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Dig Liver Dis. 2007 Apr;39(4):293-304. Epub 2007 Feb 28.

Herbal medicine in the treatment of liver diseases.

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Institute of Clinical Pharmacology, University of Berne, Murtenstrasse 35, CH-3010 Berne, Switzerland. Felix.stickel@ikp.unibe.che


Herbal drugs have become increasingly popular and their use is widespread. Licensing regulations and pharmacovigilance regarding herbal products are still incomplete and clearcut proof of their efficacy in liver diseases is sparse. Nevertheless, a number of herbals show promising activity including silymarin for antifibrotic treatment, phyllantus amarus in chronic hepatitis B, glycyrrhizin to treat chronic viral hepatitis, and a number of herbal combinations from China and Japan that deserve testing in appropriate studies. Apart from therapeutic properties, reports are accumulating about liver injury after the intake of herbals, including those advertised for liver diseases. Acute and/or chronic liver damage occurred after ingestion of some Chinese herbs, herbals that contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, germander, greater celandine, kava, atractylis gummifera, callilepsis laureola, senna alkaloids, chaparral and many others. Since the evidence supporting the use of botanicals to treat chronic liver diseases is insufficient and only few of them are well standardised and free of potential serious side effects, most of these medications are not recommended outside clinical trials. Particularly with regard to the latter, adequately powered randomised-controlled clinical trials with well-selected end points are needed to assess the role of herbal therapy for liver diseases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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