Cirrhosis is the destruction of liver tissue and its subsequent
transformation into nonfunctioning scar tissue, which surrounds areas of
liver tissue that still functions.
Causes of Cirrhosis
Causes of Cirrhosis
Symptoms of Cirrhosis
Many people with mild cirrhosis have no symptoms for many years. Some
people may feel weak, lose weight, feel sick, or develop a poor appetite. If
the condition becomes severe, the symptoms may include deterioration of
the muscles, the enlargement of salivary glands in the cheeks, the loss of
armpit hair, a red coloration on the palms, abnormal nerve function, a
curling up of the fingers, and the appearance of spiderlike veins in the
skin. Men may also experience enlargement of the breasts and shrinkage
of the testes, as the liver fails to breakdown estrogen in the body. If the
flow of bile in the liver is obstructed, the individual can develop jaundice.
The symptoms of jaundice are itchiness, the appearance of small yellow
nodules in the skin (particularly around the eyes), and malnutrition.
One of the main indications of liver damage is high levels of AST, ALT,
and bilirubin in the blood. AST and ALT are enzymes that are normally
contained within liver cells. When the liver is damaged, these enzymes are
carried out of the liver and into the blood, thereby increasing their
concentration in the blood. Bilirubin, which is a product from the
decomposition of heme in red blood cells, normally travels to the liver and
is secreted into the bile. Although there is always some bilirubin in the
blood, high levels are normally indicative of a problem with the liver's
ability to take-up, process and secrete it into the bile.
Herbal Treatments for Cirrhosis
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianun L.)
Scientific Evidence from Clinical Trials
A double-blind, placebo-controlled, trial involving 106 individuals with mild
liver disease, caused by alcohol in most cases, showed great
improvements in AST and ALT levels and a positive trend in
concentrations of serum bilirubins in the test group (Salami, et al 1982).
Another double-blind placebo controlled trial involving 33 individuals with
toxic liver damage, caused by alcohol in most cases, also showed that
AST and ALT values improved significantly in the test group (Hikino et al
A double-blind, placebo-controlled, trial involving 170 individuals with
cirrhosis of the liver showed that those taking milk thistle had a
significantly lower mortality rate during the two year study period and over
the two year follow-up period (Ferenci, et al 1989).
The herb has also been shown to provide animals with protection against
liver damage that is typically caused by alcohol (Jacobs 2002).
Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
A study showed that licorice root effectively prevented the development of
cirrhosis, decreased the accumulation of triglycerides, increased
glycogen levels, and prevented the occurrence of experimentally induced
lesions in the livers of rats (Zhao 1983).
Ferenci, R., B. Gragosics, et al. 1989. "Randomized controlled trial of
silymarin treatment in patients with cirrhosis of the liver." Journal of
Hikino, H., Y. Kiso. 1988. Natural products for liver disease. Economic
and Medicinal Plant Research. 239-72.
Jacobs, B.P., C. Dennehy, G. Ramirez, J. Sapp, V.A. Lawrence. 2002.
"Milk thistle for the treatment of liver disease: A systematic review and
meta-analysis." American Journal of Medicine. 113 (6):506-15.
Salami, H.A., S. Sarna. 1982. "Effects of silymarin on chemical, functional
and morphological alterations of the liver." Scandinavian Journal of
Zaho, M., D. Han, X. Ma, Y. Zahp, L. Yin, C. Li. 1983. "The prevention and
therapeutic actions of glycyrrhizin, glycyrrhetic acid and crud saikosides
on experimental cirrhosis in rats." Yao Hsueh Hsueh Pao, 18(5), 325-31.
An outline of clinical studies that verify the effectiveness of herbal medications and supplements