Are There Alternative Therapies for the Treatment of Hepatitis C?
Many people who have Hepatitis C choose to follow an alternative method of treatment due to the side effects and dissatisfaction with current medical therapy. Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is chosen as a means of treatment most commonly to boost the immune system, slow disease progression and improve quality of life.
The best CAM route in the treatment of Hepatitis C appears to be the approach that focuses on protecting and supporting the liver and keeping the immune system healthy. Because Hepatitis C cannot be completely cured by pharmaceutical or natural methods of treatment, combining the two is the choice many people make in order to optimize their health.
Some of the preferred alternative therapies for Hepatitis C include:
- Milk Thistle - The most popular CAM strategy chosen for treating Hepatitis C is the use of single herbal remedies – namely, milk thistle which is the most well researched and supported supplement to aid in liver health. Silymarin, milk thistle’s active ingredient, is an antioxidant, hepatoprotectant, and anti-inflammatory. Silymarin also stimulates growth of new liver cells. Silymarin has been used to treat alcoholic liver disease, acute and chronic viral hepatitis and toxin-induced liver diseases. Results of clinical trials and systematic reviews of silymarin use show high efficacy of the drug in patients with viral hepatitis. Recently shown to inhibit Hepatitis C virus infection, both in vitro (an isolated organism within glass) and in vivo (using a whole, living organism), silymarin’s antivirus action blocked cell-to-cell spread of the virus including blocking of virus entry and transmission. Studies done as recently as June, 2011, prove that silymarin, combined with interferon proves to be an effective option to treat Hepatitis C infection. Other herbal remedies include lecithin, Eclipta alba, schizandra and licorice root. Just as there are beneficial herbs to treat Hepatitis C, it is important to note that there are certain herbs and supplements that can harm the liver such as skullcap, kava kava, vitamin A, ephedra (mahuang), and comfrey.
- Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine – Based on an ancient Indian medical theory wherein it is believed there are five elements – fire, water, earth, air and ether. Each has a counterpart in the elements that define the health of the human body. These bodily elements join to produce the three doshas (humors): vita, pitta and kapha. Healing is achieved by balancing the three doshas. The taste of an herb determines its healing properties – tastes being sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, or astringent.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – Also incorporates five elements – fire, earth, metal, water and wood with its own complement in the body and is also based upon taste. The taste of an herb determines its action on the body. Herbs without a distinct taste are categorized as bland. Temperature is also an indicator of herb action. TCM divides medicinal plants into hot, warm, neutral, cool and cold herbs. The aim of TCM is to achieve health through achieving balance, just as is the aim of Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine. Therefore, the concept of two complementary energies, yin and yang, is ascribed to many foods and herbs. In an attempt to restore balance of elements, tastes, temperature and yin and yang, complex herbal mixtures are prescribed by TCM practitioners.
- Massage – Recognized as one of the oldest methods of healing with references in medical texts going back as long ago as 4,000 years. Also referred to as bodywork or somatic therapy, massage therapy refers to the application of various techniques to the muscular structure and soft tissues of the body that include applying fixed or movable pressure, holding, vibration, rocking, friction, kneading and compression using primarily the hands, although massage therapists do use other areas of the body, such as the forearms, elbows or feet. All of the techniques are used for the benefit of the musculoskeletal, circulatory-lymphatic, nervous, and other systems of the body. It has been shown that massage therapy positively influences the overall health and well-being of the client:
- Antioxidants - Antioxidants are substances that may protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Free radical damage may lead to diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants interact with and stabilize free radicals and may prevent some of the damage free radicals might otherwise cause. Examples of antioxidants include milk thiste, n-acetyl l-cysteine, alpha r-lipoic acid, beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamins C, E, and A, as well as other substances.
- Acupuncture – Originating in China over 5000 years ago, acupuncture is a component of Chinese Traditional Medicine or Oriental Medicine. The aim of acupuncture is to restore and maintain health through the stimulation of specific points of the body by inserting thin, solid, metallic needles through the skin which then are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation. Acupuncture is based on the belief that living beings have a vital energy, called "qi", that circulates through twelve invisible energy lines known as meridians on the body. Each meridian is associated with a different organ system. An imbalance in the flow of qi throughout a meridian is how disease begins, therefore, adjusting qi through acupuncture, helps the body heal itself.
For those interested in learning more about liver supporting natural supplements, visit LiverSupport.com.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Hepatitis C, FAQs for Health Professionals” http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HCV/HCVfaq.htm#section1 Retrieved October 28, 2011
HCV Advocate “A Guide to Hepatitis C Treatment Side Effect Management” http://www.hcvadvocate.org/hepatitis/factsheets_pdf/Treatment_Side_effect_Guide.pdf Retrieved October 28, 2011
Hepatitis-Central.com “Hepatitis C Progress Hampered by Re-Infection and Superinfection” http://www.hepatitis-central.com/mt/archives/2009/05/hepatitis_c_pro_1.html Retrieved October 28, 2011
HIVand Hepatitis.com “Telaprevir Plus Standard Therapy Can Produce Hepatitis C Cure in Less Time” http://www.hivandhepatitis.com/hepatitis-c/hepatitis-c-topics/hcv-treatment/3235-telaprevir-plus-standard-therapy-can-produce-hepatitis-c-cure-in-less-time Retrieved October 28, 2011
Journal of General Virology “Hepatitis C virus superinfection of liver grafts: a detailed analysis of early exclusion of non-dominant virus strains” http://vir.sgmjournals.org/content/91/5/1183.short Retrieved October 28, 2011
Massage Today “What is Massage?” http://www.massagetoday.com/aboutmt/ Retrieved October 28, 2011
Mayo Clinic “Hepatitis C” http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hepatitis-c/DS00097 Retrieved October 28, 2011
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Official Journal of the International Aids Society “Sexually Transmitted Hepatitis C Virus Superinfection in HIV/Hepatitis C Virus co-infected men Who Have Sex With Men” http://journals.lww.com/aidsonline/fulltext/2008/03120/sexually_transmitted_hepatitis_c_virus.16.aspx Retrieved October 28, 2011
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U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health “Multiple effects of silymarin on the hepatitis C virus lifecycle” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=multiple%20effects%20of%20silymarin%20on%20the%20hepatitis%20c%20virus%20lifecycle Retrieved October 28, 2011
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