Many proponents of herbal medicine suggest using herbs to enhance the health of your liver, an organ responsible for clearing toxins from your body. Indeed, some research shows that certain herbs may help fight liver disorders like cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or infections like hepatitis B and hepatitis C (causes of liver inflammation).1
Here’s a look at several herbs that show promise as a natural means of boosting liver health.
Milk thistle may benefit people with cirrhosis of the liver, according to a report published in 2001.2 Analyzing five clinical trials (with a total of 602 cirrhosis patients), researchers determined that treatment with milk thistle could lead to a significant reduction in liver-related mortality.
A 2005 research review looked at several clinical trials testing milk thistle in the treatment of hepatitis B and C.3 Although the authors found no evidence that milk thistle can help clear any type of hepatitis virus, some research suggests that milk thistle may help curb inflammation associated with hepatitis C and protect liver cells from damage.
Preliminary research indicates that turmeric may be useful in the treatment of hepatitis B and hepatitis C. In a 2009 study on liver cells, for instance, scientists discovered that turmeric extract helped stop the hepatitis B virus from replicating.4
A test-tube study published in 2010, meanwhile, demonstrated that turmeric extract might help suppress the replication of the hepatitis C virus.5
Burdock (an herb often used as a natural detox remedy) may help shield liver cells from acetaminophen-induced damage, according to an animal study published in 2000.6 In tests on mice, scientists found that antioxidants in burdock may lessen the harmful effects of toxic substances formed from the metabolism of acetaminophen.
Other animal-based research suggests that burdock may also help protect the liver from damage caused by alcohol consumption.
Using Herbs for Liver Conditions
Given the lack of clinical trials to support their use, neither turmeric nor burdock can currently be recommended for the treatment of any type of liver disease. Since the scientific support for milk thistle’s liver-protecting effects is also limited, it’s also too soon to recommend this herb as a principal treatment for liver problems.
To enhance your liver health every day, the American Liver Foundation encourages following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting your alcohol intake, keeping your cholesterol in check, and washing your hands frequently (in order to prevent infection).
Always remember that animal research results cannot automatically be applied to humans. If you’re considering the use of herbs for liver health, make sure to consult your physician before beginning treatment.
- Latief U, Ahmad R. Herbal remedies for liver fibrosis: A review on the mode of action of fifty herbs. J Tradit Complement Med. 2018;8(3):352-360. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2017.07.002
- Saller R, Meier R, Brignoli R. The use of silymarin in the treatment of liver diseases. Drugs. 2001;61(14):2035-63. doi:10.2165/00003495-200161140-00003
- Mayer KE, Myers RP, Lee SS. Silymarin treatment of viral hepatitis: a systematic review. J Viral Hepat. 2005;12(6):559-67. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2893.2005.00636.x
- Kim HJ, Yoo HS, Kim JC, et al. Antiviral effect of Curcuma longa Linn extract against hepatitis B virus replication. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009;124(2):189-96. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2009.04.046
- Kim K, Kim KH, Kim HY, Cho HK, Sakamoto N, Cheong J. Curcumin inhibits hepatitis C virus replication via suppressing the Akt-SREBP-1 pathway. FEBS Lett. 2010;584(4):707-12. doi:10.1016/j.febslet.2009.12.019
- Lin SC, Chung TC, Lin CC, et al. Hepatoprotective effects of Arctium lappa on carbon tetrachloride- and acetaminophen-induced liver damage. Am J Chin Med. 2000;28(2):163-73. doi:10.1142/S0192415X00000210
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