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What Are the Medical Uses of Ox Bile?

Eastern cultures have used ox bile to treat constipation and prevent gallstones and cirrhosis of the liver for centuries.
Ox bile may be used to treat chronic constipation.
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  • Originally Written By: Dorian Hunter
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2014
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Ox bile has a number of medicinal uses, but is perhaps most popular as a way for patients to improve their metabolic processing of fats and certain vitamins, and as a treatment for chronic constipation. It is also believed by many to help prevent gallstones and reduce liver inflammation. Most health care professionals consider ox bile a form of “alternative medicine.” This doesn’t mean that it is less effective than other more streamlined pharmaceutical treatments, but it does tend to be less popular and is not always widely accepted. Bile preparations aren’t usually subjected to the same rigorous testing and regulatory processes as most pharmaceuticals are, either, which can lead to a greater degree of variation when it comes to purity and efficacy.

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Fat Breakdown and Vitamin Absorption

Bile is a substance excreted by the livers of mammals to assist in the chemical breakdown of fats and the absorption of certain vitamins in the digestive process. When it comes to basic chemistry, ox bile is remarkably similar to human bile, and this is one of the reasons why it often works as a medicinal aid in people. One of the primary ways it can be used is to assist the body in the breaking down of fats and the assimilation of vitamins A, D, E, and K. Healthy people are usually able to do this on their own, but those who don’t produce enough bile or who have other imbalances in their blood chemistry often need a bit of extra help.

Ox bile primarily consists of water, salts, cholesterol, and lecithin, a fatty substance. One of its main roles in a living ox is to help the animal absorb vitamins from food that has been ingested, and these properties hold true when the substance is processed and prepared for human consumption, too. When people take a bit of the extract with food they are often able to better digest some of the more complex nutrients and minerals, which in turn contributes to better health and overall feelings of fullness and satiety. In the absence of bile food can still be digested, but a lot of the nutritive value is lost or flushed out before it can be useful.

Constipation Relief

Bile disruption also affects intestinal motility and absorption of nutrients in the colon. People who aren’t able to properly pull fats and vitamins out of their food during digestion often end up with constipation and bowel obstructions since the intestines and colon usually depend on fatty oils to process stools. When these are missing or inadequate, the result is often a dense mass that is difficult if not impossible to pass. People who consume the ox extract in these cases often do so to promote digestive health, which can cure the root cause of their constipation; relief is often somewhat slow in coming, though. Laxatives or bulk fiber are usually more effective immediate solutions, and are often taken alongside bile for more comprehensive treatment.

Gallstone Prevention

The liver stores bile in a small sac called the gallbladder, from which it is distributed to the body. A lack of bile or a production imbalance may lead to wide swings in cholesterol and fat levels in the bloodstream. This is a contributing factor in the formation of gallstones, or calcified obstructions of the gallbladder. People who are prone to this condition sometimes supplement with bile from oxen as a way of restoring proper liver functionality and preventing painful stones. The extract can also sometimes speed recovery in people who have undergone a cholecystectomy, which is the surgical removal of the gallbladder. It’s relatively easy to live normally without this gland, but people in this position often need to pay special attention to diet and nutrient absorption in order to stay healthy. Taking supplementary bile is one way of doing so.

Treatment of Liver Diseases

The supplement might also help treat certain liver diseases, particularly cirrhosis. Cirrhosis happens when the liver’s tissues stop regenerating and begin turning to thick scar tissue. This impedes the liver’s ability to do much of anything, including bile regulation. Supplementing with ox product may help patients overcome some of the disease’s side effects, though it is rarely able to offer anything near a cure.

Processing and Manufacturing

Bile from oxen is typically prepared for medicinal use in a two-step process. It is first extracted from the animal and sterilized, usually with heat. Manufacturers must strike a balance between killing harmful bacteria and damaging the chemical integrity of the compound. To hot and things tend to become ineffective, but not hot enough and toxins and other harmful substances can thrive.

Next the bile is dried, usually in industrial dehydrators, and crushed. It is typically prepared for the market either as a loose powder or in pill or capsule form. There isn’t usually any uniform way to purchase the supplement, and dosages can vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer. Anyone interested in starting a regimen is usually advised to get specific recommendations from a healthcare provider when it comes to which brand or preparation to choose, and how much to take.

Common Side Effects

Some of the most common side effects of ox bile extract are nausea, upset stomach and diarrhea, often as a result of exceeding the recommended dosage. Possible allergic reactions may also occur in some people. As with any medication, it’s usually a good idea for people to get an official opinion before self-diagnosing or self-dosing. Bile produced from oxen may be “all natural,” but this doesn’t mean that it should be taken lightly or without regard for its potentially serious health implications.

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Discuss this Article

anon962744
Post 8

I take Ox Bile along with Pepsin due to gallbladder removal. Both work great and I have no issues.

anon355463
Post 7
anon335725
Post 6

Is there anyone who wants Human Bile? I have a condition where I have a constriction and have to drain the bile into a bag. I'm basically in the same situation as the Chinese bears. Four years throwing it in the toilet. It sounds gross, but due to mineral deficits, my doc was going to recycle this through a stomach tube. Uhh, no. Bear bile sounds gross but if that's your culture...

anon325309
Post 4

What is the difference between ox and chicken bile? Which is a better option for patients?

anon317860
Post 3

Doctors cannot suggest what they did not learn in med school. Med school is primarily funded by the pharma industry; they do not discuss much on the alternative med side. Ox Bile is an alternative med. I asked my doctor (surgeon) what I could take when my gallbladder was removed) and she said there is nothing out there. When I learned about Ox Bile myself, I asked again. She said she knows nothing about that. I take the ox bile. It is a blessing for me. Sometimes doctors have to get left behind.

irontoenail
Post 2

@indigomoth - It is safe enough that it is added to a lot of sports and energy drinks. Taurine is a substance made from ox bile (and in some other places) and it is commonly added to these products.

I think it goes in there because it has such a good reputation in Chinese medicine, although it hasn't been proved to increase energy.

It might help with blood pressure, and the liver a little bit but that's it. Also the amounts they put in energy drinks are usually not enough to really do anything anyway.

If they put too much into the drinks, they'd have to put more of a warning label on, or might even have to market them as medication and there's no profit in that.

indigomoth
Post 1

This is one of the strangest alternative medicines I've ever heard of. At first I thought it was a scientifically proved treatment, like how diabetics use pig insulin in order to control their blood sugar. Cow heart valves are also used to replace damaged or worn out human heart valves I believe so it is not so far fetched that someone who is unable to produce their own bile might need to replace it with animal bile.

But, I am wary of any treatment that hasn't been approved by doctors, particularly since this one seems like an obvious solution to that problem.

I guess since this has probably been used for a long time with few side effects, it is probably safe, but I would definitely consult a doctor before using it.

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