Three Unique Substances for Liver Health
Many diseases and conditions concern the liver, including alcohol-related liver disease, cirrhosis, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, liver cancer, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, to name a few. Out of those conditions, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease appears to be the most prevalent, affecting an estimated 30 to 40% of Americans  .
We have examined substances that are beneficial for and promote liver health in previous articles, but those articles were contained to the topic being discussed. For example, in “Zinc, Liver Cancer, Liver Disease, Age-Related Diseases,” we examined the association between zinc and liver cancer, an in “Liver Support: A Review of Ingredients,” we reviewed the ingredients of Healthmasters’ Liver Support product. Both of those articles were constrained to certain aspects of liver health.
In this article, however, we will be reviewing a broad, diverse range of substances that have been shown to have beneficial effects on liver health, such as curcumin, ginsenosides, and Nigella sativa.
Curcumin is commonly derived from turmeric and is a type of polyphenol. Curcumin has been shown to have a broad range of benefits, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, beneficial for arthritis and metabolic syndrome, and, in general, promote overall health, as noted by a 2017 research review .
Curcumin has also demonstrated in dozens of animal and in vivo studies to be beneficial for liver health, especially regarding preventing drug-induced and chemically-induced liver damage.
For example, a 2004 animal study found that curcumin attenuated alcohol toxicity , a 2008 animal study showed that curcumin had a protective effect against nicotine-induced genotoxicity on rat livers and protected against DNA damage , and a 2000 animal study found that curcumin prevented chemically-induced liver cancer .
In a 2018 study, researchers investigated the effect curcumin would have against liver cancer stem cells, which are considered as the leading cause of cancer recurrence . The authors found curcumin inhibited the growth of these cancer cells, and the researchers suggested, “curcumin may be a potentially efficient agent in the treatment of liver cancer” .
A 2015 study sums up curcumin’s role in liver health and the compound’s anti-cancer properties by stating, “It acts at the molecular level and affects the various metabolic pathways involved in tumorigenesis. It also promotes healing and has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant [sic] and anti-infective action. This natural phytocompounds has immense anti-cancer potential and holds future promise as an adjuvant remedy to treat liver cancer” .
This is only a brief glimpse at the scientifically-backed, liver-related benefits of curcumin.
Many people are unfamiliar with ginsenosides, but they are the primary active pharmacological components of Panax ginseng, which is one of the most universally used herbal medicines in Asian and Western countries . Like curcumin, ginsenosides are effective in preventing drug-induced and chemically-induced liver damage.
In a 2012 literature review, authors noted, “ginseng extracts and individual ginsenosides have shown a wide array of beneficial role in the regulation of regular liver functions and the treatment of liver disorders of acute/chronic hepatotoxicity, hepatitis, hepatic fibrosis/cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, and so on in various pathways and mechanisms” .
Most studies, however, that examine specific actions of ginsenosides are newer, having been conducted in 2017 onward.
For example, a 2018 study found that the ginsenoside Rg1 ameliorated liver fibrosis , which is the formation of scar tissue in the liver, and another 2018 study found that the same ginsenoside may be a promising agent for the prevention against acute liver injury , which could happen on its own or be a cause of excessive alcohol or drug consumption.
However, one of the most significant hurdles for using ginsenosides to promote liver health is they are scarcely bioavailable, meaning you can consume ginseng, but the body has trouble utilizing the nutrients. Nevertheless, with the amount of current research being conducted with the compound, scientists should be able to rectify this issue.
Nigella sativa, also known as black seed, has a plethora of health benefits, and one of these is the compound’s ability to promote liver health. This ability can be attributed to its active pharmacological component thymoquinone.
Oxidative stress is one of the leading causes of liver injury that depleted the antioxidant enzymes and decreased the ability of cells in functioning against damage . Since the liver is a very vital organ with a high rate of metabolism in the body, it is susceptible to oxidative stress and damages caused by free radicals. Therefore, preventing the production of free radicals and scavenging free radicals or enhancing the body’s defense against them can minimize the adverse effects of them .
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of Nigella sativa decreased oxidative stress and preserves the activity and expression of antioxidant enzymes and induces apoptosis [cell death] in cancer cells   . Thus, Nigella sativa, thanks to its thymoquinone compound, has been shown to induce cancer cell death . Further, many studies have confirmed this finding   .
In this article, we reviewed three rather unthought of compounds that can be used to promote liver health and have been shown to protect the liver against liver damage. As further research is conducted on these compounds, they may be future natural alternatives to conventional liver disease and cancer treatment.
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