Chinese Herbs Treat Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Research has determined in a multi-center, randomized, double-blind clinical study that a Chinese herbal formulation significantly treats nonalcoholic fatty liver cirrhosis.
The researchers, from China’s Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, studied 224 patients with liver disease from six hospitals – each affiliated with a university. The study was conducted for 24 weeks. The patients were given either a placebo or a five gram sachet of the herbal formula called Jiang Zhi Granule for the six month test period.
The doctors then examined the patients with a test called the Liver-spleen volume analysis. This is performed using computed tomography. Several studies have confirmed that this diagnostic test shows the health of the liver. When the volume of the liver is relatively larger than the volume of the spleen, this indicates a healthier condition of the liver. Thus when the ratio between the spleen’s volume and the liver’s volume is smaller, this indicates a worse condition – and a worse prognosis for liver disease.
The doctors performed this liver-spleen volume ratio test before the treatment, after four weeks of treatment, after 12 weeks and then at the end of the 24-month treatment period.
In the group treated with the Jiang Zhi Granule formula, their liver-spleen ratio increased more than three times the rate of increase of the placebo group – reflecting the increased healing of the liver from the formula.
The Jiang Zhi Granule formula is based upon an ancient herbal formulation, consisting of the leaves of the twisted vine orchid or Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum), the roots of the Red sage plant or Danshen (Salvia miltiorrhiza), Knotweed root or Huzhang (Polygoni cuspidati), Artemisia or Yinchen (Artemisia scoparia), and Lotus leaves (Folium nelumbinis).
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease growing around the world
The incidence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is growing around the world, likely due to the increased exposure to industrial pollutants in our air, water and foods. Studies from Italy have shown that more than 1 out of 10 non-drinking adults have high levels of liver enzymes – particularly ALT – alanine aminotransferase. Another study conducted in Italy, found that close to 1 out of five seemingly healthy Italians have “bright liver” – diagnosed via ultrasound. “Bright liver” is considered evidence of liver disease – hepatic steatosis.
Many of these studies have also illustrated a higher prevalence of nonalcoholic liver disease among overweight individuals and those with insulin resistance. There are also certain diets that increase ones risk. The dietary factors of liver disease are discussed here.
Health officials in China are alarmed at the increase in nonalcoholic liver disease. According to the researchers:
“The epidemic of nonalcoholic liver disease (NAFLD) is prevailing in China; the morbidity has risen to 15–30% in some cities. As the hepatic manifestation of metabolic syndrome, NAFLD is also a potential risk factor of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which arouses a wide concern in various aspects. Since there are no specific drugs available in treating NAFLD, traditional Chinese medicine becomes one of the countable alternatives.”
The last point is important to consider, because not only are there currently no pharmaceuticals that adequately treat liver disease, but most pharmaceuticals actually put increased pressure on the liver, producing more liver disease. This is because of the chemical toxins within these medications, which must be broken down – in processes stimulated by the liver.
Contrasting this, a number of medicinal herbs help alleviate fatty liver disease
In fact, a new review of research from Beijing University of Chinese Medicine analyzed 77 randomized clinical studies utilizing herbal treatments for fatty liver disease. The studies treated more than 6,700 patients, and each ranged from 40 to 200 patients. The researchers found:
“A large number of trials reported positive effects on putative surrogate outcomes such as serum aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, glutamyltransferase, alkaline phosphatases, ultrasound, and computed tomography scan.”
While formulations were studied, the most studied of the single herbs included Crataegus pinnatifida (Chinese hawthorne), Salvia miltiorrhiza (Red sage), Alisma orientalis (Alismantis), Bupleurum chinense (Bupleurum), Cassia obtusifolia (Sicklepod), Astragalus membranaceous (Astragalus), and Rheum palmatum (Chinese rhubarb).
We have also discussed herbs for alcoholism.
Jielu Pan, Miao Wang, Haiyan Song, Lin Wang, and Guang Ji, The Efficacy and Safety of Traditional Chinese Medicine (Jiang Zhi Granule) for Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver: A Multicenter, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2013, Article ID 965723, 8 pages, 2013. doi:10.1155/2013/965723.
Murata Y, Abe M, Hiasa Y, Azemoto N, Kumagi T, Furukawa S, Matsuura B, Michitaka K, Horiike N, Onji M. Liver/spleen volume ratio as a predictor of prognosis in primary biliary cirrhosis. J Gastroenterol. 2008;43(8):632-6. doi: 10.1007/s00535-008-2202-9.
Lonardo A, Bellini M, Tartoni P, Tondelli E. The bright liver syndrome-prevalence and determinants of a “bright” liver echopattern. Ital J Gastroenterol Hepatol 1997;29:351-356.
Bellentani S, Tiribelli C. The spectrum of liver disease in the general population: lesson from the Dionysos study. J Hepatol 2001;35:531-537.
Prati D, Taioli E, Zanella A, et al. Updated definitions of healthy ranges for serum alanine aminotransferase levels. Ann Intern Med 2002;137:1-9.
Liu ZL, Xie LZ, Zhu J, Li GQ, Grant SJ, Liu JP. Herbal medicines for fatty liver diseases. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Aug 24;8:CD009059. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD009059.pub2.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn our health around. As I drove home that night, I realized this knowledge should be available to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.” Case connects with nature by surfing, hiking, running, biking and according to Dad, being a total beach bum.