What is liver extract?

Liver extract, a solution made from animal livers, was once a go-to treatment for a variety of health problems. The extract is high in many vitamins, especially B-12. Vitamin B-12 is responsible for keeping nerves and blood cells healthy and for making DNA. Liver extract is also a rich source of iron and folic acid.

Always talk to your doctor if you’re interested in taking supplements. Some supplements can interact with your medication and have unintended side effects.

Many people are interested in liver extract because of its high content of vitamins, iron, and folic acid. But liver extracts aren’t used as commonly as they once were. Today, there are superior treatment alternatives for many of the conditions once treated using liver extract.

Read on to see what the latest research says about liver extracts as a treatment.

Treating anemia, fatigue, and low vitamin B-12

Due to its high content of vitamin B-12, liver extract was commonly used to treat pernicious anemia. Pernicious anemia is low red blood cell count when your body can’t absorb vitamin B-12.

Research shows scientific evidence supporting liver extracts to help increase red blood cell counts and vitamin B-12. But a 1989 study also found that liver extract was no more effective than a placebo. Very few doctors will suggest liver extract as a supplement for these conditions.

In general, other supplements that have more scientific research for improving your energy include vitamin B-12, magnesium, and gingko balboa.

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Fighting cancer

In the quest to cure cancer, many treatments have been tested. Liver extract is no exception. One of the oldest alternative cancer treatment programs, Gerson therapy, once recommended injecting crude liver extracts with vitamin B-12 to help maintain and revitalize liver function.

This therapy has since been banned because of contamination. Supplements that replaced liver extracts include:

  • coenzyme Q-10
  • vitamin B-12
  • pancreatic enzymes
  • flaxseed oil

These supplements aid digestion and help the body use vitamin A. While there’s a small amount of evidence, more clinical studies are needed to support the Gerson therapy and its effect on cancer.

Find out more about cancer treatment and procedures »

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you should consult an oncologist to help map out the best treatment method. These treatments may include:

  • chemotherapy
  • radiation
  • surgery
  • immunotherapy
  • complementary and alternative medicine

Your doctor will be able to recommend more effective treatments for your condition.

Resisting illness

There’s also a lack of evidence for liver extract’s antiviral properties. A 1997 study on rats found that liver extracts could help fight certain types of flu viruses and increase the rat’s life. But this trial hasn’t been replicated in humans.

You can prevent a large number of illnesses by:

  • getting enough sleep
  • exercising regularly
  • maintaining a healthy lifestyle
  • practicing good sanitation, like washing your hands

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Treating hepatitis B and C

One study looked into adding liver extract to their original treatment for hepatitis C. The original treatment involved injecting intravenous interferon-betas, which help boost the immune system. Researchers found that adding liver extract and flavin adenine dinucleotide, a chemical drug, was more effective. But there were no major changes in the body’s immune response.

There is also some evidence that liver extract may be effective in treating the fatigue and loss of appetite that affects patients with chronic hepatitis B. A more recent study found that liver oil taken from cow embryos can help to reduce bilirubin levels and treat loss of appetite and fatigue.

While these studies suggest that liver extracts may be a promising remedy, more evidence is needed. Ask your doctor about more effective treatments and supplements for treating hepatitis B and C.

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In both animals and humans, the liver filters out toxins. There is some concern that liver extract can carry traces of toxins, heavy metals, and unwanted substances from the animals it’s extracted from. Liver extract might also provoke cancerous cells to spread.

Extract is high in

  • vitamin B-12
  • iron
  • folic acid


  • increase gastric acid
  • affect blood clotting and bleeding
  • contamination of animal-borne illnesses
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Liver extract that comes from a bad source could contain diseases, such as mad cow disease. Liver extract sometimes comes from sheep and pigs, but the main source is cows. France found hepatitis E virus in raw pork liver in 2014. Liver oils that come from fish aren’t as much of a concern.

Avoid taking liver extracts if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. While there’s no evidence of serious side effects, there’s not enough research to ensure that it’s safe.

The appropriate dosage of liver extract depends on factors like your age and health. But not enough research has been done to determine how much liver extract someone should take. For liver extract that comes in pill or tablet form, the recommended dosage is 500 milligrams twice a day. It’s a good idea to start with just one dose before increasing it to see how your body responds.

Some liver extracts on the market provide up to 3,000 percent of your daily vitamin B-12 value. While there’s no known side effect of too much B-12, you should be able to get enough B-12 through your regular diet.

Liver extract was once a trendy cure-all used to treat many conditions. Though some studies show slight benefits from taking liver extract, there are many alternative supplements and foods that are supported by more evidence of their effectiveness. Liver extracts may also contain contaminants from the animal source. Many doctors no longer recommend liver extract as a treatment.

For some people, desiccated liver might be a better choice. Desiccated liver is a powder form of dried liver. It has many of the same nutritional values, such as iron and vitamin B-12. Some brands also remove the fat or oil to reduce cholesterol.

As with all supplements, talk to your doctor before taking them. If you’re interested in the benefits of liver extracts, your doctor will be able to offer alternatives that may be more effective.