Hepatitis C is a viral infection which can lead to serious complications of the liver. Medical treatment is usually necessary for hepatitis C. Here we look at this virus, and then describe several supplemental herbs and nutrients which can help treat and manage hepatitis C.
What Is Hepatitis C?
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a viral infection of the liver that can cause serious issues, such as damage to the liver over time. It is characterized by swelling of the liver that is related to inflammation. There is a lot to be said about hepatitis C. If you or a family member are at risk for HCV, then you should read up on it. Here are the basic facts about it which you should know:
- HCV is usually contracted by coming into contact with the blood of someone with HCV. This can happen from unprotected sex, contact with an open wound, or in the sharing of needles used for illegal drugs, as is most common historically.
- After someone comes into contact with HCV, symptoms often don’t show up for months or years, only after the virus does enough damage to be noticeable. Therefore, it’s crucial to get tested for HCV if you’re at risk. Those at risk include drug users, babies of mothers with HCV, those who’ve had hemodialysis, and those with inconclusive liver results from other medical tests.
- Hepatitis C can be acute or chronic. An acute infection can last for up to six months, and it usually precedes a long-term infection. However, some people experienced cured HCV entirely in the acute phase, usually with the help of antiviral medication.
HCV symptoms include susceptibility to bleeding and bruising, fatigue, jaundice, fluid buildup in the stomach area, weight loss, and hepatic encephalopathy (confusion & slurred speech.
- Antiviral medications are the standard treatment for HCV.
Herbs and Supplements for Hepatitis C
Certain herbs and supplements can help those with hepatitis C. Whether by helping to combat the infection, or by supporting the liver, all of these have potential to help fight an HCV infection, at least when used in addition to proper medical treatment.
Zinc is needed by the body for a working immune system, and it also supports the liver. Low levels of zinc are common in those with HCV. Supplementing with zinc regularly and consistently over time could reduce the chances of serious complications from HCV later on.
Selenium is a trace mineral which the body uses to combat oxidative stress, among other things. Supplementing with selenium can be helpful for HCV patients, because a hepatitis C infection can drain the body of this mineral. It is hypothesized that HCV spreads more easily in the body when cells are depleted of selenium. Taking selenium could help treat liver disease from HCV, and improve treatment response.
Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to be helpful for those with HCV. Vitamin D deficiency is common among HCV patients. A 2017 meta-analysis showed that taking vitamin D correlated with improved viral response rates in people with hepatitis C. It has also been shown to help improve mood and the biomarkers of inflammation in those with HCV.
Milk thistle is an herb with strong antioxidant properties, and it is commonly used for different forms of liver disease. The active ingredient in milk thistle is silymarin. Milk thistle is touted for its potential to reduce inflammation, and to support the growth of new liver cells.
Licorice root is an herb which could contribute to the treatment of HCV. This is because of its active ingredient, glycyrrhizin. Licorice root could be helpful, but only if taken in the correct dose. Too much of this herb could interact with medications and have negative effects.
If you or a family member have hepatitis C, or are at risk for it, then talk to your doctor about using these helpful supplements. With a healthcare provider’s supervision, these could be taken to improve treatment outcomes for HCV.