Herbal medicines for liver diseases

Dig Dis Sci. 2005 Oct;50(10):1807-12. doi: 10.1007/s10620-005-2942-9.


Herbal medicines have been used in the treatment of liver diseases for a long time. A number of herbal preparations are available in the market. This article reviews four commonly used herbal preparations: (1) Phyllanthus, (2) Silybum marianum (milk thistle), (3) glycyrrhizin (licorice root extract), and (4) Liv 52 (mixture of herbs). Phyllanthus has a positive effect on clearance of HBV markers and there are no major adverse effects; there are no data from randomized controlled trials on clinically relevant outcomes, such as progression of chronic hepatitis to cirrhosis and/or liver cancer, and on survival. Silymarin does not reduce mortality and does not improve biochemistry and histology among patients with chronic liver disease; however, it appears to be safe and well tolerated. Stronger neominophagen C (SNMC) is a Japanese preparation that contains 0.2% glycyrrhizin, 0.1% cysteine, and 2% glyceine. SNMC does not have antiviral properties; it primarily acts as an anti-inflammatory or cytoprotective drug. It improves mortality in patients with subacute liver failure and improves liver functions in patients with subacute hepatic failure, chronic hepatitis, and cirrhosis with activity. SNMC does not reduce mortality among patients with cirrhosis with activity. SNMC may prevent the development of hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with chronic hepatitis C, however, prospective data are lacking. Liv 52, an Ayurvedic hepatoprotective agent, is not useful in the management of alcohol-induced liver disease. Standardization of herbal medicines has been a problem and prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials are lacking to support their efficacy. The methodological qualities of clinical trials of treatment with herbal preparations are poor. The efficacy of these herbal preparations need to be evaluated in rigorously designed, larger randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter trials.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Drug Combinations
  • Glycyrrhizic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Liver Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Phyllanthus
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Plant Preparations / therapeutic use*
  • Silymarin / therapeutic use


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Antioxidants
  • Drug Combinations
  • Plant Extracts
  • Plant Preparations
  • Silymarin
  • Liv 52
  • Glycyrrhizic Acid