Arctium lappa Linne (burdock) is a perennial herb which is popularly cultivated as a vegetable. In order to evaluate its hepatoprotective effects, a group of rats (n = 10) was fed a liquid ethanol diet (4 g of absolute ethanol/ 80 ml of liquid basal diet) for 28 days and another group (n = 10) received a single intraperitoneal injection of 0.5 ml/kg carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) in order to potentiate the liver damage on the 21st day (1 day before the beginning of A. lappa treatment). Control group rats were given a liquid basal diet which did not contain absolute ethanol. When 300 mg/kg A. lappa was administered orally 3 times per day in both the 1-day and 7-day treatment groups, some biochemical and histopathological parameters were significantly altered, both in the ethanol group and the groups receiving ethanol supplemented with CCl4. A. lappa significantly improved various pathological and biochemical parameters which were worsened by ethanol plus CCl4-induced liver damage, such as the ethanol plus CCl4-induced decreases in total cytochrome P-450 content and NADPH-cytochrome c reductase activity, increases in serum triglyceride levels and lipid peroxidation (the deleterious peroxidative and toxic malondialdehyde metabolite may be produced in quantity) and elevation of serum transaminase levels. It could even restore the glutathione content and affect the histopathological lesions. These results tended to imply that the hepatotoxicity induced by ethanol and potentiated by CCl4 could be alleviated with 1 and 7 days of A. lappa treatment. The hepatoprotective mechanism of A. lappa could be attributed, at least in part, to its antioxidative activity, which decreases the oxidative stress of hepatocytes, or to other unknown protective mechanism(s).
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