Do they work and how to maintain liver health



The liver performs many essential functions, including cleaning the blood, synthesizing proteins, producing hormones, and aiding digestion. Some manufacturers of liver supplements claim that their products detoxify and rejuvenate the liver.

Although the liver acts as the body’s primary detoxification and filtration system, supplement makers like to suggest that the liver could use its own detoxification.

In this article, we take a look at the research on liver supplements to determine if these products work.

Advertisements for liver supplements may claim that these products do the following:

Taking herbal and dietary supplements for any reason can do more harm than good. Available data suggests that herbal dietary supplements are responsible for 20% of liver damage in the USA.

According to a study involving the Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network (DILIN), herbal dietary supplements may cause more severe liver damage than conventional drugs.

Liver damage caused by these supplements can to contribute To:

  • reduced blood clotting
  • abdominal swelling
  • jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • encephalopathy or brain damage

People with drug-induced liver damage may require a liver transplant.

The researchers behind the DILIN study found that liver transplants and death occurred more frequently in people who took herbal supplements than those who took pharmaceutical drugs.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate supplements differently from drugs and do not require the same rigorous safety testing that drugs must undergo.

Manufacturers of supplements can also start selling or marketing supplements without FDA approval, unlike drugs.

Many liver supplements contain a combination of herbal ingredients, vitamins, and minerals.

Milk thistle

Milk thistle, also known as silymarin, is the The most common herbal supplement for liver problems in the United States Milk thistle extract contains approximately 50% silibinin, which is the active ingredient in silymarin.

Silibinin acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals that contribute to inflammation.

The researchers behind a 2013 study found that 7 grams per day of Epaclin, a dietary supplement containing silymarin, vitamin E, and amino acids, significantly reduced levels of enzymes that doctors associate with liver damage.

In a 2015 clinical trial, the researchers found that 420 milligrams of silymarin taken daily for 4 weeks reduced the risk of drug-induced liver damage by 28% in people taking anti-tuberculosis drugs.

However, the findings of a Cochrane Review and one Systematic review 2017 suggest that although silymarin supplementation may lead to minimal reductions in liver enzymes, these benefits are not clinically relevant.

The authors of the Cochrane Review note that the vast majority of studies reviewed used weak methodologies.


Zinc is an essential trace element that promotes cell division, DNA synthesis and immune function. Chronic liver disease can lead to zinc deficiency.

Another older 2012 study suggests that zinc supplementation may help protect the liver from oxidative stress due to hepatitis C viral infections.

However, more research is needed to support the use of zinc in the treatment of hepatitis C or other liver diseases.

Licorice root

Licorice root contains an active compound called glycyrrhizic acid, which can help reduce inflammation in the liver and regenerate damaged liver cells.

According to a 2016 rat study, researchers found that raw licorice root extract reversed the effects of alcohol-induced inflammation and fat build-up in the liver of rats.

In a 2012 phase III clinical trial, 379 people with chronic hepatitis C received injections of glycyrrhizin three or five times a week or five injections of placebo.

According to the results, a higher proportion of individuals in the glycyrrhizin groups showed significant reductions in symptoms compared to the control group.

However, the current evidence is too limited to support the use of licorice root to treat or prevent liver disease.

According to National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), large doses of licorice root consumed over a long period of time can lead to heart and muscle complications.

The liver is a complex organ that performs a range of essential functions.

A healthy liver removes waste products from the blood, metabolizes fats, and synthesizes hormones. A damaged, diseased or defective liver can lead to dangerous and even fatal consequences.

Hepatitis refers to chronic or self-limiting inflammation of the liver.

Hepatitis most of the time occurs as a result of a viral infection. However, alcohol consumption, exposure to toxins, certain medications, and fatty deposits in the liver can also cause hepatitis.

According to the NIDDK, some people may develop symptoms of hepatitis C in 1 to 3 months and hepatitis B in 2 to 5 months. People with chronic hepatitis may not have any symptoms several years.

Signs of a defective liver include:

  • tired
  • weakness
  • loss of appetite
  • unintentional weight loss
  • nausea and vomiting
  • dark yellow urine
  • gray stools
  • discomfort in the upper right part of the abdomen

People with advanced liver damage may experience:

  • bleeding and bruising easily
  • edema, which causes swelling of the lower legs, ankles and feet
  • fluid retention in the abdomen
  • itchy skin
  • jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • confusion or difficulty thinking
  • memory loss
  • personality or mood changes

There is not enough scientific evidence to fully support the use of supplements to treat or prevent liver disease. However, the following lifestyle choices can help keep the liver healthy:

Limit the consumption of saturated fat

High levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood can create fatty deposits around the liver, which can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and long-term liver damage.

Limit alcohol consumption

The liver produces toxic chemicals, such as acetaldehyde, when it metabolizes alcohol.

Health experts define excessive alcohol consumption like eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men. Heavy alcohol consumption can to augment a person’s risk for liver disease and other chronic diseases.

Consuming four to five drinks in 2 hours or less can lead to steatosis, a condition in which fat droplets build up inside liver cells.

A person can reverse the effects of steatosis if they stop drinking alcohol. However, continued excessive alcohol consumption can lead to chronic steatosis and chronic liver disease.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend limiting alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men.

Minimize exposure to toxins

The liver breaks down toxic substances in the blood.

Exposure to environmental toxins, such as cleaning products, pesticides, and tobacco smoke, can damage the liver by filtering these substances from the blood.

Avoiding chronic drug use

The liver metabolizes drugs and drugs in the blood.

Chronic use of illicit drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, can lead to inflammation and liver damage.

Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can also contribute to drug-induced liver damage.

According to FDA, drugs that can contribute to liver damage include:

  • antibiotics, such as amoxicillin and erythromycin
  • acetaminophen, which is an over-the-counter pain reliever and fever reducer
  • cancer medicines, such as mercaptopurine, lapatinib and pazopanib
  • anxiolytics and antidepressants, including duloxetine and nortriptyline
  • immunosuppressants, including cyclosporine and methotrexate

People should see their doctor if they have symptoms of liver disease or if they think they have been exposed to a hepatitis virus.

Most people remain asymptomatic in the early stages of liver disease. Doctors can detect the first signs of liver damage during annual checkups and routine screening appointments.

Anyone with a family history of liver disease or who has one or more risk factors can talk to their doctor about reducing their risk of liver disease.

Current research suggests that milk thistle, zinc, and licorice root extract possess anti-inflammatory properties that can prevent liver damage from infections and toxin exposures. However, all of these substances also carry health risks.

However, doctors and researchers do not recognize the effectiveness of liver supplements due to the limited evidence available.


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