Optimal management for alcoholic liver disease: Conventional medications, natural therapy or combination?

World J Gastroenterol. 2016 Jan 7;22(1):8-23. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v22.i1.8.


Alcohol consumption is the principal factor in the pathogenesis of chronic liver diseases. Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) is defined by histological lesions on the liver that can range from simple hepatic steatosis to more advanced stages such as alcoholic steatohepatitis, cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma and liver failure. As one of the oldest forms of liver injury known to humans, ALD is still a leading cause of liver-related morbidity and mortality and the burden is exerting on medical systems with hospitalization and management costs rising constantly worldwide. Although the biological mechanisms, including increasing of acetaldehyde, oxidative stress with induction of cytochrome p450 2E1, inflammatory cytokine release, abnormal lipid metabolism and induction of hepatocyte apoptosis, by which chronic alcohol consumption triggers serious complex progression of ALD is well established, there is no universally accepted therapy to prevent or reverse. In this article, we have briefly reviewed the pathogenesis of ALD and the molecular targets for development of novel therapies. This review is focused on current therapeutic strategies for ALD, including lifestyle modification with nutrition supplements, available pharmacological drugs and new agents that are under development, liver transplantation, application of complementary medicines, and their combination. The relevant molecular mechanisms of each conventional medication and natural agent have been reviewed according to current available knowledge in the literature. We also summarized efficacy vs safety on conventional and herbal medicines which are specifically used for the prevention and treatment of ALD. Through a system review, this article highlighted that the combination of pharmaceutical drugs with naturally occurring agents may offer an optimal management for ALD and its complications. It is worthwhile to conduct large-scale, multiple centre clinical trials to further prove the safety and benefits for the integrative therapy on ALD.

Keywords: Alcohol hepatitis; Alcoholic liver disease; Combination therapy; Conventional medicines; Hepatic inflammation; Hepatic lipid metabolism; Natural medicines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Products / therapeutic use
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / drug therapy
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / therapy*
  • Plant Preparations / therapeutic use


  • Biological Products
  • Plant Preparations