Munson Health
Alcoholic Hepatitis

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Related Terms

  • Alcoholic Liver Disease
  • Hepatitis, Alcoholic
  • Liver Disease, Alcoholic



Principal Proposed Natural Treatments

  • Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Herbs and Supplements to Avoid


Principle Proposed Natural Treatments

Below, we concentrate on treatments used specifically to treat early liver damage caused by alcohol. Treatments for more advanced alcohol-induced liver damage are discussed in the liver cirrhosis article.

Milk Thistle

Numerous double-blind, placebo-controlled studies enrolling a total of several hundred people have evaluated whether the herb milk thistle can successfully counter alcohol-induced liver damage. However, these studies have yielded inconsistent results. For example, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study performed in 1981 followed 106 Finnish soldiers with alcoholic liver disease over a period of 4 weeks. 1 The treated group showed a significant decrease in elevated liver enzymes and improvement in liver structure as evaluated by biopsy in 29 subjects.
Two similar studies enrolling a total of approximately 60 people also found benefits. 2,3 However, a 3-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 116 people showed little to no additional benefit, perhaps because most participants reduced their alcohol consumption and almost half of them stopped drinking entirely. 4 Another study found no benefit in 72 patients who were followed for 15 months. 5
A 2007 review of published and unpublished studies on milk thistle as a treatment for liver disease concluded that benefits were seen only in low-quality trials, and, even in those, milk thistle did not show more than a slight benefit. 17 A subsequent 2008 review of 19 randomized trials drew a similar conclusion for alcoholic liver disease generally, although it did find a modest reduction in mortality for patients with severe liver cirrhosis . 18
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full Milk Thistle article.

Other Proposed Natural Treatments

The supplement SAMe has also shown some promise for preventing or treating alcoholic hepatitis, but as yet there is no reliable evidence to support its use for this purpose. 6-9
The supplement TMG helps the body create its own SAMe and has also shown promise in very preliminary studies. 10-13

Herbs and Supplements to Avoid

High doses of the supplements beta-carotene and vitamin A might cause alcoholic liver disease to develop more rapidly in people who abuse alcohol. 14,15 Nutritional supplementation at the standard daily requirement level should not cause a problem. See the articles on Vitamin A and Beta-carotene for more information.
Although one animal study suggests that the herb kava might aid in alcohol withdrawal, 16 the herb can cause liver damage; therefore, it should not be used by people with alcoholic liver disease (and probably not by anyone at all). Numerous other herbs possess known or suspected liver-toxic properties, including coltsfoot, comfrey, germander, greater celandine, kombucha , pennyroyal, and various prepackaged Chinese herbal remedies . For this reason, people with alcoholic liver disease should use caution before taking any medicinal herbs.


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