Herbal Combo Protects the Liver
An Indian herbal combination known as Liv-52 improves the signs of liver cirrhosis, a potentially deadly form of liver damage for which no effective treatment is currently known, reports the journal Phytomedicine (2005;12:619–24). Although Liv-52 and its individual constituents have demonstrated liver-protective properties in several preliminary studies, as well as in many laboratory experiments, this is probably the best-designed clinical trial of Liv-52 yet published.
Cirrhosis is a damaging condition in which the liver becomes scarred and fibrous, reducing its ability to function properly. It occurs as a result of excessive alcohol ingestion, some forms of hepatitis, or toxicity caused by exposure to certain environmental chemicals.
Liv-52 is a combination of mostly herbal ingredients that traditionally includes caper (Capparis spinosa), chickory (Cichorium intybus), black nightshade (Solanum nigrum), arjun (Terminalia arjuna), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), French tamarisk (Tamarix gallica), and “Mandur bhasma” (which is prepared from ferric oxide, a form of iron). The formula used in this study also contained coffee senna (Cassia occidentalis).
Thirty-six people with liver cirrhosis were enrolled in the double-blind study and randomly assigned to receive either three Liv-52 tablets or three matching placebo tablets three times a day for six months. The people were regularly examined for abnormal fluid collection in the abdomen (ascites), serious brain abnormalities caused by advanced liver disease (encephalopathy), and other signs of liver cirrhosis.
Every person completed the study and no adverse effects were reported. Compared with the placebo group, the Liv-52 group had significant reductions in ascites, in the overall severity of cirrhosis, and in the liver enzymes ALT and AST (which become elevated when the liver is damaged) at the end of six months. In contrast, changes in the placebo group were not significant from the beginning to the end of the study.
How exactly Liv-52 protects and restores the liver is not known, but many compelling clues can be found in previous studies. An overall protective effect of Liv-52 has been observed in earlier research studies, as well as an ability of the compound to restore the normal flow of nutrients and other substances through liver cell membranes. The individual herbs in Liv-52, either alone or in combination, likely exerted other influences as well, including: diuretic (which could help reduce ascites), anti-inflammatory, anti-immunotoxic (protecting the immune system from toxicity), antioxidant, and antihepatotoxic (protecting the liver from toxicity). Some herbs in the formula may increase cellular levels of the protective antioxidant glutathione.
Liv-52 was found to be effective and well-tolerated for individuals with chronic liver cirrhosis, warranting further studies of this promising treatment.
Jeremy Appleton, ND, CNS, is a licensed naturopathic physician, certified nutrition specialist, and published author. Dr. Appleton was the Nutrition Department Chair at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, has served on the faculty at Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences, and is a former Healthnotes Senior Science Editor and a founding contributor to Healthnotes Newswire. He has worked extensively in scientific and regulatory affairs in the supplement industry and is now a consultant through his company Praxis Natural Products Consulting and Wellness Services.
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