If you're looking for ways to treat hepatitis C, you have more choices than ever before, including antiviral medicines that cure the disease. But some people turn to complementary treatments to help relieve symptoms or because their current medicine isn't working for them.

Before you try any complementary or alternative treatment, like herbal remedies, ask your doctor if it's safe. And be sure to find out what dose to take.

Some studies show a few herbal remedies may have promise against hepatitis C, but so far none of them has been proven to work. And some alternative treatments can lead to liver damage or cause problems with other drugs you take.

Silymarin

This extract of the milk thistle plant is the most popular herbal remedy for hepatitis C. Some people use it to bring down inflammation and remove toxins from the liver.

In animal and cell studies, silymarin blocked the hepatitis C virus and protected the liver from damage. But research in people hasn't been as positive. In one study of nearly 400 people with hepatitis C, it didn't improve liver function or reduce levels of the virus.

How you take silymarin could matter. There's some evidence that it has antiviral effects when a doctor puts it in your vein with an IV.

Side effects of silymarin are usually mild, such as:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach

Green Tea Extract

It contains antioxidants called catechins that may help protect liver cells from damage. Some of these catechins may help block the hepatitis C virus from infecting the liver and help prevent liver cancer. 

Drinking green tea in moderation appears to be safe, but there have been reports of liver damage in people who took supplements. Green tea extract is an ingredient in many popular weight loss products, some of which have been linked to liver failure.

Naringenin

This natural compound gives grapefruit its bitter taste. It may work to help reduce inflammation.

In lab studies, naringenin helped block the hepatitis C virus from infecting new cells. Whether it's a useful treatment for hepatitis C is still not clear.

Glycyrrhizin

This licorice root extract has been part of Chinese and Middle Eastern medicine for centuries. More recently, it's been studied as a treatment for chronic hepatitis C. Glycyrrhizin has anti-inflammatory and antiviral effects, and it may help protect against liver cancer.

In studies, people took glycyrrhizin through a vein. The licorice root supplements you take by mouth may not be as helpful.

Also, this treatment can cause side effects like high blood pressure, low potassium levels, and an irregular heartbeat. It could be dangerous for people with conditions like heart disease, kidney failure, or diabetes.

Colloidal Silver

Colloidal silver contains the same metal found in earrings or tableware, only it's suspended in water.

It's been promoted as a hepatitis C treatment, but there's no evidence that it works. It's not a safe alternative. It can cause permanent, serious side effects, including argyria -- a bluish color to your skin, eyes, and organs.

Zinc

This element is essential for many bodily functions, including a healthy liver. Zinc levels often drop as your hepatitis C gets worse. Some research suggests zinc supplements might help protect the liver from damage and prevent liver cancer.

Zinc can cause side effects like:

  • Stomach upset
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache

Vitamin D

It's common for people with hepatitis C to have low levels of vitamin D in their blood. Along with keeping your bones strong, this vitamin helps your body fight off the virus. People who are low in vitamin D are more likely to have severe liver scarring.

Your doctor can do a blood test to check your vitamin D level. If it's low, taking a supplement can bring it up to normal, though research doesn't show that it helps improve how well standard hepatitis C treatment works.

Turmeric

This spice gives curry powder its vibrant yellow color. In supplement form, some people use turmeric to treat a number of health conditions, from arthritis to stomach ailments. 

In lab studies, curcumin stopped the hepatitis C virus from copying itself. It might also help clear toxins from the liver. More research is needed to confirm whether it's useful as a treatment for hepatitis C.

Ginseng

Some studies suggest this herb protects the liver against the effects of disease and injury. But there is some serious concern about its safety for your liver.

One worry is that ginseng could damage the liver if you take it at the same time as certain other medicines, such as:

  • Imatinib (Gleevec)
  • Raltegravir (Isentress)

Before you use ginseng, discuss it with your doctor and go over your whole list of medications with him.

Herbal Remedies to Avoid

Some herbal supplements are dangerous for people with hepatitis C because they cause liver damage. These include:

  • Artemesia
  • Atractylis gummifera
  • Bush tea
  • Comfrey
  • Gordolobo herbal tea
  • Jin Bu Huan
  • Kava
  • Kombucha
  • Ma huang
  • Mistletoe
  • Sassafras
  • Skullcap
  • Valerian root

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