology.

RARE logo

The RARE project is dedicated to taking endangered Ayurvedic herbs off of the endangered list.

Growing kutki and bringing it to market with CITES Certification is our first RARE project focus.

Proceeds from LifeSpa kutki sales will go towards supporting The Dunagiri Foundation and the growers farming kutki in the small Himalayan village of Gesh, some 20 miles from the Tibetan border.

What Makes Kutki So Special?

Kutki is considered Ayurveda’s premier liver tonic, but its benefits reach far beyond the liver.

Traditionally, Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine used it to support healthy liver, digestive, elimination, skin, immunity and respiratory function. (2,3)

By boosting antioxidants like glutathione and many liver enzymes, it supports detoxification and immunity through both the liver and the lymphatic system. (1,5,7)

Kutki Benefits:

  • Helps shield the liver from toxins, stress and the environment
  • Decongests bile and liver ducts, supporting healthy bile flow
  • Encourages liver, gallbladder and intestinal detox
  • Supports healthy external skin
  • Maintains the integrity of the intestinal and respiratory inner skin
  • Maintains healthy lymph and immune function

Kutki: Bitter + Pungent

In Ayurveda, herbs are classified by their effects on the 3 doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. This classification is determined by the taste of the herb, its action in the body, and its post-digestive effect.

Kutki is a Himalayan herb that grows best in high altitudes. For six months out of the year, it lies dormant deep under the snow.

Kutki is well-known as a bitter tonic for the liver, but its traditional name is katuki, which is derived from the word “katu,” meaning pungent. (4) It is both bitter and pungent—a rare combination in the wild.

washing kutki

The herb is said to have taken on the ruthless properties of its native high-altitude, mountainous Himalayan environment. The frigid cold making it a cooling herb, and for protection, it had to become a bit spicy or pungent as well.

Bitter herbs are extremely cooling, as is kutki, but having pungent (hot-spicy) properties are what make kutki so special and powerful. Its cleansing and detoxing properties come from its pungent properties.

Kutki’s bitter-based, cooling properties make it a perfect, kind and gentle approach to address most pitta imbalances, including acidity issues of the stomach, mild skin irritations, seasonal hypersensitivities to environmental irritants, liver, spleen heat or discomfort.

Kutki is also known as an effective cholagogue. Cholagogues stimulate the healthy downward flow of bile from the liver into the intestines. (4)

It is rare to come across an herb that is so bitter (cooling), but also pungent (warming and cleansing), while being so gentle and safe to use! Think of how few hot peppers you can eat, but how cleansing they would be if you could tolerate them…

Kutki is easygoing and gentle to the intestinal tract, but has powerful effects on the lymph, liver, skin, immunity, lungs, gut, gallbladder, digestion, and much more.

Liver Protective

As a potent liver-protectant, kutki helps to shield the body from toxins and the bio-chemistry of stress. The herb also acts to detox environmental toxins.

In one study, rodents were given a toxic liver agent. When they were given just 375mg of the raw kutki root powder, there was a significant hepatoprotective effect against the liver toxin.

While it took 76 days for the placebo group to recover from the toxin, it only took 25 days for the group who took the kutki to recover. (2)

Digestion Support

Trimming kutki

By supporting healthy bile flow and decongesting the bile and liver ducts, kutki supports liver, gallbladder, and intestinal detox with each meal. (3)

Kukti, known for supporting external skin concerns, also maintains the integrity of the intestinal and respiratory inner skin barriers that maintain healthy lymph and immune function. (2,3)

In a world where 4 billion toxins are dumped into the American environment each year, kutki is an exceptional herb that is critical when the liver, lymph, skin and digestion are under such threat.

Kutki, so glad to have you back and this time in a sustainable, environmental, fair trade manner!

Immune Support

Our innate immunity often fails to respond to a certain environmental factor which triggers the activation of humeral immunity, or the ability to produce immune B-cells cells, to protect the body from a current threat.

In many studies, kutki has been shown to support healthy humeral immunity and, therefore, support a normal immune response to a changing and sometimes toxic environment. (5,6)

Lymph Mover (Antioxidant)

Kutki has shown in many studies to support antioxidant activity and neutralize free radicals in the body.

While kutki is primarily a liver herb, much of its antioxidant activity takes place in the liver and spleen. (5,7)

The lymph is the body’s first line of defense, as it lines the walls of the intestines. If the intestinal barrier breaks down, the body’s lymphatic system is called upon to support detoxification and antioxidant activity.

Kutki may be the best herb to support the body when multiple organs and organ systems are involved.

Often, a digestive concern may be due, in part, to issues in the liver and lymph that are subtle and hard to diagnose.

Kutki provides a multi-pronged approach to help the body resolve health issues globally without the risk of creating dependency.




  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11410077
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9715310
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2266895/
  4. Kapoor, L.D. Handbook of Ayurvedic Medicinal plants. CRC Press. 2000. P.263
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3579017/
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/picrorhiza-kurroa
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3783750/

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