The liver, your largest internal organ, performs many vital functions, including ridding the body of harmful chemicals, aiding in digestion and producing important proteins. A number of conditions can harm liver health and interfere with its ability to carry out these important tasks — cirrhosis, hepatitis and cancer are just a few examples. Several natural supplements might improve liver function and serve as a complement to conventional treatment. Do not use supplements, herbs or any other treatment without consulting your doctor.
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Milk thistle is among the best-known herbal treatments for liver health; with benefits well-documented in Western research. Integrative medicine expert Dr. Andrew Weil explains that milk thistle helps protect the liver from toxins and increases its capacity to regenerate healthy cells. He recommends using this herb if you have hepatitis and other liver problems. The University of Maryland Medical Center adds that milk thistle might work best for people with less advanced forms of liver problems, and warns that it might cause mild digestive upset when you first start taking it.
The berries of the schizandra plant have a long history of use for liver health in traditional Chinese medicine. Weil references hepatitis C patients who reversed their condition by using this natural supplement in conjunction with milk thistle. Hepatitis C can be a very serious condition; if you wish pursue a natural treatment regimen, do so with a health professional well-versed in alternative medicine. The same is true for other liver problems.
Traditional Chinese medicine employs mushrooms for many health problems, some specifically for general liver issues. A UMMC review of studies in the area indicates that traditional liver-strengthening mushrooms reishi and cordyceps might benefit conditions like hepatitis and cirrhosis.
The UMMC also notes that licorice might help with liver conditions like cirrhosis and hepatitis. This herb also has a long history of use in traditional medicine systems to address liver health. Avoid licorice if you have high blood pressure, take blood-thinning medications, steroids, digoxin or diuretics or if you are pregnant or nursing.
The antioxidant S-adenosyl-L-methionine, or SAM-e, plays an important role in liver function. If you have liver disease, you probably have low SAM-e levels, which impair the liver’s ability to process toxins. Research indicates supplementing with this antioxidant might help with liver disease, but, as of 2010, studies have been too small to draw any definite conclusions.