Hepatitis C Treatment: Are Natural or Herbal Remedies Effective?
Can Herbs Treat Hep C?
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver. There are often no early symptoms, so you may not realize you’re infected for a long time. However, most people with hepatitis C live with chronic infection. In the long term, that can lead to severe health problems, including liver failure. Treatment generally involves antiviral medications. According to the Mayo Clinic, not everyone with hepatitis C requires treatment.
So, can people with hepatitis C benefit from natural and herbal remedies? Read on to learn more.
Milk thistle is an herb thought to have properties that promote liver health. It may be sold as Silybum marianum, or as silymarin. Side effects may include nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal bloating. Still, it is well tolerated by most people. Silymarin is the most widespread supplement taken for liver disease. However, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) conducted a clinical trial that found milk thistle to be no more effective than a placebo for halting liver damage.
Zinc or Colloidal Silver
Zinc supplements are sometimes touted as a good therapy for hepatitis C. There is no evidence to suggest that zinc can halt its progression. Excessive amounts of zinc can be toxic.
Colloidal silver is often cited as a treatment for hepatitis C. There are no studies to support this theory. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that colloidal silver is not considered a safe or effective treatment for any disease. Serious side effects include argyria. Argyria can cause permanent, grayish discoloration of the skin.
Probiotics are live microscopic organisms (bacteria) much like those you already have in your body. These good bacteria may benefit your overall health. Most people can tolerate supplementing with probiotics without harmful side effects. Research into the benefits of probiotics is ongoing. To date, there is no solid evidence that probiotics can halt the progression of hepatitis C or lessen its symptoms.
Other supplements that have been studied include glycyrrhizin (from licorice root), lactoferrin (a protein found in milk), SAMe (a chemical naturally found in your body), TJ-108 (herbs used in Japanese Kampo medicine), schisandra (the berries of the plant), oxymatrine (extract of sophora root), and thymus extract (from the glands of cows). According to the NCCAM, there is no proof that any dietary supplement is an effective treatment for hepatitis C.
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine. Very thin needles are inserted through your skin at specific points to stimulate your blood flow. It is generally used to treat pain and nausea. There are no published studies regarding the use of acupuncture to treat hepatitis C. An important consideration is that hepatitis C can be transmitted from one infected person to another through the use of needles.
There are no studies that show yoga is an effective treatment for hepatitis C. However, yoga movements can help you learn to control breathing and improve concentration. Many people who practice yoga report an improved sense of general well being. There is no evidence to suggest that yoga has any adverse effects for people with hepatitis C.
Qigong is a traditional Chinese practice combining controlled breathing techniques and easy movements. It is thought to promote harmony and strength. There are no studies to confirm that this energy-conserving practice can help treat hepatitis C, but it may promote a more positive feeling. There is no indication that qigong can harm your health.
Alcohol can speed up the progression of hepatitis C, so consider eliminating it from your diet.
Additionally, many medications can cause liver damage. Read labels carefully and discuss the potential side effects of all your medications and supplements with your doctor.
To prevent spreading hepatitis C to others, don’t let anyone come into contact with your blood. Bandage all wounds, even small ones. Don’t share personal care items like toothbrushes and razors. Don’t donate or list yourself as a donor of blood or organs. Always inform your healthcare providers that you have hepatitis C.
Things to Consider
No vitamin or herbal supplements are proven effective in treating hepatitis C, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Talk to your doctor before taking dietary supplements or herbal remedies. Even natural products can be harmful. It’s important to understand how they may interact with each other or with medications. If you’re considering going off your medication, talk to your doctor first. A healthy diet and moderate exercise may help your overall health.
- Alternative Therapies for Hepatitis C. (2013, January 10). U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http://www.hepatitis.va.gov/provider/reviews/alternative-medicine.asp
- Colloidal Silver. (2013, March). National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/silver
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- Living with Chronic Hepatitis C. (2010, June). U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HCV/PDFs/HepCLivingWithChronic.pdf