Alternative therapies for people with liver disease

In addition to a healthy lifestyle, a healthy diet and possibly drug therapy, there are several alternative therapies that can have a positive effect for people with liver diseases. On this page you can find some of them. As always: If you are not sure whether alternative therapies are right for you, you should get in touch with your doctor.

Milk thistle extract

One of the most common uses of milk thistle is to treat liver problems. The active ingredient in milk thistle, silymarin, acts as an antioxidant by reducing free radical production. Scientists think this creates a detoxifying effect, which is why milk thistle may be beneficial for liver problems.


Absorbable antibiotics such as Rifaximin, Metronidazole and Neomycin alter the intestinal flora by reducing the number of urease-producing bacteria. In this way, they reduce bacterial ammonia formation and thus the amount of resorbable ammonia in the intestine. Antibiotics are suitable as short term therapy in complications of cirrhosis (hepatic encephalopathy).


Lactulose is a non-absorbable sugar used in the treatment of constipation and hepatic encephalopathy. It is used in liquid form as a syrup and usually taken orally. 
Lactulose is useful in treating high blood ammonia, which can lead to hepatic encephalopathy. It helps trap the ammonia (NH3) in the colon and bind to it. It does this by using gut flora to acidify the colon, transforming the freely diffusible ammonia into ammonium ions (NH+4), which can no longer diffuse back into the blood.

Branched-chain amino acids

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) are the proteinogenic amino acids valine, leucine and isoleucine. They belong to the essential amino acids, cannot be formed by the body itself, and must be taken in with food or as a nutritional supplement. They are found in all foods containing protein. Unlike other amino acids, branched-chain amino acids are metabolized less in the liver and more in other tissues such as muscle.