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Chinese Herbs Boost Hepatitis B Treatment

Herbs Plus Interferon Helps Clear the Body of Hepatitis B

WebMD Health News

Oct. 1, 2002 -- Combining elements of Western and traditional Chinese herbal medicine may help rid the body of the hepatitis B virus, according to a new study.

If untreated, chronic hepatitis B infection increases the risk of liver cancer and liver failure. The drug interferon alpha is the mainstay of hepatitis B treatment, but many patients fail to respond. This has prompted a search for effective alternative therapies.

Researchers looked at results of 27 studies on people with hepatitis B who took Chinese herbs alone or in combination with interferon and compared them with others who took only interferon. They saw the best results with the combination of herbs and interferon.

Overall, researchers found the combination of Chinese herbal medicine and interferon was up to two times more effective at reducing the level of the hepatitis B virus to nearly undetectable levels.

In particular, researcher Michael McCulloch says in a news release, herbs with the active ingredients bufotoxin or kurorinone showed the most promise and merit more study. The study appears in the Oct. 1 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

"The results are encouraging enough, that if I had hepatitis B and had previously failed interferon treatment, I would talk to my doctor about combining interferon with Chinese herbal medicine," says McCulloch, a doctoral student in epidemiology at the school of public health at the University of California, Berkeley.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 350 million people have the chronic form of hepatitis B, and about 75% of those live in Asia.

"There is a wealth of information about hepatitis B from researchers in Asia because the disease is endemic in that part of the world, but accessing that information has been -- and still is -- difficult because few of these studies are published in English-language journals," says McCulloch.

Although the quality of many of these studies was poor, researchers say more clinical trials on the subject are justified due to the need for effective, alternative treatments for hepatitis B.

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