HepatitisC and Complementary and Alternative MedicineQuick Facts About Hepatitis CHepatitis C is themost common bloodborne infection in the world.People who are newly infected have what is called acute hepatitis C. Forabout 15 to 40 percent of this group, the infection is short-term, goes away,and does not return. Others develop chronic (or long-lasting) hepatitis C, inwhich the virus stays in the liver, replicates itself, and injures the liverover time.Chronic hepatitis C can cause liver disease, cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer, and liver failure. However, persons whohave been diagnosed with hepatitis C need to know that serious illness or deathfrom the disease is by no means inevitable--especially if they take proper careof themselves and get the health care they needHepatitisC is a disease of the liver that is caused by the hepatitis C virus. CAM, as defined by NCCAM, is a group of diverse medical and health caresystems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be partof conventional medicine. However, it isimportant to find out what scientific studies have been done on the safety andeffectiveness of the CAM treatment in which you are interested.What ishepatitis C?HepatitisC is a communicable (contagious) disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis Cvirus (HCV).c The liver, the largest organ in the body, is foundbehind the ribs on the right side of the abdomen. The term hepatitis meansinflammation of the liver. There are other viruses in the hepatitis family(such as hepatitis A and hepatitis B), but HCV is not related to them.A drugcalled interferon is the mainstay of conventional treatment. They are not willing to have drug treatment or continue it--for example, because of the side effects or length of treatment. Thetherapy they used the most was herbals or botanicals (21 percent). Herbals and botanicals are synonyms and mean herbal and botanicalproducts.There is not enoughevidence to support using herbs to treat the disease. Compared to placebo, theyfound that none of the herbs tested showed effects on liver enzymes or reducedthe amount of HCV in the bloodstream, except for milk thistle, which did show asignificant reduction of liver enzymes in one trial.Conventional therapiesare the only scientifically proven treatments for the disease.NIH released aConsensus Statement on the management of hepatitis C. This assessment by apanel of medical and scientific experts found that alternative andnontraditional medicines should be studied.By giving one group of participants a placebo and the other group theactive treatment, the researchers can compare how the two groups respond andget a truer picture of the active treatment's effects. Theactive extract of milk thistle believed to be responsible for the herb'smedicinal qualities is silymarin, found in the fruit. Milk thistle has beenused in Europe as a treatment for liver disease and jaundice since the 16thcentury.
Summaryof the research findings The results ofscientific studies to date do not definitively find that milk thistle isbeneficial in treating hepatitis C in humans.LicoriceRootLicorice root is the peeled or unpeeled dried root of the licorice plant (Glycyrrhizaglabra). Licoriceroot has been in use in China since the second and third century B.C. and inthe West since Egyptian, Greek, and Roman times.Laboratory studiesof glycyrrhizin in cell cultures suggest that it may have antiviral properties.Glycyrrhizin has potential for reducing long-term complications in chronic hepatitis C in those patients who may not respond to interferon. Several of the trials reviewed indicated improvements in liver tissue damaged by hepatitis. Amongthe Asian forms of ginseng are Chinese, Japanese, and Korean ginseng. Ginsenghas been used for thousands of years in Asia. It isusually used with the belief that it will boost the immune system and increasestamina; such properties are thought to be more useful for the elderly andthose covering from illness.Some beneficial effects of ginseng on the liver were seen in many studies. Prolongeduse of caffeine and a high dose of ginseng may be associated with hypertension,which is of particular concern for people with cardiovascular disease ordiabetes. Ginseng has been shown in laboratory studies to inhibit grouping ofplatelets in the blood, increasing bleeding risk. Thymus extract productsconsist of peptides taken from the thymus glands of cows or calves and are soldas dietary supplements. Studies of theeffects of schisandra in the liver have mostly been in animal models. There areno reports on the safety and effectiveness of using schisandra alone fortreatment of hepatitis C in humans in the sources reviewed for this report.Reviewsin the scientific literature on colloidal silver have concluded that:Silver has no knownfunction in the body. Claims that therecan be a deficiency of silver in the body and that such a deficiency can leadto disease are unfounded.Laboratory analysis has shown that the amounts of silver in these supplements vary greatly, which can pose risks to the consumer. Sideeffects and other risksAnimal studies have shown that silver builds up in the tissues of the body.Colloidal silver may interfere with the body's absorption of the followingdrugs: penacillamine, quinolones, tetracyclines, and thyroxine.