The use of natural remedies for the treatment of liver diseases has a long history, starting with the Ayurvedhic treatment, and extending to the Chinese, European and other systems of traditional medicines. The 21st century has seen a paradigm shift towards therapeutic evaluation of herbal products in liver diseases by carefully synergizing the strengths of the traditional systems of medicine with that of the modern concept of evidence-based medicinal evaluation, standardization of herbal products and randomized placebo controlled clinical trials to support clinical efficacy. The present review provides the status report on the scientific approaches made to herbal preparations used in Indian systems of medicine for the treatment of liver diseases. In spite of the availability of more than 300 preparations for the treatment of jaundice and chronic liver diseases in Indian systems of medicine using more than 87 Indian medicinal plants, only four terrestrial plants have been scientifically elucidated while adhering to the internationally acceptable scientific protocols. In-depth studies have proved Sylibum marianum to be anti-oxidative, antilipidperoxidative, antifibrotic, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulating and liver regenerative. Glycyrrhiza glabra has been shown to be hepatoprotective and capable of inducing an indigenous interferon. Picrorhiza kurroa is proved to be anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective and immunomodulatory. Extensive studies on Phyllanthus amarus have confirmed this plant preparation as being anti-viral against hepatitis B and C viruses, hepatoprotective and immunomodulating, as well as possessing anti-inflammatory properties. For the first time in the Indian systems of medicine, a chemo-biological fingerprinting methodology for standardization of P. amarus preparation has been patented.
Copyright 2002 Blackwell Publishing Asia Pty Ltd