Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver. You may not realize you have hepatitis C until its later stages. Often there are no early symptoms. Most people who have hepatitis C live with chronic infection. In the long term, this can lead to severe health problems, including liver failure. Treatment generally involves antiviral medications. But not everyone with hepatitis C requires treatment.
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’s sometimes sold as Silybum marianum, or as silymarin. Side effects may include nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal bloating. You may also experience headaches, skin reactions such as eczema or other allergic reactions, or insomnia. Still, it’s 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 stopping liver damage.
Zinc supplements are sometimes touted as a good therapy for hepatitis C. Zinc is essential to liver function. A deficiency of this mineral can impair cellular immunity so supplements may be a complementary treatment for hepatitis C.
But there is no evidence to suggest that zinc can halt the progression of hepatitis C. You shouldn’t use it as a sole treatment either. Excessive amounts of zinc can be toxic.
Colloidal silver is often cited as a treatment for hepatitis C. Some believe that it can reduce symptoms from the virus, but this is inaccurate. There are no studies that currently 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, the permanent, grayish discoloration of skin.
Colloidal silver isn’t safe to take as a treatment for hepatitis C and shouldn’t be taken even by healthy individuals.
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 (the 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. It’s where thin needles are inserted through your skin at specific points to stimulate your healing and well being. It’s generally used to treat pain and nausea. There are no published studies regarding the use of acupuncture to treat hepatitis C. It’s also important to know that you can transmit hepatitis C to another person through the use of needles.
There are no studies that show yoga is an effective treatment for hepatitis C. But 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’s 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 also 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. Discuss the potential side effects of all your medications and supplements with your doctor. Some herbs are harmful to the liver, which is already compromised if you have hepatitis C.
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 blood or organ donor. Always inform your healthcare providers, including dentists, that you have hepatitis C.
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.