Fatty liver affects up to 25 percent of people living in the United States, according to the American Liver Foundation. The most common causes of fatty liver are alcoholism, toxins, certain pharmaceutical drugs, genetic disorders and excess body weight. Certain natural remedies may be helpful in healing fatty liver when part of a personalized and well-rounded treatment plan. Before taking natural remedies, consult with medical doctor as well as a nutritionally and botanically trained health care professional.
Milk thistle, or Silybum marianum, is an Asteraceae-family plant native to the Mediterranean. It has wide leaves with white veins and red-purple flowers. The seeds are used to make medicine. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), milk thistle has a long history of medicinal use in treating problems of the liver and gallbladder. Conditions that milk thistle may address include viral hepatitis, cirrhosis, gallstones and fatty liver. Milk thistle can be especially helpful when fatty liver results from excess alcohol consumption or diabetes. Milk thistle contains a flavonoid complex called silymarin, which studies have shown to protect the liver cells from toxins, according to the UMMC. Milk thistle also promotes regeneration of damaged liver cells and has anti-inflammatory properties, which are helpful when fatty liver disease has progressed to the point where the liver becomes inflamed. Milk thistle may be taken as a tea, liquid extract, tincture or capsule.
Lipotropics are compounds that interact with fat metabolism in the body. According to Drs. Joseph Pizzorno and Michael Murray, naturopathic physicians and authors of the "Textbook of Natural Medicine," lipotropics aid enhance liver function and detoxification reactions. Lipotropic nutrients include choline, methionine and betaine, which mobilize the flow of fats away from the liver, out through the large intestine, and thereby decrease fatty deposits. Lipotropics are used to treat gallbladder problems, fibrocystic breast disease, premenstrual ailments and fatty liver. Lipotropic formulas often additionally contain vitamin B-6, B-12 and folic acid, which assist the liver in its detoxification processes.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant, meaning it protects against free radical damage. This can be especially helpful for the liver because free radicals form during the natural detoxification process. Vitamin E also supports the immune system and can help prevent fibrosis and cirrhosis, which are common complications of long-term fatty liver.
Turmeric is popular both as a culinary spice and for its medical properties. It is a member of the Zingiberaceae family. The root and rhizome are used to make medicine, and their powder is a characteristic bright yellow color. Turmeric, also known as Curcuma longa, is used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to treat liver ailments, digestive problems and skin diseases. It is also used for heart problems and arthritis, as well as in cancer treatment. Turmeric has a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It protects liver cells against damage and reduces inflammation that results from fatty liver. Turmeric may be sprinkled on food as a spice or taken as a tincture or capsule.
- American Liver Foundation: Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
- Merck Manuals Online Medical Library: Fatty Liver
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Milk Thistle
- "Textbook of Natural Medicine"; Joseph E. Pizzorno, N.D. & Michael T. Murray, N.D.; 2006
- "Naturopathic Gastroenterology"; Eric Yarnell, N.D.; 2000
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Turmeric