Hep C and Supplements: Help or Hurt?
The findings from early studies in mice suggest that licorice root, part of many Chinese herbal remedies, can slow the growth of liver cancer, which can happen to people with hep C. No studies have shown clear benefits for people, though. Also, the active ingredient in licorice root, glycyrrhizin, can raise blood pressure, among other harmful effects.
Not only is this compound unhelpful if you have hepatitis C, it can actually be harmful. It's made of small particles of silver floating in liquid. It can cause lasting side effects, including a skin condition called argyria (when your skin turns blue). It can also keep some medicines from working and cause kidney, liver, and nerve problems.
St. John’s Wort
Better known as a treatment for depression, this herb can make some hepatitis C medications stop working, says Douglas Dieterich, MD, professor at Mt. Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine in New York City. There’s no firm evidence that the supplement harms the liver, but Dieterich says it’s best to avoid it, especially when you’re trying new hep C drugs.
It's best to get your vitamins and minerals from your diet, one that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, Prasad says. Still, some new evidence shows that certain vitamins may help people with hep C. Vitamins B12 and D, for example, may make some standard hepatitis drugs work better.
When you’re thinking of taking a dietary or herbal supplement, remember that the government doesn’t regulate them in the same way as drugs and food. Ingredients and dosing can be misleading. Make sure any products you buy have "GMP" or "Good Manufacturing Practice" on the label.