Gallbladder Disease & Herbal Medicine
While nutrition and lifestyle changes are essential in managing gallbladder disease, herbal supplements can also be used to support the gall bladder and liver, primarily through stimulating the release of bile. When you have gallbladder disease, you may not be producing sufficient bile (particularly if your gallbladder was removed). As mentioned in previous blog posts, bile is essential for the break down and digestion of the fats we eat. Bile also happens to be a natural laxative, so it plays an important role in our overall digestion and wellbeing.
Note: Of the many suitable herbal medicines, Cholagogue and Choleretic Herbs may be of greatest benefit to those suffereing from Gallbladder Diease, and here’s why… Cholagogues stimulate the gallbladder to contract, which releases bile. Choleretics increase the amount of bile secreted by the liver. Both cholagogues and choleretics may improve digestion, support liver health, and help detoxify the body. Always consult with your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplements.
Top Gallbladder and Liver Herbs
We are all familiar with dandelions and probably think of them as a pesky weed, when in fact, dandelions have medicinal properties. Dandelions are a natural cholegogue. They are also a diuretic (increase urine production), mild laxative, and may aid the liver in its natural detoxification process. Dandelion should be avoided if you have gallstones.3
Milk thistle is a cholagogue and widely used to support the liver, especially in instances of liver disease like hepatitis and cirrhosis. Silymarin, the active ingredient, is found in the fruit and seeds of the milk thistle plant. Silymarin can inhibit toxins from binding to the cells of the liver and may reduce liver injury from substances like acetaminophen. Due to its antioxidant properties, it may also reduce inflammation and protect against cancer.4-6
It may be surprising to learn that artichokes are a thistle rather than a vegetable. The extract from the leaf has similar properties to milk thistle and can have protective effects on the liver. Artichoke leaf extract is a choleretic, so it supports the liver in secreting more bile and improving lipid digestion.7
Derived from a plant in the Poppy family, greater celandine is an extract that may be used to treat digestive issues, dyspepsia (low stomach acid) and gallbladder disease. It is a cholagogue and may support gallbladder health.8
Peppermint oil contains menthol and can be used to soothe pain from gallbladder attacks and stomach aches. It acts as a choleretic, stimulating the flow of bile and increasing its solubility. It may even help the gallbladder decrease size of and release gallstones but ask your doctor before taking if you do have gallstones.9
Turmeric root is a popular spice, known for its yellow color and anti-inflammatory properties from curcumin, the active ingredient it contains. It is better absorbed when combined with black pepper (piperine) and is often sold with piperine added. In terms of the gallbladder, turmeric is a cholagogue. It can be helpful for reducing pain in the gallbladder. It can also be used to treat jaundice and liver disorders. Turmeric can be taken as a tea or oral supplement. 10-12
- Johnson LR. Encyclopedia of Gastroenterology. Elsevier, Inc.; 2003.
- Cholagogue. Ndhealthfacts.org. Accessed November 21, 2022. https://www.ndhealthfacts.org/wiki/Cholagogue
- Taraxacum officinale. Ndhealthfacts.org. Accessed November 21, 2022. https://www.ndhealthfacts.org/wiki/Taraxacum_officinale
- Silybum marianum. Ndhealthfacts.org. Accessed November 21, 2022. https://www.ndhealthfacts.org/wiki/Silybum_marianum
- Abenavoli L, Capasso R, Milic N, Capasso F. Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future. Phytother Res. 2010;24(10):1423-1432. doi:10.1002/ptr.3207
- Polachi N, Bai G, Li T, et al. Modulatory effects of silibinin in various cell signaling pathways against liver disorders and cancer – A comprehensive review. Eur J Med Chem. 2016;123:577-595. doi:10.1016/j.ejmech.2016.07.070
- Ben Salem M, Affes H, Ksouda K, et al. Pharmacological studies of artichoke leaf extract and their health benefits. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2015;70(4):441-453. doi:10.1007/s11130-015-0503-8
- Greater Celandine. In: LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury [Internet]. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; 2022.
- Mentha piperita. Ndhealthfacts.org. Accessed November 22, 2022. https://www.ndhealthfacts.org/wiki/Mentha_piperita
- Nidamboor JR. Therapeutic Repertoire of Turmeric. Research & Reviews: A Journal of Pharmacognosy. 2018;5(2):1-9. Accessed November 22, 2022. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jawahar-Nidamboor-2/publication/326149322_Therapeutic_Repertoire_of_Turmeric/links/5b3b62130f7e9b0df5e8a14a/Therapeutic-Repertoire-of-Turmeric.pdf
- Moga MM. Alternative treatment of gallbladder disease. Med Hypotheses. 2003;60(1):143-147. doi:10.1016/s0306-9877(02)00351-1
- Curcuma longa. Ndhealthfacts.org. Accessed November 22, 2022. https://www.ndhealthfacts.org/wiki/Curcuma_longa