A Lifesaver for Livers

A Lifesaver for Livers

Julian Whitaker, MD

The term “miracle drug” has been loosely applied to everything from aspirin and penicillin to statins and COX-2 inhibitors. But I want to tell you about a nutritional supplement that truly is miraculous: alpha lipoic acid (also called lipoic acid or ALA).

Lipoic acid is a potent antioxidant that, unlike most antioxidants, is both water- and fat-soluble, making it active in virtually every cell in the body. In addition to neutralizing harmful free radicals, lipoic acid regenerates and increases levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, and glutathione.

But that’s not all. Lipoic acid is also a mitochondrial powerhouse. It not only protects your energy-producing factories from free radical damage, it also helps “prep” the fuel burned in the mitochondria and increases the amount of energy generated. Furthermore, it has a unique ability to neutralize toxins, chelate heavy metals, and protect against DNA damage. These multiple actions make lipoic acid a valuable ally against a number of disorders—including serious liver disease.

Help for Failing Livers

Lipoic acid’s benefit in the treatment of liver problems is most dramatically illustrated by the story of John and Eunice, who were admitted to the hospital in acute liver failure after inadvertently eating Amanita verna, the highly toxic “Destroying Angel” wild mushroom.

Lucky for them, their care was turned over to Burton Berkson, MD, PhD, a medical resident and one of the few doctors in the US at the time who was familiar with the use of lipoic acid for the treatment of liver failure. Although he had been told by the hospital’s chief doctor that nothing could be done for them and that John, who had eaten several mushrooms, would definitely die, Dr. Berkson tracked down some lipoic acid and treated John and Eunice with IV infusions. Within days, they left the hospital completely well. I interviewed them 20 years after this incident, and both were doing just fine.

By using this unconventional treatment, Dr. Berkson ruffled a few feathers. The chief doctor dismissed the role of lipoic acid stating, “They would have come around anyway.” He also refused to allow Dr. Berkson to administer lipoic acid to another couple with the same diagnosis soon thereafter. Dr. Berkson treated them anyway, and it saved their lives. For this good deed, he was rewarded with a furious admonition and labeled a troublemaker.

Rejuvenate Your Liver With Lipoic Acid

We need more troublemakers like Dr. Berkson. Today, he is an internationally recognized clinical expert in the use of lipoic acid, and has helped thousands of patients with liver problems such as hepatitis B and C, autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis, and primary sclerosing cholangitis. We use several of his protocols here at Whitaker Wellness, including “triple therapy,” a combination of lipoic acid, silymarin, and selenium that reliably lowers liver enzymes and viral loads and improves symptoms.

A few years ago, I told a teacher at my kids’ school who had hepatitis C and was not responding to conventional treatments about this approach. Within a couple of weeks of starting on it, he began to feel much better, and his blood workup showed marked improvements. His doctor’s response when he told him what he was doing? “That can’t be true.”

Many More Benefits

In addition to liver disease, lipoic acid is a proven therapy for the treatment of cancer and the complications of diabetes. It’s also an excellent preventive and adjunct for cardiovascular disease, AIDS and immunosuppression, vision problems such as cataracts and glaucoma, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Other current areas of research include lipoic acid’s ability to increase energy, decrease appetite, and inhibit inflammation-related bone loss.

For all of these reasons and more, I recommend that everyone over age 45, no matter how healthy they are, include alpha lipoic acid in their daily supplement regimen.


  • “Triple therapy” for liver disease consists of 600 mg lipoic acid, 900 mg silymarin (from the herb milk thistle), and 400 mcg selenium (an antioxidant mineral), taken in divided doses twice a day. There supplements are sold in health food stores or may be ordered by calling (800) 810-6655.
  • At Whitaker Wellness, we often use intravenous alpha lipoic acid, combined with IV vitamin C and other nutrients. To learn more about the treatment of hepatitis and other liver diseases at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call (866) 944-8253.


  • Berkson BM. The Alpha Lipoic Acid Breakthrough. Prima Health, Rocklin, CA, 1998.
  • Hagen TM, et al. Feeding acetyl-L-carnitine and lipoic acid to old rats significantly improves metabolic function while decreasing oxidative stress. Proc Natl Acad SciUSA. 2002 Feb 19;99(4):1870-5.
  • Panneerselvam KE, et al. L-carnitine and alpha-lipoic acid improves mitochondrial function during ageing process. Clin Nutr. 2006 May 9.

From Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.

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