Journal Articles

Hepatotoxicity: Treatment, causes and applications of medicinal plants as therapeutic agents

October 26, 2017

Meagan Thompson, Yogini Jaiswal, Ilya Wang, Leonard Williams (2017). Hepatotoxicity: Treatment, causes and applications of medicinal plants as therapeutic agents. The Journal of Phytopharmacology, 6(3): 186-193.

Author Affiliations

Center for Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies, The North Carolina Research Campus, 500 Laureate Way, Kannapolis, NC 28081, USA
Appalachian State University, 287 Rivers Street, Boone, NC 28608, USA


Hepatotoxicity, or liver damage, is caused by hepatotoxins, which may source from chemicals, dietary
supplements, pharmaceutical drugs, and medicinal plants. Notably, numerous medicinal plants are used to
alleviate illness, particularly in traditional systems of medicine, such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese
Medicine. These systems of medicine have been implemented for centuries for treating various ailments. Some
medicinal plants serve as hepatoprotectors against liver damage, while others induce hepatotoxicity. Recent
advances in instrumentation and knowledge of active components have allowed research scientists to study the
drug metabolic pathways of these phytopharmaceuticals to establish a causal relationship between medicinal
plants and their pharmacological effects on the human liver, as a hepatoprotector or a causative agent for
hepatotoxicity. The human liver metabolizes substances via oxidation, reduction, hydration, hydrolysis,
condensation, conjugation, or isomerization. Interruption of these processes can lead to hepatotoxicity, causing
liver cancer, cirrhosis and Hepatitis C, respectively. Such diseases are responsible for higher mortality rates
worldwide. The present review focuses on highlighting various plants that are hepatoprotective, hepatotoxic
and the challenges faced by phytopharmaceuticals. The article also emphasizes on various agents (bioactives
from medicinal plants, industrial toxins and pharmaceutical compounds) that have been reported to cause
hepatotoxicity. The article proposes views and beneficial medicinal plants that can help in identification of
natural hepatoprotective agents for future natural product based drug discovery.

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