Can Neem Protect Your Liver?
Your liver is your body’s largest gland — and arguably its hardest-working. That’s particularly true for Americans who are regularly exposed to pesticides, junk food, medications (including over-the-counter remedies and prescription drugs), infections like hepatitis, diseases like diabetes and, of course, alcohol. Even just being overweight can cause liver damage.
Your liver processes about one quart of blood every minute, playing a central role in all metabolic processes in the body from processing food to eliminating harmful materials. In the process, it produces potentially harmful molecules called free radicals that are neutralized by antioxidants. If free radical levels are particularly high and/or antioxidant levels are low, the result is liver damage. The liver is amazingly resilient, but the more resources it has to devote to self-repair, the less able it is to complete its other critical functions.
Some symptoms of liver disease are clear: jaundice when your skin turns yellow, pain and abdominal swelling, and disorientation or confusion. Others are much less obvious – fatigue, nausea, sleepiness, and a general sense of just plain feeling icky. On the flip side, a well-functioning liver functions as a blood cleanser, which results in glowing skin, reduced cholesterol levels, and more effective transport of nutrients for increased energy.
THIS REPORT IS PROVIDED AS INFORMATION ONLY. THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN EVALUATED BY THE U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION. NEEM TREE FARMS DOES NOT SELL PRODUCTS WHICH ARE INTENDED TO DIAGNOSE, TREAT, PREVENT OR CURE ANY DISEASE.
Neem, of course, is traditionally recognized as a blood cleanser although no clinical research has been done yet that documents that centuries-old use. We do know that it’s packed with antioxidants, including substances which boost levels of glutathione. This is perhaps the most critical of all antioxidants, used both in the liver to neutralize the free radicals it produces as it processes food and other substances as well as other organs.
Other reports available on the National Institutes of Health website look at how neem helps the liver regenerate from specific substances and diseases known to cause damage. Full reports are shown in the links below unless they are paywalled.
- Cisplatin is one of the most commonly used chemotherapy drugs, but a serious side effect is liver damage. According to researchers published in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, rats which received methanolic neem leaf extract for five days after being injected with cisplatin showed significantly increased levels of enzymes which protect the liver. Histologic damage also was minimized and apoptosis markers were improved. (A separate study published in BioMed Research International showed similar results for kidney function following the use of cisplantin.)
- A report published in Phytotherapy Research indicates that neem helped protect livers in rats that were exposed to methylnitronitrosoguanidine (MNNG or MNG), a chemical known to cause cancer. Researchers theorize that a neem and garlic combination were able to alter cancer development by increasing levels of critical enzymes made by the liver including glutathione.
- Neem also protects the liver from paracetamol – also known as acetaminophen or Tylenol, which has become a leading cause of suicide among teenagers, as well as a danger to adults who mistakenly take it in multiple products such as pain relief and cough medications. According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Physiological Pharmacology, neem leaf extract reduced elevated levels of compounds that indicate damage as well as minimized damage seen by microscopes.
- Liver samples in rats with induced diabetes showed that neem leaf extract showed that a liver-damaging substance decreased significantly among treated rats. Published in the Journal of Chinese Integrative Medicine, researchers also found that glucose concentration in the treated rats were similar to those found in rats where diabetes had not been induced.
- Rats injected with carbon tetrachloride, a solvent known to cause liver and kidney damage, were pretreated with neem leaf in a study by researchers published in the Canadian Journal of Physiological Pharmacy. Rats without neem showed significant liver damage, but those treated pretreated with neem seemed to be protected against the damage and the rat livers were “moderately restored.”
Although at least one report notes that lower levels of neem are more effective than very high doses, all studies to date have been on animal models not humans and no information on doses for people have been established. Other reports looking at neem for different uses, however, note that neem does not appear to cause liver damage even at the extremely high doses used in a study published in 2003 that tested the safety of neem for insecticide use.