Chinese Herbs for Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Chinese herbs can significantly treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NFLD), a form of liver cirrhosis. The ancient herbal combination is called Jiang Zhi Granule.
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Jiang Zhi Granule treats NFLD
Researchers from China’s Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine conducted a multi-center, randomized, double-blind clinical study on 224 liver disease patients. The patients came from six university hospitals around the country. The study lasted 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 globally
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.
Other herbs for fatty liver disease
These are not the only herbs that help heal liver disease. A number of other herbal medicines are helpful to the liver and help it fight off cirrhosis.These work by boosting the liver’s immunity along with encouraging positive genetic changes. (Yes, nature is creative like that.)
A 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 successful single herbs included:
- Crataegus pinnatifida (Chinese hawthorne)
- Salvia miltiorrhiza (Red sage)
- Alisma orientalis (Alismantis)
- Bupleurum chinense (Bupleurum)
- Cassia obtusifolia (Sicklepod)
- Astragalus membranaceous (Astragalus)
- 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.