Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver and is mostly caused by a virus but can be caused by other factors such as alcohol consumption and certain medication.
The more serious cases of hepatitis may progress to cirrhosis (permanent damage to the liver) or even, in some instances, liver cancer.
Many medicinal herbs have been documented to have a positive effect in restoring the liver to healthy function. Plant extracts that promote healthy liver function will generally have one or more helpful characteristics.
An herbal remedy for hepatitis may:
- stimulate the production of bile,
- act as antioxidants (the “hepatoprotective” quality of a plant chemical is typically determined by testing it in animal livers that have been exposed to carbon tetrachloride),
- have strong antiviral activity, specifically against the hepatitis virus HBV,
- and/or supply needed nutrients to the liver.
There are many medicinal herbs for hepatitis that are common and a few others that are less well-known — at least in western culture — but have shown some promise in treating viral hepatitis (hepatitis A, B, and C).
Some tropical plants, while they may not be as common in western herbal medicine, have been used traditionally by many cultures around the world and show some promise as herbal remedies for hepatitis.
Researchers in India, in particular, are examining the properties of many tropical plants that have been traditionally used as medicine in Asia and other parts of the world. These plant extracts are not necessarily more difficult to find and are worth knowing about.
It should be remembered that supplements alone are not enough for maintaining health. An overall healthy lifestyle is essential. For anyone concerned with liver health, abstaining from alcohol—or drinking in moderation—and reducing saturated fats from one’s diet are important actions to take to reduce stress on the liver.
Hepatitis is a serious condition and people suffering from hepatitis should be in the care of a medical doctor and should consult with their doctor before taking any medicinal herbs or nutritional supplement.
Medicinal Herbs with the Most Promising Supportive Information for Treating Hepatitis
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)
Milk thistle is a widespread plant species that has become a common weed in many gardens. It was at one time grown in monastery gardens as a medicinal plant. In some places in Europe, it is cultivated commercially.
It is the seed of the plant that is used as an herbal remedy for hepatitis, and the active ingredient is thought to be silymarin.
Many herbalists consider milk thistle to be a tried and true remedy for liver and gallbladder problems. The supposed actions on the liver are: inhibits inflammation by controlling the production of leukotrienes and promotes the production of glutathione in the liver. However, the laboratory and clinical evidence is mixed.
On the one hand, a reputable institution like the Mayo Clinic gives this herb a “green light” for its potential as an herbal remedy for hepatitis, while others have found no clear evidence for or against using milk thistle to treat liver disease.
Milk thistle capsules range from 70 to 200 mg; with directions for taking the capsule three times a day. It is also available as a tincture.
Dandelion Root (Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelion is another common weed that is easily available, as it has spread through much of the world. Dandelion has long been used as a diuretic in folk medicine, and there is clinical evidence for this action.
There are numerous other benefits to using dandelion root, including protection and repair of the liver. Dandelion root’s action on the liver is the stimulating of bile production, and it has also been shown to have strong antioxidant properties and so protects the liver.
These recent scientific studies are highly supportive of the medicinal properties of dandelion root, in particular in the treatment of liver disease.
Dandelion root extract is available commercially in capsules; however it can also be made at home by preparing a tea from the dried and the chopped root of dandelions, provided that neither the lawn or garden has been treated with any herbicides and pesticides.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Turmeric will be familiar to many people who enjoy the color and heat it imparts to Indian curries and other Asian dishes. It has also been used for centuries as a medicine in the Ayurvedic tradition.
Turmeric has been found to be an effective herb against viral hepatitis by combating the HBV virus.
A very recent study published in 2013 indicates that in addition to being an anti-viral agent turmeric may also have antioxidant or “hepatoprotective” properties and may have potential in treating advanced liver disease.
These studies show that turmeric may indeed be an effective medicinal herb for hepatitis.
Directions for taking turmeric vary. It can be used in cooking as a spice or by taking capsules (in 250 or 500 mg) several times a day.
Chanca Piedra (Phyllanthus niruri, Phyllantus amarus)
The herbalist and entrepreneur Leslie Taylor has cataloged more than a dozen tropical plants that are documented for liver health — and chanca piedra, also known by the English name stonebreaker, tops her list.
The plant is a rich source of medically active chemicals, and it is used to treat a variety of maladies, most commonly kidney and gallstones, but also hypertension, malarial fever, and viral hepatitis.
Taylor reports that the main action of chanca piedra on the liver appears to be its anti-viral properties, in particular, its ability to control the HBV virus that is the cause of hepatitis B. According to Taylor, Dr. Baruch Blumber who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery of the hepatitis B virus collaborated with Indian researchers in the 1960s to discover the exact effect of chanca piedra on the HBV virus. (Other species in the genus Phyllantus are found in India as well and have in fact been used in Ayurvedic medicine for many years.)
A good review of both the cultural uses and scientific studies of this herb was written by Patel in 2011 and there are a number of recent laboratory studies by Indian scientists that confirm that chanca piedra and possibly other species of Phyllantus have a hepatoprotective effect.
Indian Mulberry (Noni) (Morinda citrifolia)
Indian mulberry is a hardy tree that is found throughout the tropics and is known by many fanciful names such as canary wood, dog dumpling, and cheese fruit. It is not used so much for food except as animal fodder.
Like many plants in the coffee family (Rubiaceae) it has many active phytochemicals, mostly derived from the strange-looking fruit.
The herb is used in traditional Polynesian culture to treat hepatitis, among other ailments and there are reports of noni being used for anything from stomach ulcers to malaria and skin parasites.
Few laboratory studies, using the typical carbon tetrachloride test, give some evidence of the herb’s effectiveness against liver damage.
Golden Shower (Cassia fistula)
Cassia fistula is a handsome flowering tree endemic to Southeast Asia. It is called aragvadha (“the disease killer”) in Hindi and also the “golden shower tree” in English for its beautiful cascades of yellow flowers. It has cultural and religious significance in India, especially in the state of Kerala where it is the state flower.
Like many species of Cassia it is known to be a strong purgative and should be used with caution. Cassia fistula has been used in its native range as a traditional medicine to treat digestive disorders and many other health problems, including liver disease.
Several scientific studies have shown Cassia fistula to have specific chemical properties that are hepatoprotective (largely by moderating oxidizing chemicals) as well as anti-viral. In other words, extracts of this plant may have potential as herbal remedies for hepatitis.
There is no typical dosage but rather numerous different suggestions for how to prepare the seeds, root, or juice of the fruit, depending on the medical complaint.
Some additional species of plants that have been used traditionally or studied for their potential as herbal remedies for hepatitis and possibly more severe liver disease.
- Bael – (Aegle marmelos)
- Licorice – (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
- Sugar Apple – (Annona squamosa)
- Andrographis – (Andrographis paniculata)
- Neem – (Azadirachta indica)
- Slow Match Tree – (Careya arborea)
- Ivy Gourd – (Coccinia grandis)
- False Daisy – (Eclipta alba)
- Common Fig – (Ficus carica)
- Governor’s Plum – (Flacourtia indica)
- Chamomile – (Chamomile recutta)
- Fumitory – (Fumaria indica)
- Fennel – (Foeniculum vulgare)
- Mangosteen – (Garcinia mangostana)
- Barbados Nut – (Jatropha curcas)
- Garden Cress – (Lepidium sativum)
- Java Tea – (Orthosiphon stamineus)
- Kutki – (Picrorhiza kurroa)
- Hepatica – (Hepatica nobilis)
- Black Nightshade – (Solanum nigrum)
- Swertia – (Swertia chirata)
- Fenugreek – (Trigonella foenum graecum)
- Culver’s Root – (Veronicastrum virginicum)
- Polypody Root – (Polypodium vulgare)
- Fringe Tree – (Chionanthus virginicus)
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