The flowering herb Phyllanthus amarusis indigenous to India, where it has long been used by practitioners of traditional Ayurvedic medicine to treat liver problems. In recent years scientists have discovered compounds in the herb that fight the virus responsible for causing hepatitis B, a chronic and potentially serious liver inflammation that can cause jaundice, fatigue, and other problems. Phyllanthus may contain other as-yet-unidentified substances that protect the liver as well.
SAMe (pronounced “sammy”) is short for S-adenosylmethionine, a molecule that the body continually produces to fuel numerous vital body functions. Discovered in 1952, the popularity of SAMe has soared recently with talk of its ability to ease depression as effectively as prescription antidepressants. (Proponents say SAMe also works faster than antidepressants and with virtually no side effects.)
Healers have used the prickly milk thistle plant to treat liver ailments for more than 2,000 years. Somehow these early practitioners figured out that preparations of this purple-flowered member of the sunflower family could stimulate the flow of bile from the liver, improving digestion and various liver-related ills.
Nutritional supplements known as lipotropic combinations (or lipotropic factors) are designed to enhance liver function and increase the flow of fats and bile from the liver and gallbladder. By definition, a lipotropic substance decreases the deposit, or speeds up the removal, of fat (lipo=fat, tropic=stimulate) within the liver. Lipotropic combinations are well known in naturopathic medicine but are little used by conventional physicians.
Lecithin is a fatty substance manufactured in the body and widely found in many animal- and plant-based foods, including eggs, liver, peanuts, soybeans, and wheat germ. Lecithin is often used as an additive in such processed foods as ice cream, margarine, and salad dressings, because it helps blend (or emulsify) fats with water. Lecithin is also available in supplement form.