- 5 Natural Remedies That Won’t Cure Your Hepatitis C
- Natural Remedies and Hepatitis C
- Treatment of Hepatitis C
- What Might Help
- Homeopathy for Managing Hepatitis C
5 Natural Remedies That Won’t Cure Your Hepatitis C
While drugs to treat a viral hepatitis C infection of the liver are better now than ever, because of their cost, they remain out of reach for many.
The new medications — Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), Olysio (simeprevir), Harvoni (a combination of sofosbuvir and ledipasvir), and Viekira Pak are highly effective. But one 12-week course can cost more than $94,000. This is a problem for people with and without insurance, because some insurance companies won’t pay, says Nikroo Hashemi, MD, a hepatologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Some people who can’t afford the newer medications may use the older-generation treatment — a combination of pegylated interferon and the antiviral drug ribavirin — but it’s much less effective than the newer drugs. Interferon often comes with a host of difficult side effects, like anemia, kidney failure, and fatigue, Hashemi says.
For these reasons, many people with hepatitis C turn to alternative treatments.
When considering alternative treatments like herbs, vitamins, teas, or yoga for hepatitis C, “it’s totally reasonable to look into all of these, but they should be assessed carefully,” says Christopher Moore, MD, a hepatologist and assistant professor in gastroenterology at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago.
Here’s a rundown of things you should know about five types of popular non-traditional therapies for hepatitis C.
1. Milk thistle. This plant has been used for liver, bile duct, and gallbladder health for thousands of years, according to the National Institutes of Health. Milk thistle and its active ingredient, silymarin, are probably the most well-studied of the alternative hepatitis C treatments, Hashemi says. A study published in Cellular Microbiology found that, in the lab, silymarin may help inhibit the virus from entering liver cells. But a placebo-controlled study published in JAMA found no positive effects on liver disease in patients with hepatitis C. A review of five clinical trials concluded that milk thistle did not have enough evidence as an effective treatment of hepatitis C, but also that it had not caused harm.
“While there has been a type of evidence for milk thistle, in some cases, to alleviate some symptoms or improve certain aspects of the biochemistry, there’s never been a preponderance of strong evidence it works well in a broad range of people,” says Dr. Moore.
Because the studies have not shown milk thistle to be dangerous for the liver, patients who feel strongly about trying it can probably take an oral form without any problems, says Hashemi, as long as they tell their doctor first.
2. Vitamin D. A study published in January 2015 in Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management found that patients who took vitamin D had lower amounts of substances associated with liver injury in their blood. People with hepatitis C may find some value in taking extra vitamin D if they need it, Hashemi says, but they shouldn’t expect it to change the course of their disease. “It is only good to supplement if you have deficiencies,” Hashemi says. “For the sake of hepatitis C treatment, it will not do anything.”
If you want to try vitamin D, talk to your doctor — you’ll need a blood test to check whether you’re deficient in the vitamin. Taking too much vitamin D over a long period of time can cause dangerously high levels of calcium in the blood, according to the National Library of Medicine.
3. Green tea and green tea extract. Many natural-health websites extol the compounds in green tea as a treatment for various conditions, including hepatitis C. And a polyphenol in green tea known as EGCG is actually a potential inhibitor of the virus, according to research and a review in the British Journal of Pharmacology. But, as with milk thistle, the evidence still isn’t strong enough to recommend green tea as an effective hepatitis C therapy, Hashemi says. While drinking a daily cup of green tea probably won’t do any harm, it also won’t have any effect on virus levels in the body, she says.
But beware: People with hepatitis C should stay away from green tea extract. This supplement has much higher doses of the active ingredient, EGCG, and can be toxic to the liver, according to the National Library of Medicine.
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4. Yoga and meditation. While mind-body practices can’t treat hepatitis C, they can help you stay well while you have the virus, Hashemi says. Regular meditation, for example, could help you feel less stressed. Certain forms of yoga can also improve your physical fitness, which can reduce your risk of fatty liver disease — a condition that’s more common in people with hepatitis C, according to Hashemi.
5. Flushes, cleanses, detoxes. As with green tea, many websites recommend special “cleansing diets” to rid the liver of toxins and remove hepatitis C virus from the body. But there’s no evidence that any of them do any good, Moore says. And some detox methods may be dangerous. “Depending on what’s in them, they may actually be harmful to some people,” Moore explains.
If you are interested in an alternative hepatitis C therapy, bring the idea to your physician so he or she can evaluate it and discuss the approach with you.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention as well as Hepatitis Foundation International states, Beware of Herbal treatments and other products sold as treatment or cures for Hepatitis C.
Herbal treatments and alternative liver medicines need to undergo rigorous scientific study before they can be recommended. “Natural” or diet treatments and herbal remedies can be quite dangerous and can actually harm your liver and accelerate damage. Always talk to your doctor before you take anything.
The Hepatitis Foundation International reports these are some of the plants that are toxic to the liver; plants of the Senecio, Crotalaria and Heliotopium families, plus Chaparral, Germander, Comfrey, Mistletoe, Skullcap, Margosa oil, Mate tea, Gordolobo yerba tea, Pennyroyal, and Jin Blu Huan are all toxic to the liver. (This list is not exclusive).
Standard Treatment for Chronic Hepatitis C
The goal of Hep C treatment is to cure the virus. Chronic Hepatitis C is treated with drugs to eliminate the virus from the body and prevent further liver damage.
To help determine which Hep C treatment is best suited for each patient will depend on genotype (genetic virus strain), viral load (RNA), liver condition, Hep C treatment history and tolerance, and overall health conditions.
Blood tests and physical exams will take place all throughout treatment and post treatment recovery. Viral load tests can take place as early as 2 to 4 weeks from beginning of treatment and continue through 12 weeks of completion of treatment. Many physicians will continue to test patients to 24 weeks or longer post treatment.
When HCV is undetected in the blood for 12 weeks from when treatment has been completed, the patient has achieved what is known as SVR12 (sustained virologic response) and considered cured. Physicians normally continue to test patients till 24 weeks post treatment and many follow for longer periods.
Great Improvement in Treatment for Hep C
In 2011 the FDA approved the first generation of protease inhibitors to be used in triple therapy with standard combination treatment of Peginterferon and Ribavirn. For the first time a cure to eliminate the Hep C virus was available. The cure rate was 70% using one of the two protease inhibitors in triple therapy with standard treatment time of 24 to 48 weeks and harsh side effects.
Since this short time, we have seen great improvement in treatment. A variety of new treatments have brought; new treatment options with and without use of Peginterferon and Ribavirin, treatment options for different genotypes, higher cure rates of 90% to 99%, less treatment side effects and shorter treatment time to 8 to 12 weeks being the new standard. With certain genotypes and liver conditions, some treatments may be recommended to 24 weeks.
Clinical trial studies continue in progress with new treatments for a variety of genotypes and conditions.
If you have Chronic Hepatitis C, you should be tested to see which genotype that you have.(virus strain; 1a and 1b, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and up to 11) Genotypes 1-6 have been more prevalent throughout different countries with 7-11 being predominant in specific countries, according the Clinical Microbiology Review.
Genotype describes the type of virus strain of Hep C. 75% of Hep C patients from the US have genotype 1 a or b. Genotypes 2, 3 and 4 are less common in the US. Certain genotypes are more prevalent in different countries.
Center for Disease Control & Prevention
Clinical Microbiology Review
UT Southwestern Clinical Center for Liver Disease
Hepatitis C symptoms often go overlooked because they are similar to common illnesses, like the flu. In fact, most people with hepatitis C don’t experience symptoms until decades after they contract the virus — after their liver is damaged. That’s the scary thing about hepatitis C — it often becomes a chronic condition before people even know they have it. It’s also the leading cause of liver cancer, the most common reason for liver transplants in the U.S. and a common cause of cirrhosis. Plus, studies show that the prevalence of hepatitis C is on the rise.
A very recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that cases of hepatitis C virus infection in U.S. women in their reproductive years doubled from 2006 to 2014, rising from roughly 15,000 cases to 30,000. As a result, an estimated 1,700 infants were born with hepatitis C between 2011 and 2014. (1)
So what are the causes of hepatitis C and how do you know if you’re infected? Keep reading to answer these questions. If you think you’re at risk of contracting the virus, make an appointment to get tested. The sooner your doctor diagnoses you, the higher your chances of fighting the virus, even with natural remedies that support your liver and help it to function properly.
What Is Hepatitis C?
Like hepatitis A and hepatitis B, hepatitis C is an infectious liver disease that’s caused by a virus. There are at least six different genotypes and 50 subtypes. Seventy-four percent of Americans have genotype 1. This makes it the most common type in the United States.
When the hepatitis C virus first infects a person, he or she may experience hepatitis C symptoms caused by an inflamed liver. Unlike many other viral infections, the hepatitis C virus does not attack the immune system. It causes an inflammatory response within the liver. (2)
Some people are able to fight the virus when it’s still in the acute phase. But research shows that 75 to 85 percent of people infected with hepatitis C progress to a chronic infection that persists for more than six months. Chronic hepatitis C causes tiny scars in the liver, disabling proper liver function.
The liver works hard to detoxify your blood, produce bile needed to digest fat, regulate blood composition, store essential nutrients and break down hormones. When the liver doesn’t work properly, it can negatively affect the entire body. Because chronic hepatitis C leads to inflammation and scarring of the liver, it can cause serious health concerns, including the following:
- Cirrhosis: Researchers estimate that up to 20 percent of those chronically infected with hepatitis C will develop liver cirrhosis within 20 to 25 years of contracting hepatitis C. Cirrhosis is a serious disease that involves the development of scar tissue in the liver. This causes liver dysfunction that impairs the organ’s essential processes, like blood flow, the elimination of waste and toxins from the body, the digestion of certain essential nutrients and the regulation of hormone levels. (3)
- Liver failure: The most common reason for a liver transplant in the United States is hepatitis C-induced liver failure. Unfortunately, data shows that approximately 50 percent of individuals who have received a liver transplant due to hepatitis C liver failure go on to experience a recurrence of the virus. (4)
- Liver cancer: Hepatocellular carcinoma, or cancer of the liver, is the “fifth most prevalent cancer and the third leading cause of cancer-related death,” according to research published in Recent Results of Cancer Research. The majority of liver cancer cases are associated with chronic viral hepatitis. As the incidence of hepatitis C viral infections continue to increase, researchers expect rates of liver cancer to rise as well, with the majority of cases caused by hepatitis C-induced cirrhosis. (5)
- Death: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of every 100 persons infected with the hepatitis C virus, approximately 1–5 of them will die from cirrhosis or liver cancer. In 2014, almost 20,000 people died from issues caused by hepatitis C, such as liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. (6)
Signs & Symptoms of Hepatitis C
For some people, it can be hard to tell if they have hepatitis C because the symptoms aren’t very noticeable until damage is already done to the liver. This is why it’s sometimes called a “silent infection.” In fact, 45–85 percent of people who have hepatitis C don’t know it. (7) It’s common to have the infection for over 15 years before ever noticing hepatitis C symptoms.
The CDC states that 20–30 percent of people newly infected by the disease experience hepatitis C symptoms, usually within 4–12 weeks of onset. The symptoms of hepatitis C are similar to other common illnesses, like the flu. This is why people typically don’t realize that they are infected with a serious viral disease. People who have contracted hepatitis C may notice the following health issues (8):
- bleeding easily
- taking longer for bleeding to stop
- bruising easily
- swelling in the legs
- joint pain
- sore muscles
- dark-colored urine
- swelling of the belly
- stomach pain
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- yellowed eyes and skin (jaundice)
- itchy skin
You can do a simple blood test to find out if you have hepatitis C. People at risk of contracting the virus should be tested because hepatitis C symptoms usually don’t become noticeable until after liver damage has already begun. When a person tests positive for hepatitis C, he or she can begin treatment immediately and will take precautions to ensure that the virus won’t spread to others.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that the following groups of people should be tested for hepatitis C (9):
- adults born from 1945–1965
- injection drug users
- people with HIV
- people who have received clotting factor concentrates made before 1987
- anyone who was ever on long-term hemodialysis
- those with abnormal ALT (alanine aminotransferase) levels
- anyone who received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
Hepatitis C Causes & Risk Factors
Hepatitis C is caused by a virus that spreads through infected blood. The blood of an infected person enters the bloodstream of someone who is not infected. Here’s an explanation of some of the leading causes and risk factors of hepatitis C:
- Drug use: Today, the highest risk of infection is from sharing needles to inject drugs. According to research published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, there is an ongoing epidemic of hepatitis C in the U.S. among young adult injection-drug users. Researchers point out high-risk locations, including suburban and rural areas in Wisconsin, Indiana, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida and a Native American community in Northern Plains. Outbreaks are also higher among young white adults who are 30 years old or younger and have a history of prescription opioid use. (10) Studies show that 8–25 percent of people under the age of 30 who inject drugs will contract hepatitis C. The prevalence continues to rise as the number of drug users has continued to increase in recent years. And data suggests that incidence rates are highest among people new to injected drug use, as 25 percent of them become infected with hepatitis C within two years of beginning injected drugs. (11, 12)
- Sexual activity: The transmission of hepatitis C through sexual activity remains a controversial subject among scientists. Research shows that the risk of hepatitis C transmission depends on the type of sexual relationship. A 2013 study conducted at the University of California San Francisco evaluated 500 couples that consisted of one hepatitis C positive person in order to research the risk of spreading hepatitis C within monogamous, heterosexual couples.Researchers found that hepatitis C virus prevalence among partners was 4 percent, with a maximum incidence rate of hepatitis C transmission by sex among heterosexual, monogamous couples being 0.07 percent per year. (13) Although the prevalence among monogamous, heterosexual couples is low, the risk of spreading hepatitis C is greater among male couples, especially those infected with HIV. The risk is also greater for men and women with multiple sexual partners. (14, 15)
- Being born between 1945–1965: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “of the estimated 3.2 million people chronically infected with hepatitis C in the U.S., approximately 75 percent were born during 1945-1965.” National data suggests that people born in these years are five times more likely to be infected with hepatitis C. In fact, it’s the leading cause of liver cancer and liver transplants among people from this age group. (16)
- Childbirth: Mothers can also pass the virus to their infants during childbirth. Research shows that the type of childbirth, whether C-section or vaginal birth, does not influence transmission. Also, mothers who engage in active drug use and also have HIV are more likely to pass the hepatitis C virus to their newborns. (17)
Casual contact, like hugging, holding hands, sharing utensils or kissing will not spread the virus. If the blood of an infected person enters an area of broken skin, the virus can spread.
So people with hepatitis C should not share razor blades, toothbrushes or nail clippers with others. Hepatitis C is not a hereditary disease; it can only spread when an infected person shares the blood of a non-infected person.
Conventional Treatment for Hepatitis C
The first step in hepatitis C treatment is for your doctor to evaluate you for the presence or severity of liver disease. Your doctor will most likely use liver function tests to determine if any damage has already been done to your liver since you were infected. Your treatment will depend on the condition of your liver and the hepatitis C genotype that you have.
A person with acute hepatitis C can be treated with medications. This can sometimes help to prevent the development of chronic hepatitis C. However, most people don’t know they have the virus until it’s already chronic and there is liver damage. Treatment for chronic hepatitis C involves antiviral medicines. Sometimes people need to try different combinations of medicines until they find what works for their bodies.
There are a number of FDA-approved hepatitis medications. Most of them fall into one of these categories:
- Protease inhibitors — Used to attack the virus and stop it from reproducing.
- Polymerase inhibitors — Blocks a specific protein that the hepatitis C virus needs to grow.
- Direct-acting antivirals — Interferes with enzymes that the hepatitis C relies on to multiply.
In June of 2016, the FDA approved a drug called Epclusa, which is the first medication that can be used to treat all hepatitis C genotypes. This drug contains a combination of antiviral medications. It’s usually given in combination with another drug called ribavirin to treat patients with cirrhosis. Side effects of Epclusa include slowing heartbeat, shallow breathing, headache, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, insomnia and trouble concentrating.
8 Natural Ways to Manage Hepatitis C Symptoms
Zinc is necessary for normal liver function and it plays a role in multiple aspects of the immune system. Several studies have found that zinc supplementation helps to improve symptoms of hepatitis C, including digestive issues, weight loss and hair loss. Zinc is also a powerful antioxidant that boosts immune function, which is important for people fighting the hepatitis C virus. (20)
Research shows that probiotics help to support the liver because the beneficial bacteria in the gut promotes the health of the liver and allows it to function properly. Probiotics also improve the immune system’s defenses so that it can fight off the overgrowth of pathogens that lead to disease. If there are too many unhealthy bacteria in the intestines, this can have a serious impact on the liver. One study published in Hepatitis Monthly found that probiotic therapy can reduce the symptoms and improve different types of liver disease. Researchers also noted that probiotic therapy is safe, noninvasive and inexpensive when used by patients with liver disease. (21)
3. Black Seed Oil
Black seed oil benefits the function of the liver due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and immune-stimulating effects. A key compound of black seed oil, thymoquinone, protects the liver from injury through several mechanisms like scavenging free radicals and elevating glutathione levels. Research shows that black seed oil protects the liver from liver damage. Also, it can help to postpone the progression of chronic liver disease. (22)
4. Vitamin D
Research shows that it’s common for people with chronic hepatitis C to have a vitamin D deficiency because it needs to be stored in the liver and fatty tissues. Getting enough vitamin D will help to enhance immune function, improve mood and concentration, and even fight diabetes, which is common among people with hepatitis C. Studies show that taking vitamin D supplements along with hepatitis C medications can have positive effects by helping to raise vitamin D levels. (23, 24)
5. Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
Loss of appetite and weight loss are common symptoms of hepatitis C. But it’s important that people with the virus eat a healthy and well-balanced diet in order to ensure that they are getting essential vitamins and minerals. If you are having trouble eating or you are experiencing digestive problems, stick to small, simple meals and water throughout the day. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats (like avocados and coconut oil) and high-fiber foods that will help to regulate digestion. Also, consuming probiotic foods can be beneficial, and so will foods that help to cleanse the liver so that it can function properly, like sweet potatoes, bananas, ginger root and even liver from organic, grass-fed cattle. Stay away from refined carbohydrates and sugars, sugary drinks and processed foods that will only damage the liver further.
6. Avoid Alcohol and Drug Use
For people with liver disease, their livers cannot break down alcohol quickly enough, which leads to inflammation and toxicity. Plus, alcohol makes it more difficult for your liver to absorb essential nutrients. So, drinking alcohol can contribute to vitamin and mineral deficiencies that will make hepatitis C symptoms worse. Injected drug use is one of the leading causes of hepatitis C. If you are already infected, you can spread it to others if you keep using. Plus, you’re harming your body and spirit with these drugs and increasing your chances of becoming another death of despair. Quit drinking alcohol and using drugs immediately, and get help if you need it — it can save your life. (25)
7. Engage in Gentle Physical Activity
Gentle exercise throughout the week can help you to relieve some hepatitis C symptoms, like tiredness and low energy. Some great forms of gentle exercise include yoga, pilates, qigong and tai chi. Even a walk outside can be beneficial by helping to boost energy levels and raising your vitamin D levels too. The best part about all of these exercises is that they not only work your body, but they benefit your mind and spirit as well. This can be extremely important when you’re struggling with hepatitis C symptoms and associated health issues.
8. Take Precautions to Prevent Spreading the Virus
In order to prevent spreading the hepatitis C virus, there are some precautions that you can take. Do not share any of your personal items that may have blood of them, such as razors or toothbrushes. If you have an open cut or sore, cover it until it has healed completely. Also, don’t donate blood, organs, tissue or semen. Remember that hepatitis C cannot spread by casual contact, like hugging, kissing, holding hands or coughing. And, there is a low risk of transmission from sex when you’re in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship. If you are not in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship, use condoms to prevent the spread of hepatitis C.
If you choose to use herbal supplements to help manage your hepatitis C symptoms, do so under the guidance of your doctor. Medications and even herbal remedies can stress your liver. This can be extremely problematic for people who have hepatitis C-induced cirrhosis or liver disease. Plus, some herbal supplements interact with hepatitis C medications, so tell your doctor exactly what you’re taking.
- Hepatitis C is an infectious liver disease caused by a virus. There are at least six different genotypes and 50 subtypes. Seventy-four percent of Americans have genotype 1.
- Of every 100 persons infected with the hepatitis C virus, approximately 1–5 of them will die from cirrhosis or liver cancer. In 2014, almost 20,000 people died from issues caused by hepatitis C, such as liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
- Hepatitis C symptoms usually develop after someone has the virus for many years, when the liver is already damaged. Some common symptoms of hepatitis C include fatigue, bleeding easily, bruising easily, jaundice, fever, digestive issues, joint pain, dark-colored urine and swelling of the belly.
- Today, the number one cause of hepatitis C is injected drug use. The prevalence of hepatitis C continues to rise as the rate of injected drug use rises in the United States.
- There are natural remedies that can help you to manage your hepatitis C symptoms, such as supplementing with zinc and vitamin D, plus taking probiotics and eating a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes foods that help to cleanse the liver.
Read Next: 6 Step Liver Cleanse
Natural Remedies and Hepatitis C
When we get sick, we want to get well quickly. Some of us turn to our doctors first, while others may try home remedies or alternative medicine. Many of us do both.
Natural medicine means that no chemicals, drugs or surgeries are used to help you get well. Alternative medicine is simply an alternative to conventional medicine. For instance, in the U.S., ancient healing practices, such as faith healing, Chinese medicine or seeing a curandero (Spanish for healer) are alternatives. So are naturopathy, homeopathy, and herbal medicine. Integrative medicine uses both. It’s common for people to use more than one healing method.
In the U.S., we have access to many alternatives, and we tend to apply Western medical concepts to natural medicine. This is most evident in our use of supplements. When diagnosed with hepatitis C, we may want to “take something” that will help the liver, such as a supplement or herb. It’s easier to take something than it is to exercise and eat right. However, everything passes through the liver, and just because herbs and supplements are natural, they aren’t necessarily safe.
Despite claims on the Internet, no natural remedy has been proven to cure hepatitis C. There may be remedies that improve symptoms associated with hep C, but none has permanently eradicated the virus. There isn’t a large body of research on natural remedies and hepatitis C; much of what we know is anecdotal, meaning that people tell others about their experiences.
If you are interested in herbs and other dietary supplements, don’t forget to assess your overall health. If you smoke, drink alcohol or have other potentially unhealthy habits, do not expect herbs to offset the potential damage these habits can cause. Adopting healthy habits will provide far more benefits than supplements can.
If you have hepatitis C or liver disease, here’s important information about supplements:
- If you have decompensated cirrhosis, never take supplements unless recommended by your doctor.
- If you are on hepatitis C treatment, do not take herbs or supplements unless your doctor recommends it. Never take St. John’s wort if you take HCV or HIV medicines known as protease inhibitors.
- Some supplements prolong bleeding times or interfere with anesthetics. Stop all supplement use at least a week prior to any surgery or procedure that uses anesthesia. Tell your medical team and anesthesiologist about any herbs you are using, particularly if the procedure occurs before you have sufficient time to observe this “wash-out” period.
- Report any suspected adverse reactions to an herb or supplement to the FDA’s monitoring program, Medwatch.
If you are interested in supplements, here are tips for safer use:
- Talk to your doctor before using supplements.
- Apply the same commonsense approach and standards to herbs as you would to any drug; ask the same questions about supplements that you would a medicine.
- Before you take an herb or supplement, find out if it is compatible with other drugs or supplements you are taking and not contraindicated for any other condition you may have.
- Be skeptical. Claims made by the product manufacturer or seller may differ from independent research.
- More is not better; do not exceed the recommended dose.
- Supplements may be contaminated, so know your source. In rare cases, people have suffered liver damage as a consequence of taking contaminated substances.
- Choose supplements that are standardized. Buy products that submit to voluntary self-regulation.
- Do not rely on health store staff for medical information. Although they may be helpful, remember that salespeople are usually not licensed to practice medicine.
- Do not be swayed by personal testimonies. Let medical advice and evidence guide your decision to use supplements.
- Do not be influenced by the latest supplement to make headlines. Supplements are like cars; when new models are introduced, sometimes it takes time before problems develop. A product that has value will stand up to the test of time.
Of all the natural remedies used for hep C, milk thistle is the most popular, and the most tested. This herb is a common ingredient in supplement blends that promote liver health. Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a plant from the aster family. Silymarin is the active ingredient in milk thistle that is likely responsible for its medicinal qualities. Silymarin is actually a group of flavanoids, with silybin (aka silibinin) being the most powerful. Typically, milk thistle is sold in standardized amounts of 70 to 80 percent silymarin.
Here is a little of what is known about milk thistle:
- Talk to your medical provider before taking milk thistle.
- There is no clear evidence that milk thistle cures HCV infection. Much of the research is unreliable due to poor scientific method, so it’s difficult to sort out the facts. There are no high-quality randomized clinical trials on milk thistle versus placebo.
- All milk thistle is not alike, and what is in the bottle may not match what is promised on the label. It is very difficult to find milk thistle in the U.S. that provides the standardized amount of silymarin that is claimed on the label. Much of what is sold is substandard milk thistle extract, often purchased from Chinese suppliers. Unfortunately, since herbs are not strictly regulated by the FDA, it is virtually impossible to know what is safe and effective.
- Milk thistle is poorly absorbed. After digestion, very little is left for the liver. This is particularly true for older adults. As little as 10 percent of silymarin may be absorbed in the adult over age 60. A couple of small studies suggest that silybin-phosphatidylcholine complexed as a phytosome may be more bioavailable, but it is difficult to find in the U.S.
- Some experts say that milk thistle may interact with other drugs. One strategy is to take milk thistle alone rather than in combination with other drugs, particularly oral contraceptives and coumadin.
- Milk thistle is usually well tolerated and has not been shown to harm the liver, except in people who have hemochromatosis. Those with a history of hormone-related cancers, including breast and uterine cancer and prostate cancer, may need to avoid milk thistle. Milk thistle should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women.
The following herbs may be harmful to the liver, so before taking these or any herbs or dietary supplements, talk to your health care provider:
- Atractylis gummifera
- Bush tea
- Callilepsis laureola
- Chapparal leaf (creosote bush, greasewood)
- Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
- Gordolobo herbal tea
- Kava (Piper methysticum)
- Kombucha mushroom (tea)
- Ma-Huang (Ephedra sinica)
- Margosa oil
- Mate (Paraguay) tea
- Nutmeg (if taken in large amounts)
- Pennyroyal (squawmint oil)
- Tansy Ragwort (variation of Ragwort)
- Senecio aureus
- Valerian Root
Last Reviewed: March 4, 2019
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Treatment of Hepatitis C
What is Hepatitis C?
“Hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver.
Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver.
It results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is spread primarily through contact with the blood of an infected person. Hepatitis C can be either “acute” or “chronic.”
Causes of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C infection is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
You can catch hepatitis C if the blood of someone who has hepatitis C enters your body. Exposure may occur:
- After a needle stick or sharp injury
- If blood from someone who has hepatitis C contacts a cut on your skin or contacts your eyes or mouth
People at risk of hepatitis C are those who:
- Inject street drugs or share a needle with someone who has hepatitis C
- Have been on long-term kidney dialysis
- Have regular contact with blood at work (such as a health care worker)
- Have unprotected sexual contact with a person who has hepatitis C
- Were born to a mother who had hepatitis C
- Received a tattoo or acupuncture with needles that were not disinfected properly after being used on another person (risk is very low with practitioners who have a tattoo license or permit or an acupuncture license)
- Received an organ transplant from a donor who has hepatitis C
Symptoms of Hepatitis C
Most people who are recently infected with hepatitis C do not have symptoms.
Some people have yellowing of the skin (jaundice) that goes away. Chronic infection often causes no symptoms. But tiredness, skin disorders and other problems can occur. Persons who have long-term (chronic) infection often have no symptoms until their liver becomes scarred (cirrhosis).
Most people with this condition are ill and have many health problems.
The following symptoms may occur with hepatitis C infection:
- Pain in the right upper abdomen
- Abdominal swelling due to fluid (ascites)
- Clay-colored or pale stools
- Dark urine
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
Types of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C can be either “acute” or “chronic.”
Acute Hepatitis C virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis C virus. For most people, acute infection leads to chronic infection.
Chronic Hepatitis C virus infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the Hepatitis C virus remains in a person’s body. Hepatitis C virus infection can last a lifetime and lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer.
Other types of viral hepatitis include:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis D
Diagnosis of Hepatitis C
Blood tests are done to check for hepatitis C:
- EIA assay to detect hepatitis C antibody
- Hepatitis C RNA assays to measure virus levels (viral load)
Genetic testing is done to check for the type of hepatitis C (genotype). There are six types of the virus (genotypes 1 through 6). Test results can help your doctor choose treatment that is best for you.
The following tests are done to identify and monitor liver damage from hepatitis C:
- Albumin level
- Liver function tests
- Prothrombin time
- Liver biopsy
Treatment for Hepatitis C
Common medicines used include peginterferon and antiviral drugs. These medicines are aimed at:
- Helping the body get rid of the virus.
- Reducing the risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer, which can result from long-term HCV infection.
A liver transplant may be recommended for persons who develop cirrhosis and liver cancer. Your health care provider can tell you more about liver transplant.
Prognosis of Hepatitis C
Most people with hepatitis C infection have the chronic form.
The goal of treatment is to reduce the chance of liver damage and liver cancer. A good response to treatment occurs when the virus is no longer detected in the blood after treatment.
Prevention of Hepatitis C
Things that can be done to prevent the spread of hepatitis C from one person to another include:
- Health care workers should follow precautions when handling blood.
- Do not share needles with anyone.
- Do not get tattoos or body piercings or receive acupuncture from someone who does not have a permit or license.
- Do not share personal items such as razors and toothbrushes.
- Practice safer sex.
If you or your partner is infected with hepatitis C and you have been in a stable and monogamous (no other partners) relationship, the risk of giving the virus to, or getting the virus from, the other person is low.
Hepatitis C virus cannot be spread by casual contact, such as holding hands, kissing, coughing or sneezing, breastfeeding, sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses.
Homeopathic treatment for Hepatitis C
Treatment mainly depends upon medical and general health condition of the patient.
Homeopathy is one of the most popular holistic systems of medicine. The selection of remedy is based on individual patient and symptoms similarity by using holistic approach.
This is the only way through which a state of complete health can be regained by removing all the sign and symptoms from which the patient is suffering.
The aim of homeopathy is not only to treat Hepatitis C infection but to address its underlying cause and individual susceptibility. As far as therapeutic medication is concerned, several well-proved medicines are available for Hepatitis C treatment that can be selected on the basis of the complaints of patients and customised for each patient.
For individualized remedy selection and treatment, the patient should consult a qualified homeopathic doctor in person.
Some important remedies often prescribed at Welling Clinic for the treatment of Hepatitis C are : Chelidonium, Bryonia, Podophylum, Lycopodium, Nux-Vomica, Myrica Cerifera.
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What Might Help
Eating well helps your liver work better and lowers your chance for cirrhosis, scarring that can lead to liver failure. Good health also boosts your immune system to fight off infections. You don’t need a special diet. Load up on whole grains, fruits, and veggies as well as lean protein like chicken, eggs, and fish. If you have cirrhosis, cut back on salt since your body already tends to hang on to fluids.
A massage therapist strokes, kneads, and rubs your muscles and other soft tissues. It won’t treat your hep C, but it can help relieve stress and help overcome tiredness. Ask your doctor for a referral, or find a trained therapist at the American Massage Therapy Association.
Living with hepatitis C can often leave you feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Meditation is a way to concentrate and let both your brain and body relax. You can meditate while you walk, sit, or lie down. Take deep breaths and focus your mind on the present moment. You can ask your doctor for more information or find a class at your local hospital, community center, or fitness center.
Hepatitis C lowers your levels of this mineral, which you need to keep your liver and immune system healthy. Some research suggests zinc may ease your symptoms and make treatments work better. One Japanese study found that people with hep C who took zinc supplements for 7 years greatly cut their chances of liver cancer compared to those who didn’t take it. It may be safe to try, but talk to your doctor first. Limit your daily dose to no more than 40 milligrams from either food or supplements.
Homeopathy for Managing Hepatitis C
Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)® June 7, 2011 Practiced much more in Europe than the United States, many believe that homeopathic medicine is an effective way to manage chronic Hepatitis C.
Those with chronic Hepatitis C recognize that their viral infection of the liver is persistent and not easily eliminated. Particularly for the estimated 50 percent of individuals who do not respond to Hepatitis C therapy, finding alternatives to help manage this disease are in high demand. Even though it is a controversial approach, advocates claim that homeopathic remedies constitute an ideal match for Hepatitis C management, as they offer a safe, therapeutic avenue to reduce viral load and ease liver disease symptoms.
It sounds promising, but scientific literature on homeopathy’s effect on Hepatitis C is scarce. Compounding the confusion over homeopathic remedies, recognition and regulation of homeopathy in the U.S. is largely overlooked. Unfortunately, this omission makes finding a knowledgeable, competent practitioner in the states a challenge. On the bright side, those lucky enough to locate an experienced practitioner of homeopathy could get some valuable assistance in managing chronic Hepatitis C.
Developed approximately 200 years ago by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, homeopathy is an entire, non-toxic medical system. Using highly diluted pathogens or potentially toxic substances as remedies, a person’s immune system or other body response is provoked to treat the root causes of an illness.
There is controversy about the field of homeopathy. This is largely because a number of its key concepts are not consistent with our current understanding of science, particularly chemistry and physics. The main theory behind homeopathy is based on the law of similars, also known as “like cures like.” The law of similars dates back to the time of Hippocrates, but it also has present day applications – such as vaccinations. Many vaccines involve giving a small dose of the microorganism that causes a specific disease. Consequently, vaccinations stimulate an immune response against that particular microorganism, which protects the vaccine recipient from that illness.
In addition, homeopathy operates on the principle of dilutions, also known as the “law of minimum dose.” The principle of dilutions states that the lower the dose of the medication, the greater its effectiveness. Most homeopathic remedies are so dilute that no molecules of the healing substance remain; however, in homeopathy, it is believed that the substance has left its imprint or “essence,” which stimulates healing.
Homeopathic remedies are derived from natural substances that come from plants, minerals or animals. Common remedies include red onion, arnica (mountain herb) and stinging nettle plant.
Who Practices Homeopathy?
Homeopaths treat people based on genetic and personal health history, body type and current physical, emotional and mental symptoms. Treatments are tailored to each person, thus, it is not uncommon for different people with the same condition to receive different treatments.
Although popular in Europe, there are currently no uniform licensing or professional standards for the practice of homeopathy in the United States. Instead, the licensing of homeopaths varies from state to state. Usually, a homeopathic practitioner is licensed in a medical profession, such as conventional, osteopathic or naturopathic medicine.
However, there is still a lot of variability:
- Licensure as a homeopathic physician is available only to medical doctors and doctors of osteopathy in Arizona, Connecticut and Nevada.
- Arizona and Nevada also license homeopathic assistants, who are allowed to perform medical services under the supervision of a homeopathic physician.
- Some states explicitly include homeopathy within the scope of practice of chiropractic, naturopathy, physical therapy, dentistry, nursing and veterinary medicine.
- Although not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, national certification may be obtained through organizations such as the Council for Homeopathic Certification, American Board of Homeotherapeutics and the Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians.
Thus, finding a competent homeopath in the United States is best achieved through networking and word-of-mouth. Luckily, the safe and non-toxic nature of homeopathic remedies, when used appropriately, means that there is virtually no danger in using them.
Homeopathy for Hepatitis C
Homeopathic medicine may not be the most popular alternative medical system in your area, but plenty of supporters exist. Especially for chronic Hepatitis C sufferers who did not respond to antiviral therapy, homeopathic remedies offer a potential jackpot for lowering viral load and relieving liver disease symptoms.
Experts agree that the use of homeopathy for Hepatitis C is best when advised by a trained professional. Some of the remedies that might be used for Hepatitis C include:
- Nux vomica
- China officinalis
Since the dosages and combinations of homeopathic remedies are highly dependent upon each individual’s presentation, self-experimentation with these substances is not advised. Upon consulting with a reputable homeopath, remedies typically accompany crucial lifestyle recommendations.
If the law of similars and principle of dilutions resonates with you and you have access to a reputable homeopath, homeopathic medicine may be the key to managing Hepatitis C that you have been looking for.
http://www.e-hepatitis-c.com/app/default.asp, Hepatitis C Treatment, Retrieved January 16, 2010, Dr. Rajesh Shah, 2011.