Treatment for You?
Alternative Medicine Gaining Recognition
1999 Volume 1, Number 1
Herbal Treatment for You?
and Alternative Medicine gaining recognition
and alternative medicines (CAM), including botanicals or
herbs, have been used throughout the ages and it is estimated
today that eighty percent of the world’s population
continues to use herbs—leaves, roots, berries and
extracts—as their main source of medicine.
medicine is defined as the use of whole plants or plant parts
for the treatment of disease and overall good health. The use
of herbal products in America has risen to sales estimated at
more than $700 million annually.
October of 1998, President Clinton signed the 1999 Omnibus
appropriations bill establishing the National Center for
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) formerly called
the Office of Alternative Medicine. And Congress appropriated
$50 million in the 1999 fiscal year to finance the new
purpose of NCCAM is to conduct research, research training,
and disseminate health information and other programs with
respect to identifying, investigating, and validating CAM
benefits of some herbal treatments have not escaped the notice
of people with chronic hepatitis C. While most people with
hepatitis C have no early noticeable symptoms, some may
experience “flu-like” symptoms, including, fatigue, loss
of appetite, nausea and vomiting, fever, weakness and mild
variety of CAM treatments and remedies have been found to
offer patients some relief from these symptoms.
as a Western herbal medicine, milk thistle has been found to
be one of the most effective herbs for the treatment of
hepatitis C. It contains silymarin, a flavonoid that has been
shown to aid in healing and rebuilding the liver. It can
regenerate injured liver cells and help to reestablish normal
liver function. Milk thistle can also aid in strengthening the
liver cells’ antioxidant defense system.
can be taken in capsule or alcohol-free extract form. The
patient should take 420 milligrams of silymarin in 3 divided
doses. After improvement a maintenance dosage of 280
milligrams daily is recommended. High quality milk thistle is
rapidly absorbed and reaches maximum concentration in the
blood within one hour and may be used for long-term treatment.
James F. Balch, in his book, Prescription
for Nutritional Healing, says that the following herbs
have proven to be beneficial in treating the symptoms of
hepatitis C: licorice helps control hepatitis, especially
chronic hepatitis, and improves liver function in people with
cirrhosis; black radish contains catechin, a flavonoid, which
has been shown to decrease serum bilirubin levels in people
with all types of acute viral hepatitis; and, red clover
promotes liver cleansing.
of herbal teas are another age-old home remedy used to treat
liver disease and help promote liver cleansing. Some good teas
to try are dandelion, red clover (mentioned above), golden
seal, licorice root, peppermint, spearmint, chamomile and
green tea. Herbal teas are made by placing the prescribed
amount of herbs (usually one or two teaspoons) in a cup or a
teapot and then pour boiling water over the mixture. Cover and
leave for 10-15 minutes, then strain and drink.
Aromatherapy, the fragrance of essential oils found in some
plants has a physical as well as an emotional effect on the
patient by altering hormone production, brain chemistry stress
levels and general metabolism. This has its most significant
impact on the patient’s mood and emotions, and is
experiencing renewed interest in the United States because of
its soothing benefits to the over-stressed mind and body.
is the use of essential oils from plants to enhance general
health and vitality. There are a variety of essential oils
from which to choose, depending on the patient’s needs.
Someone who has difficulty sleeping may choose Chamomile,
which is calming, or Neroli, which has a mildly sedative
property and is recommended for insomnia.
patient who would benefit from stimulation might select
Rosemary for its mildly stimulating properties. It is also
recommended for soothing aches and pains.
benefit of aromatherapy is two-fold. First through the sense
of smell as the vapors from aromatic oils are inhaled. The
aromatic benefit of the oils is released through heat with a
few drops added to a steaming hot bowl of water placed near
enough for the patient to inhale the vapors. Or, several drops
added to a warm bath include not only the benefits of the
vapors, but the oils are absorbed through the skin.
other benefit is through the sense of feel with the
application of essential oils added to carrier oil and
massaged into the body. With massage, the patient experiences
not only therapeutic touch, but gains the added benefit of
inhaling the vapors to further enhance his treatment.
yet another natural treatment option for the Hepatitis C Virus patient is
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This option often includes
a mixture of Chinese herbs, acupuncture, massage and the
practice of Qi Gong (chee gung).
Chinese herb that has shown promise in treating hepatitis is
the bupleuri root also known as Chinese Thoroughwax. The
primary benefit from the herb is found in the root’s
steroid-like molecules and has been found to help in
detoxifying the liver. It may also provide protection from
cirrhosis and works as an anti-inflammatory.
Gong, which literally means “energy work,” is among the
most popular Chinese methods used to promote fitness. The
exercises can help calm the liver through relaxation and
of the advantages of TCM is the theory of communication
between the internal and external organs. Therefore, the
condition of the liver may be reflected in a visible area of
the body. For example, when the liver is sick, fragile nails
may result. The sensory organs that are related to the liver
are the eyes, which may display redness, dryness or vision
impairment, signifying liver dysfunction.
objective of TCM is to restore harmony to the body, mind and
spirit; stressing that it is possible to increase energy
levels, enhance the body’s immunity and possibly longevity.
starting CAM therapies, hepatitis C patients especially should
take into account a powerful observation made by Dr. MaryAnn
O’Hara, a Robert Woods Johnson clinical scholar at the
University of Washington, “Herbs are like other drugs, but
they’re often more diluted and less purified. They’re a
complex mix of chemicals. Any chemical you take that has a
physiologic effect (on body function) is a drug. It’s a
misunderstanding to think herbs are an alternative to
drugs—rather they’re an alternative form of drug.”
new studies of CAM treatments on the horizon, the chronically
ill patient may have safer alternative therapies available in
the future. However, for now, hepatitis patients must proceed
with caution when considering the use of herbal treatments.
CAM offers many benefits for patients with chronic hepatitis,
there may be hazards as well. Before starting any new
treatment, consult your physician for possible interactions
with current prescriptions.
health insurance plans may cover certain CAM therapies, so ask
your physician if he can refer you to a practitioner. Or, you
can refer to Dr. Andrew Weil’s Web site at: www.drweil.com
for a list of practitioners.
you’ve located a practitioner, ask if he has treated other
patients who have been diagnosed with hepatitis C. Having
treated patients with hepatitis A or B is not necessarily a
good indicator that the herbalist is qualified to treat
hepatitis C. To avoid possible interactions, advise the
herbalist of any prescription or over-the-counter medicines
you are taking.
about all costs associated with the treatment plan prescribed,
the duration of the treatments, and, what the expected outcome
of the treatments is. If you develop any adverse side effects,
discontinue the treatment and contact your physician and
some hepatitis patients experience success with herbal
treatments, they may not work for everyone. And, as with any
chronic illness, your physician offers the primary means to
monitor the progress of your disease and should be kept
informed of any therapies you are considering.
communicating to your doctor your decision to use alternative
treatments, he will be better able to help ensure that you
obtain the best treatment for a healthier liver.
– to cleanse the liver and bloodstream.
– to provide anti-inflammatory support.
– to stimulate the lymphatic system and can be used as a
general detoxifying agent.
Root – a bitter herb used to detoxify the liver and
– to stimulate the immune system and encourage the natural
production of interferon.
– to stimulate immunity and act as a blood-detoxifying
agent. This result is achieved from the allicin, a sulpher-containing
compound found in garlic.
Seal – to assist in the healing of the damaged or
inflamed membrane in the gastrointestinal tract.
– to help relieve gall bladder and indigestion problems.
John’s Wort – serves as an antiviral and
antidepressant agent, helps to stimulate bile flow, and,
reduces fluid retention.
following herbs have been reported to cause liver-related
complications, including acute hepatitis, cirrhosis and liver
failure, and should be voided. This is not a comprehensive