Other Proposed Natural Treatments
Herbs and Supplements to Use Only With Caution
Hepatitis is an infection of the liver caused by one of several viruses, the most common of which are named hepatitis A, B, and C. Hepatitis A is spread mainly through contaminated food and water, whereas hepatitis B is transmitted by sexual contact and use of contaminated needles. The route of transmission of hepatitis C is not completely clear but is believed to be similar to that of hepatitis B.
When you first develop hepatitis, it is called acute hepatitis. Hepatitis can also become a long-term disease known as chronic hepatitis. All forms of hepatitis cause jaundice, liver tenderness, and severe fatigue. Hepatitis A is the mildest form and seldom causes symptoms continuing longer than a couple of months. Hepatitis B and C produce more severe symptoms, which last two or three times longer, and can go on to become chronic.
Chronic hepatitis consists of persistent liver infection and inflammation that lingers long after the primary symptoms of the disease have disappeared. It can produce subtle symptoms of liver tenderness and continued fatigue and over time can gradually destroy the liver. Chronic hepatitis also appears to increase the risk of liver cancer.
The best treatment for hepatitis is prevention. You can avoid hepatitis A by practicing good hygiene and using the conventional preventive treatment, known as immune globulins, while traveling in areas where the disease is common. Hepatitis B can be prevented by immunization and the same precautions taken against HIV infection. HIV precautions almost certainly decrease the transmission of hepatitis C as well.
Conventional medicine has little in the way of treatment for the initial hepatitis infection once it has started. Treatment for chronic hepatitis is developing but is still quite imperfect. The most effective methods involve varieties of interferon.
Proposed Natural Treatments for Viral Hepatitis
Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine
For more information, see the article on Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine .
Achillea millefoliumTamarix gallicaCapparis spinosa, Cichorium intybus, Solanum nigrum, Terminalia arjuna, Cassia occidentalis,
Phyllanthus amarusPhyllanthus urinaris Phyllanthus
Note that at the present, the quality of the reported studies remains poor, and Ayurvedic herbs cannot be regarded as a proven treatment for viral hepatitis. For more information, see the Ayurveda article.
Other Herbs and Supplements
licoriceWarning: Do not inject preparations of licorice designed for oral use.
Other common natural medicine recommendations for hepatitis include astragalus , cordyceps , reishi , schisandra , taurine , vitamin C , and whey protein . However, there is as yet no meaningful scientific evidence that these approaches really work.
Herbs and Supplements to Use Only With Caution
Many natural products have the capacity to harm the liver. Furthermore, due to the generally inadequate regulation of dietary supplements that exists at the time of this writing, there are real risks that herbal products, at least, may contain liver-toxic contaminants even if the actual herbs listed on the label are safe. For this reason, we recommend that people with liver disease do not use any medicinal herbs except under the supervision of a physician. Here, we list some specific information to aid in your decision-making process.
All forms of vitamin B 3 may damage the liver when taken in high doses, including niacin, niacinamide (nicotinamide), and inositol hexaniacinate. (Nutritional supplementation at the standard daily requirement level should not cause a problem.)
A great many herbs and supplements have known or suspected liver-toxic properties, including but not limited to: barberry , borage, chaparral , coltsfoot , comfrey , germander , germanium (a mineral), greater celandine , kava , kombucha , mistletoe , pennyroyal , pokeroot , sassafras , and various herbs and minerals used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine .
In addition, herbs that are not liver-toxic in themselves are sometimes adulterated with other herbs of similar appearance that are accidentally harvested in a misapprehension of their identity (for example, germander found in skullcap products). Furthermore, blue-green algae species such as spirulina may at times be contaminated with liver-toxic substances called microcystins, for which no highest safe level is known.
Some articles claim that the herb echinacea is potentially liver-toxic, but this concern appears to have been based on a misunderstanding of its constituents. Echinacea contains substances in the pyrrolizidine alkaloid family. However, while many pyrrolizidine alkaloids are liver-toxic, those found in echinacea are not believed to have that property.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 08/22/2013 -