Dangers of Herbal Remedies on Liver Health in Ayush Medicine

Jim Crocker
22nd April, 2024

Dangers of Herbal Remedies on Liver Health in Ayush Medicine

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Study from Rajagiri Hospital finds some Indian traditional herbs can harm the liver
  • Herbs like Giloy and Ashwagandha may cause liver injuries, some leading to failure
  • Calls for better regulation and education on the safe use of traditional medicines
Complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) have been a staple in healthcare, particularly in regions where traditional practices are deeply rooted and conventional medical services are less accessible. However, the safety profile of these practices, especially concerning liver health, has come under scrutiny. A recent narrative review by researchers at Rajagiri Hospital[1] sheds light on the increasing global concern over liver injuries related to the use of alternative medicines, particularly those rooted in the Indian traditional systems of medicine, known as Ayush. The study begins by addressing a common misconception: while the contamination and adulteration of alternative medicines have been known to cause adverse events, it is now clear that certain herbal components commonly used in these practices can inherently be toxic to the liver. The review updates our understanding of the hepatotoxic potential of several herbs used in Ayush, such as Tinospora cordifolia (Giloy), Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha), Curcuma longa (Turmeric), and Psoralea corylifolia (Bakuchi). These findings are particularly significant in light of Ayurveda's long-standing history as one of the traditional systems of medicine accepted worldwide[2]. The rich knowledge from Ayurveda has been a source for drug discovery, but the lack of understanding of the safety profiles of these herbal remedies has been a major hurdle towards their global acceptance. The study from Rajagiri Hospital also emphasizes that while most liver injuries reported due to these herbs are self-limiting, meaning they resolve without long-term effects, there is a risk of progression to more severe liver dysfunction. This can lead to acute liver failure or acute-on-chronic liver failure, both of which have high mortality rates. This review is particularly timely given the findings from other studies that have highlighted the dangers of drug-induced liver injury (DILI) associated with Ayurvedic and herbal medicines (AHM)[3]. These studies have shown that severe liver injury can result from the use of AHM, with heavy metals like arsenic and mercury being significantly associated with mortality. Furthermore, the use of AHM from unregistered traditional healers was linked to higher mortality, underlining the need for adequate regulation and scrutiny. Similarly, a study on alcoholic hepatitis (AH) patients who used CAM revealed that these patients had worse clinical outcomes compared to those on standard care[4]. The CAMs used were found to contain heavy metals and other toxic adulterants, leading to a significantly higher number of deaths in the short term. The narrative review from Rajagiri Hospital not only highlights the risks associated with certain traditional herbs but also calls for improved public health education. Medical doctors need to be aware of the potential for liver toxicity in these herbal remedies to better diagnose, treat, and prevent liver disease burdens within communities. The review underscores the importance of upcoming liver toxicity profiles for other traditional herbs used as dietary supplements. These include Centella asiatica, Garcinia cambogia, Cassia angustifolia, and Morinda citrofolia. By providing a clearer picture of the risks associated with these herbs, the review aims to foster safer use of traditional medicines. In conclusion, the narrative review from Rajagiri Hospital serves as a crucial update on the hepatotoxic risks of commonly used herbs in Indian traditional medicine. It calls for a balanced approach to harnessing the benefits of traditional practices while ensuring patient safety through better regulation, education, and awareness among healthcare providers and the public.



Main Study

1) A comprehensive review on the hepatotoxicity of herbs used in the Indian (Ayush) systems of alternative medicine.

Published 19th April, 2024


Related Studies

2) A glimpse of Ayurveda - The forgotten history and principles of Indian traditional medicine.


3) Clinical outcomes, histopathological patterns, and chemical analysis of Ayurveda and herbal medicine associated with severe liver injury-A single-center experience from southern India.


4) Outcomes and Toxicology of Herbal Drugs in Alcoholic Hepatitis - A Single Center Experience from India.


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