Bile is an important substance that aids in digestion. When you fail to make enough bile, you may experience issues like indigestion and heartburn. That's why some people take supplements to increase bile production. Compounds that boost bile flow are called choleretics. If you have a health condition related to lower bile production, it's crucial that you consult your health care provider. Without enough humans studies, it's too early to know whether bile supplements help relieve indigestion.
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The spice turmeric contains a compound called curcumin that stimulates the gallbladder to release bile. In traditional Chinese medicine, turmeric is considered a natural digestive aid due to its effect on bile production. Recent studies evaluating potential digestive benefits are lacking, however. Turmeric is also available as a dietary supplement, and so is curcumin, as an isolated ingredient. In cooking, turmeric is commonly used in Indian curry dishes and is responsible for the unique taste and yellow color of curry.
Yarrow, known botanically as Achillea millefolium, is traditionally used in herbal medicine to increase bile production. When researchers investigated the choleretic effects of yarrow they found that it contains bioactive acids that stimulate bile production in a dose-dependent manner. The authors concluded that the compounds appear to support the traditional use of yarrow for bile-stimulating purposes. So far, however, yarrow has only been studied in animal experiments. The study was published in the November 2006 issue of the journal Phytomedicine.
Another herb used to increase bile flow is artichoke leaf, according to the book "New Medicine" by Dr. David Peters. But only animal experiments have been published. In one study the authors write that artichoke leaf has a long history of use for gastrointestinal issues due to its choleretic activity, which helps relieve indigestion. Researchers found that compounds in artichoke leaf exert strong bile-increasing activity. The boost in bile flow was observed during single dosing and repeated dosing, according to the study.
Side Effects and Precautions
Use precaution when using herbs for therapeutic purposes, since they may have unwanted side effects. Herbs with bile-increasing activity may cause mild gastrointestinal issues such as nausea or loose stool. If you get these symptoms, lowering your dose may help. Taking supplements that increase bile is not safe if you have gallstones. Doing so may trigger a gallbladder attack or cause an obstruction, which is a serious complication that requires medical attention. Avoid taking bile-boosting supplements if you have liver problems and discuss any concerns with your heath care provider.
- MedlinePlus: Bile
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Turmeric
- Phytomedicine: Choleretic Effects of Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium S.L.) In the Isolated Perfused Rat Liver
- Phytomedicine: Choleretic Activity and Biliary Elimination of Lipids and Bile Acids Induced by an Artichoke Leaf Extract in Rats
- New Medicine -- Complete Family Health Guide: Integrating Complementary, Alternative, and Conventional Medicine for the Safest and Most Effective Treatment; David Peters