Herbal Products for the Liver

Regularly taking the right herbal supplements can improve your health. But first you should find out which herbs actually help and which ones don’t. Herbalists claim that several herbs improve liver health and function, but few of these claims are supported by research. A few herbs–milk thistle, bupleurum, licorice root, and cordyceps–have been shown to support the liver and reduce symptoms associated with certain chronic liver conditions.

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle contains a substance called sylvarin that has been shown to protect the liver from damage, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The herb protects better against damage from certain agents over others, but to some degree prevents harm from viruses, alcohol, toxins and drugs. The milder the liver disease, the more milk thistle improves liver function. The herb defends well against the effects of the toxin from death’s cap mushrooms, and may help improve quality of life and delay death in people with alcohol-induced cirrhosis, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. You should take 420mg of milk thistle per day to improve liver function in cirrhosis, and 240mg twice per day to treat chronic hepatitis. As with any herbal treatment, take milk thistle as a complement to your regular medication and let your doctor know that you are taking it.

Licorice Root

Consuming licorice root might be good for the liver, although researchers need to conduct more studies to know for sure. Licorice root contains a compound called glycyrrhizin, which might help reduce the incidences of cirrhosis in patients with hepatitis C, according to the 2007 study “The Effect of Supplementation with Branched-Chain Amino Acids in Patients with Liver Cirrhosis,” conducted by Urata et al. and published in “Hepatology Research.” In the study, the researchers injected a solution of glycirrhizin and various amino acids into patients with hepatitis C and found that cirrhosis was less likely to develop. They did not determine whether glycyrrhizin would be effective if taken orally.

Chinese Herbs for the Liver

For thousands of years, the Chinese have used herbs to promote liver health. Two of these may be effective to this end, although the evidence is sparse. The herb bupleurum may reduce the chances of a person with cirrhosis developing liver cancer. Cordyceps, a fungal herb, may promote liver and immune system function in hepatitis B patients, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

About this Author

Timothy Banas has a master’s degree in biophysics and was a high school science teacher in Chicago for seven years. He has since been working as a trading systems analyst, standardized test item developer, and freelance writer. As a freelancer, he has written articles on everything from personal finances to computer technology.