Some Milk Thistle or Licorice Root for Your Liver?
A licorice root extract called glycyrrhizin has also shown promise as a
possible remedy for chronic hepatitis C and liver cancer, says University of
California, Davis, researcher Mark Zern, MD. But how it works is unclear, Zern
says, and its long-term benefits have not been tested.
Commenting on both therapies, Bacon tells WebMD, "Those are relatively
harmless medicines, but there's very little data showing that they're
There are other herbal preparations that may help livers heal. Bacon
presented findings on a 10-herb mixture that showed an effect on rat cells, but
the potential therapeutic mechanism -- and the effect of the mixture in humans
-- are unknown. And Japanese researcher Hidetsugu Saito, MD, presented findings
on a group of herbal mixtures, known as Hozai, that appears to have anti-cancer
Although solid scientific research is needed to establish the benefits and
risks of herbal products as liver treatments, the FDA's weak regulation of
dietary supplements isn't going to drive companies to conduct the studies,
Bacon says. "I don't think there's an incentive [for] the industries that
make these things, because they're already out on the market."
The event was organized by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive
and Kidney Diseases, along with NIH's National Center for Complementary and
Alternative Medicine, its Office of Dietary Supplements, and the American
Association of Naturopathic Physicians.