Substances That Can Harm the Liver
Last updated: September 2021
In my experience, hepatitis C and liver disease can make you feel out of control. But, there are many ways a person can help their liver while fighting hep C or liver disease. For example, an important step is learning what substances harm the liver and then avoiding them.
For example, your doctor may recommend you avoid:
- Alcohol: For someone with any type of hepatitis or liver disease, alcohol can be damaging to the liver and can accelerate liver damage.
- Recreational drugs
- Smoking and second-hand smoke
The Mayo Clinic reports that these chemicals can cause liver injury: the dry-cleaning solvent carbon tetrachloride, vinyl chloride used in making plastics, the herbicide paraquat, and industrial chemicals-polychlorinated biphenyls.1
Taking over the counter and prescription medication is part of life and can help us in many ways. However, certain medications or unsafe amounts can be harmful to your liver.
Dr. Sharon Orrange, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at Keck School of Medicine of USC, reports the following medications can cause liver injury:2
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol). Dayquil and Nyquil also contain acetaminophen.
- Amoxicillin/clavulanate (Augmentin): Taken for infections.
- Diclofenac (Voltaren, Cambia): Most NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) taken for joint/arthritis and muscular pain can be damaging to the liver.
- Amiodarone (Cordarone, Pacerone): Taken for atrial fib. Long-term use can cause liver damage.
- Allopurinol (Zyloprim): Taken for gout.
- Dilantin, Carbamazepine, Lamotrigine: Taken for anti-seizures.
- Isoniazid: Taken for TB.
- Azathioprine (Imuran): Taken for autoimmune disorders.
- Methotrexate: Taken for several conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and some cancers.
- Risperidone (Risperdal) and Quetiapine (Seroquel): Taken as antipsychotics and antidepressants.
If you are taking a prescription long term that has potentially harmful effects on the liver, talk to your doctor. Make sure to have regular blood work and tests to monitor the condition of your liver.
Herbs and supplements
The Mayo Clinic reports these herbs can be damaging to the liver: Aloe vera, black cohosh, cascara, chaparral, comfrey, kava, and ephedra.1
A variety of supplements are sold that claim they can "cleanse" or are good for the liver, but many have no medical clinical evidence to support their claim. They may also be unregulated and may not contain the ingredients or amounts they claim. Be cautious.
Additional liver-damaging ingredients may be found in some:
- Weight loss supplements
- Sexual enhancement supplements
- Bodybuilding supplements
The items listed are not an exhaustive list of substances, medications, herbs, and supplements that can be harmful to your liver. Talk to your doctor before taking any over the counter or prescription medication, vitamins, supplements, or herbs to find out what is safe for you and your liver condition.