The liver is the largest gland of the body, weighing 1200 -1600 GM and situated in the upper right portion of the abdomen. The liver is the only human organ that has the remarkable property of self-regeneration.
The position of the liver is shown in following diagram.
Fig: Anatomy of the liver
The liver is responsible for crucial functions, including:
* Production of bile and excretion
* Detoxification and purification of blood
* Enzyme activation,
* Excretion of bilirubin, cholesterol, hormones, and drugs,
* Metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins,
* Storage of vitamins, minerals and glycogen
* Synthesis of albumin and globulin and clotting factors.
Ayurveda and Liver
Ayurveda is the oldest healthcare system. As far as diagnosis and treatment of liver diseases are concerned, Ayurveda has its own concept. Vata, pitta and kapha – the 3 biological humours – play a big role in pathogenesis and in treating all diseases. The liver is called ykritta in Ayurveda. It has been described as one of the chief organs of the human body. The major disease described in Ayurvedic texts is Kamla, which is compared with jaundice.
Jaundice is the commonest of the liver diseases. It means yellow discoloration of the skin, mucus membrane (covering below the skin), and sclera (covering of eye) due to elevation of bilirubin (bile pigment; it is responsible for the colour of stools and urine) level in the blood. It is further of three types:
- Hemolytic jaundice
- Hepatic jaundice
- Obstructive jaundice
Viral hepatitis A and B, injury to the liver due to drugs, cirrhosis (described ahead in this chapter), malaria and sometimes hereditary disorders (thalassemia and sickle cell anemia) are the cause of jaundice.
Ykridashotha (Viral Hepatitis)
Cause: According to the Ayurvedic concept, wrong diet and pitta aggravating factors are the major causes of hepatitis. Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. Hepatic refers to the liver and itis refers to inflammation, hence hepatitis. Viral hepatitis is of three types:
- Hepatitis A,
- Hepatitis B,
- Non A, Non B hepatitis.
- Hepatitis C
The incidence of viral hepatitis B is more.
Alcohol and drugs are known to cause injury to the liver. Painkillers like paracetamol, anti diabetic drugs and corticosteroids are widely prescribed in the allopathic system of medicine.
Prolonged use with these drugs is reported to have injurious effect on the liver. Anti- tubercular drugs are known to cause injury to the liver.
Certain herbal drugs have hepatotoxic (liver injuring) potential. Actually, some drugs promoted for beneficial effect on the liver are hepatotoxic as proved in testing methods. Thus medical advice is of utmost importance in treating liver disorder.
Signs and symptoms: These are tabulated below:
Table 1: It shows comparative account of hepatitis A and B.
- Bhumiamalaki is the best option for hepatitis. The herb has been investigated for its anti-viral activity and clinical trials have shown encouraging results. One teaspoonful (5 g) of the powdered drug, is given three times a day, for six months.
- Kalmegh is another medicinal herb used in the treatment of liver diseases. Six teaspoonfuls (30 ml) of the infusion of the drug are prescribed twice a day. It has appetite stimulating activity also.
Precautions or diet: Ghee, rice, potato, warm milk and sucrose should be avoided by the patient having liver disease.
Cause: Cirrhosis is a progressive disease common in alcoholics. The exact cause of the disease is not known.
Signs and symptoms: First, there is a distension of the abdomen, marked irritability, unexplained fever, hepatomegaly (increased size of the liver), splenomegaly (increased size of the spleen), ascites (collection of fluid in the abdominal cavity), jaundice and finally death.
As liver increases in size pressure on adjacent organs like heart and lungs leads to difficulty in breathing and vomiting. Finally, liver tissue undergoes hardening and shrinks in size. There are fluid retention and venous obstruction. Cirrhosis in children is known as Indian childhood cirrhosis.
- Kutki is the best drug for cirrhosis. One teaspoonful (5 g) of the powdered drug is given thrice a day with honey. In severe cases, drugs can be given four times a day. In case there are loose bowels the dose should be reduced to half. Kutki should be continued for six months.
- Bhringaraja has been traditionally used in the treatment of liver disease. One teaspoonful (5ml) of the juice of the fresh herb is given thrice a day particularly for Indian childhood cirrhosis.
- Arogya-vardhini-rasa of a good brand is a standard herbo-mineral remedy for hepatitis and jaundice. Two tablets of the drug are given thrice a day for a month.
- Anaemia is treated with one tablet of Poonarnava-Mandura, thrice a day.
Precautions or diet: Properly boiled milk, buttermilk, garlic and sugarcane are recommended in liver diseases. Adequate rest should be ensured for rapid recovery.
Cause: Gall bladder is a small pear shaped organ. Liver synthesises bile and gall bladder store it. Bile plays significant role in the process of digestion of fats. Gall stones are formed in the gall bladder or bile duct. They are made of bile, cholesterol or both.
Signs and symptoms: Abdominal distension and pain are the main features of chronic gall bladder disease.
- It has been shown that proper diet and lifestyle enable many patients suffering from gall-stone to manage the condition effectively.
- Turmeric or Haldi has been shown to stimulate the flow of bile. Doctors recommend adequate intake of turmeric in the diet for its beneficial effects.
- Dugdpheni is an effective remedy for gall bladder stones. It is a natural aid for shrinking gall stones. Six teaspoonfuls (30 ml) of the decoction are given thrice a day for three weeks.
- Pudina or peppermint is useful remedy for flatulence (gas) associated with gall bladder disease. Liquid extract in capsule form is available in the market. One capsule thrice a day is taken with water.
Note: It has been observed that some herbal vendors or self styled physicians claim to remove the gall bladder stones by medicines. Actually no magical remedies exists which can remove the stone, rather the drugs help in disintegrating the gall stones.
Saxena AK, Singh B, Anand KK. Hepatoprotective effects of Eclipta alba on sub cellular levels in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 1993 Dec; 40(3): 155-61.
Singh B, Saxena AK, Chandan BK, Agarwal SG, Anand KK. In vivo hepatoprotective activity of active fraction of ethanolic extract of Eclipta alba leaves. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2001 Oct: 45 (4): 435-41.
Saraswat B, Visen PK, Patnaik GK, Dhawan BN. Protective effect of picroliv, active constituent of Picrorhiza kurrooa, against oxytetracycline induced hepatic damage. Indian J Exp Biol 1997;35(12): 1302-5
To get more information on, and to buy, some of the products mentioned in this article, please click on the links below: