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Liver diseases, also referred to as yakrit vikara in Ayurveda, include numerous conditions of the liver such as those occurring due to drugs, medicines and alcoholism. The primary clinical manifestation of a majority of liver diseases is jaundice.

Ayurvedic doctors prescribe virechana karma (purgation therapy) for the management of various liver diseases. Herbs and medicines that are used for the treatment of liver diseases include kalamegha (king of bitters, green chirayta), katuki (kutki), bhringaraj (bhangra), daruharidra (Indian beriberi), kakamachi (black nightshade), pippali (long pepper), bhumiamalaki (stonebreaker), guduchi (heart-leaved moonseed), kumariasava, bhringarajasava, punarnavasava, gokshuradi churna, guda pippali and vasakantakari leha.

  1. Ayurvedic view of liver disease
  2. Ayurvedic treatment for liver disease
  3. Ayurvedic herbs and medicines for liver disease
  4. Dietary and lifestyle changes for liver disease patient as per ayurveda
  5. How effective are ayurvedic medicines and treatments for liver disease
  6. Side effects and risks of ayurvedic medicine and treatments for liver disease
  7. Takeaway
Doctors for Ayurvedic medicine, treatment and remedies for Liver disease

Liver disease may be caused due to a number of underlying conditions. As per Ayurveda, yakrit vikara are of different types and can be classified as follows:

  • Pratyaksha (direct): It includes the following:
    • Yakrit vriddhi (hepatomegaly): Enlargement of the liver along with symptoms of kapha and pitta dosha vitiation such as mild feverweakness and diminished digestive fire.
    • Yakriddalayudara (liver cirrhosis): Distension of the abdomen due to functional derangement of the liver. (Read more: Liver cirrhosis treatment)
    • Yakritgata dosha (chronic hepatitis): It is a condition, in which, the morbid doshas are located in the liver, causing inflammation.
  • Apratyaksha (indirect): It includes the following:
    • Kamala (jaundice)
    • Panaki (jaundice complicated with diarrhoea)
    • Halimaka (jaundice complicated with fever),
    • Kumbha kamala (jaundice complicated with ascites and oedema),
    • Lodhara (chlorosis),
    • Lagharaka (chronic hepatitis)
    • Alasa (chronic hepatitis).
    • As per Ayurveda, kamala develops mainly due to anaemia. It may also be associated with other diseases or present as an independent disorder.

The most common causes of liver diseases are the indiscriminate use of drugs and medicines and chemicals ingested through foods. The problems created by these are further enhanced by various habits such as the consumption of alcohol. Ayurvedic treatment mainly aims at identification of dosha imbalance to manage the condition.

  • Virechana karma
    • In virechana karma, herbs or medicines are used to induce purgation and clear the bowel. It helps in eliminating ama (toxins) and excess of doshas from the body, thereby, treating diseases.
    • Bitter purgatives like senna, aloe and rhubarb are commonly used to induce purgation. However, in the virechana procedure for liver diseases, hingutriguna taila is employed.
    • This procedure helps in eliminating the excess pitta from the liver, gall bladder and small intestine. It is also useful in the management of disorders due to kapha dosha.
    • The treatment can be repeated based on the individual's condition and digestive ability.

Ayurvedic herbs for liver disease

  • Kalamegha
    • The properties of kalamegha make it useful in inducing purgation, eliminating excess pitta and destroying worms. The various bioactive components present in this herb are effective in agni mandhya (reduced digestive fire) and yakrit vriddhikalamegha stimulates the liver and spleen, thereby, helping improve the function of these organs. Kalamegha is also useful in the deepana (hunger-increasing) process and improving digestion.
    • Kalamegha is available in the form of a churna (powder). It can be taken with water, sugarcane juice or honey, or as recommended by the Ayurvedic physician.
  • Katuki
    • Katuki acts on the excretory, digestive, nervous, circulatory and female reproductive systems. It is bitter, appetite-promoting and acts as a laxative (regulates bowel movements) in small doses; whereas, in large doses, it can prevent the recurrence of certain diseases like malaria.
    • Kutki is helpful in the management of liver diseases, metal toxicity, epilepsy and bilious fever. In combination with yashtimadhu (mulethi) and neem bark, it is effective in improving the symptoms of malaria and fever.
    •  It can be used in the form of a tincture, extract, pill and powder.
  • Bhringaraj
    • Bhringaraj acts on the digestive, nervous and circulatory systems. It has laxative, rejuvenating, blood clotting, nervine and fever-relieving effects on the body. Roots of bhringaraj plant are used for inducing vomiting and clearing the bowel. The juice obtained from bhringaraj leaves is an excellent liver tonic and is used for improving liver function.
    • Bhrigaraj has rejuvenating effects on the kidneys and liver and it is very effective in the management of cirrhosis. It helps in relieving headache and promoting deep sleep when infused in oil and applied on the head. The root powder is helpful in managing inflammation of the liver, enlarged spleen and various skin disorders.
    • It can be used in the form of an infusion, powder, decoction, medicated oil and ghee (clarified butter).
    • This herb can cause severe chills so it should be used with caution.
  • Daruharidra
    • It acts on the circulatory and the digestive systems and has appetite-promoting and bitter tonic effects. It is also very useful in treating fever.
    • Daruharidra is considered to be an excellent herb for the treatment of jaundice. It is helpful in the management of enlarged liver and spleen and regulates liver functioning. Also, it treats rheumatism, malaria, skin diseases, diabetes and eliminates ama from the body. Since ama is one of the common causes of most conditions, clearing it from the body helps relieve symptoms.
    • Daruharidra can be used in the form of powder, decoction, medicated ghee, eye wash and paste.
    • It should be taken with caution in individuals with high vata as well as tissue deficiency.
  • Kakamachi
    • Kakamachi has anticancer, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, diuretic and fever-reducing properties.
    • It is useful in the management of fever, dysenteryhepatitis, and stomach problems. Topical use of the juice of this plant can help to heal skin ulcers and other skin diseases.
    • Kakamachi fruits are useful in treating asthma and stimulating appetite. They can also be used as a laxative.
  • Pippali
    • Pippali contains an array of bioactive components that make it useful in the treatment of many disorders like abdominal distension and tumourskapha disorders, coldcough, rheumatic pain and sciaticaPippali is also effective in relieving abdominal distension, a symptom of liver cirrhosis.
    • It rejuvenates liver cells and can, thus, be used with other medicines and herbs for the treatment of liver diseases.
    • Therapeutically, pippali can be taken in the form of an infusion, powder and oil.
  • Bhumiamalaki
    • Bhumiamalaki acts on the digestive, reproductive and urinary systems.
    • It is one of the primary herbs that are employed for the treatment of liver diseases. It is also effective in treating jaundice, dysentery, diabetes, colitis and certain types of oedema.
    • Externally, this herb is used in the form of a poultice in the management of ulcers, inflammations, swellings, sores, skin diseases, bleeding gums and tonsillitis.
    • It can be effective in treating various diseases in the form of a powder, poultice, infusion, juice or pill.
  • Guduchi
    • Guduchi acts on the circulatory and digestive systems and has bitter tonic, diuretic, immune-boosting and blood-purifying effects.
    • It is useful in the management of many diseases like fever, jaundice, gout, tuberculosiscancer and rheumatism. Being a tonic, it is also helpful in improving the overall strength of the body.

Ayurvedic medicines for liver disease

  • Kumariasava
    • Kumariasava consists of many ingredients like long pepper roots, katuki, turmericcorianderamalaki (Indian gooseberry), aloe juice, iron, honey, old jaggerytrikatu (three acrids), gokshura (small caltrops), etc.
    • It is useful as a haematinic in treating iron-deficiency anaemia. It increases the frequency of urination and improves appetite. It is also helpful in the management of gastric and duodenal ulcers.
    • According to Ayurveda, kamala is the primary symptom observed in a majority of liver diseases, and it can occur due to anaemia. Kumariasava treats anaemia, thereby, helping in the management of liver diseases.
  • Bhringarajasava
    • Bhringarajasava consists of numerous ingredients including the juice of bhringaraj, old cane jaggery, haritaki (chebulic myrobalan), nutmegclovescinnamon barkcardamom, cinnamon leaves, long pepper and nagakeshar (Indian rose chestnut) stamens.
    • It is useful in the management of anaemia, which is the common cause of jaundice. It is also effective in managing chronic fever and enlarged liver and spleen.
  • Punarnavasava
    • Punarnavasava consists of trikatu, punarnava (red hogweed), katuki, guduchi, castor roots, gokshura, raisins, sugar, honey, etc.
    • This formulation possesses haematinic and diuretic properties and is useful in treating oedema, enlargement of the liver and spleen, jaundice and anaemia.
    • Punarnavasava can be used in combination with gokshuradi churna for treating various liver diseases.
  • Gokshuradi churna
    • Gokshuradi churna is comprised of herbs like gokshura, haritakipunarnava, etc.
    • It is helpful in the management of jaundice, which is a common symptom of liver disease. Also, this medicine can be used for the management of oedema, ascites and water retention in the body.
  • Guda pippali
    • Guda pippali consists of amalaki, trikatu, kushtha (costus) roots, hingu (asafoetida), long pepper, old jaggery, etc.
    • It acts as a digestive, carminative (relieves flatulence) and antitoxic preparation.
    • This medicine is used in the treatment of enlarged liver and spleen, ascites, flatulence, indigestion, and other gastric and intestinal disorders.
  • Vasakantakari leha
    • This medicine is prepared from vasa (Malabar nut), trikatu, jaggery, guduchi, mustaka (nutgrass), long pepper roots, ghee, long pepper, honey, vanslochan (bamboo resin), etc.
    • It acts as a sedative, appetiser, digestive, carminative and expectorant (relives phlegm).
    • Vasakantakari leha can be useful in the management of liver and spleen enlargements, cough, bronchitis, indigestion and dyspepsia.

As treatments vary according to numerous factors such as an individual’s prakriti (constitution) and the affected doshas, consult a qualified Ayurveda doctor for the appropriate medications and treatment for your specific complaints.

Do’s

  • Include cereals like old rice, wheat and barley in your diet.
  • Add pulses like arahara (pigeon pea), mudga (green gram) and masura (red lentils) in your diet.
  • Consume fruits and vegetables like amalaki, papayabananapotatopomegranategrapesfigapplemangoparavala (pointed gourd) and haritaki.
  • Include cow’s milk and ghee made from cow’s milk in your diet. (Read more: Cow ghee benefits)
  • Take sufficient rest.

Don’ts

  • Do not take fried and heavy foods.
  • Do not consume pulses like peas and udada (black gram).
  • Mustard oil, betel, spices, rai (mustard), hingu (asafoetida) and sesame should be avoided.
  • Avoid the excessive use of oil and ghee.

In a case study, a 63-year-old man with uncomplicated cirrhotic ascites was given virechana karma as the first phase management, after which, vardhamana pippali rasayana was used for the treatment of the condition. At the end of the study, both ascites and liver oedema were found to be completely resolved. It was also concluded that the rejuvenating effects of pippali helped in the management of the ascites. A follow-up at 1 year indicated that there was no relapse of the condition.

Although Ayurveda is popular as a safe and effective therapy for the treatment of a vast variety of diseases, the condition of an individual and the affected doshas are taken into account before prescribing any medicine or herb. Precautions are needed during the above-described therapeutic management of liver disease. For example,

Virechana weakens the digestive fire and, thus, is not recommended in those with aggravated vata dosha. It should also be avoided in weak individuals, children, pregnant women and the elderly.

Pippali should be taken with caution, especially in those with excess pitta, because it causes a rise in pitta levels.

The most common causes of liver diseases are the indiscriminate use of medicines and alcohol consumption. Liver diseases most commonly manifest in the form of jaundice. Herbs used in Ayurvedic therapy can help in treating the symptoms of liver disease as well as in rejuvenating the liver. They also help in improving liver function. Removal of toxins and excess of doshas can uproot the cause of the disease. Combined with proper lifestyle and dietary habits, Ayurvedic therapy can help in heading towards a healthier life.

Dr. Gurpreet Virmani

Dr. Gurpreet Virmani

Ayurveda
1 Years of Experience

Dr. Shradha Chaubey

Dr. Shradha Chaubey

Ayurveda
4 Years of Experience

Dr. Sunil Kilaniya

Dr. Sunil Kilaniya

Ayurveda
3 Years of Experience

Dr. Tanushri Yeole

Dr. Tanushri Yeole

Ayurveda

References

  1. Girendra Singh Tomar. A Review Of Ayurvedic Hepatology And Inferences From A Pilot Study On Kalmegh ( Andrographis Paniculata) Intervention In Hepatic Disorders Of Variable Etiology. Annals of Ayurvedic Medicine Vol-1 Issue-1 & 2 Jan-Jun 2012.
  2. Prof. G.S. Lavekar. Classical Ayurvedic Prescriptions for common Diseases . Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha. Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.
  3. Ashok Panda. Ayurvedic Management of Hepatic Cirrhosis With Complication: Case Studies. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hepatology, Volume 7, Supplement 2, Page S63.
  4. The Indian Medical Practitioners' Co- operative Pharmacy and stores Ltd. Vaidya Yoga Ratnavali . Adyar, Madras-20.
  5. G. Aswathy, Prasanth Dharmarajan, Ananth Ram Sharma, V. K. Sasikumar, M. R. Vasudevan Nampoothiri. Ayurvedic management of cirrhotic ascites. Anc Sci Life. 2016 Apr-Jun; 35(4): 236–239, PMID: 27621523.
  6. Lakshmi Chandra Mishra. Scientific Basis for Ayurvedic Therapies. International Ayurvedic Medical Journal, 2004.
  7. Mohammad Abu Bin Nyeem. Solanum nigrum (Maku): A review of pharmacological activities and clinical effects . International Journal of Applied Research 2017; 3(1): 12-17.
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