Herbs

Certain herbs may ease some symptoms of hepatitis C and help to protect the liver, but there are also herbs which you may want to avoid because they can be toxic to your liver.

Herbs that may be beneficial for people with hepatitis C

This section lists herbs which are safe for people with hepatitis C to consume and also outlines how much evidence there is to support their potential benefits. It is not an exhaustive list, and it only features herbs with some evidence to support their properties.

Milk thistle (Silymarin)

Milk thistle is thought to be an anti-inflammatory that can also help to detoxify your liver. It is seen to have a beneficial effect for people with chronic liver disease because it is an antioxidant. A number of clinical studies have also suggested that it can inhibit the progress of hepatocellular carcinoma.

It is certain that silybinin (the active agent in milk thistle) has properties which can be beneficial for your liver. However there are conflicting opinions about its effectiveness as there is no concrete evidence that conclusively proves its effects.

There is no research that suggests milk thistle can be harmful.

Turmeric

Turmeric is widely used as a spice in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking. A chemical in turmeric called curcumin can be beneficial for the liver.

Studies suggest that turmeric can improve liver function by detoxification. This can occur because curcumin enhances excretion of cholesterol in bile which improves the efficiency of the hepatobiliary system and therefore accelerates the clearance of toxins from the system.

Curcumin has also been seen as inhibiting cell to cell transmission of hepatitis C (regardless of genotype). It does this by affecting membrane fluidity which impairs virus binding and fusion.

There is no research that suggests that turmeric can be harmful.

Dandelion

Dandelion leaf water extract is seen as attenuating oxidative stress and inflammation.

There is no research that suggests dandelion extract can be harmful.

Artichoke

Studies tend to conclude that artichoke can reduce liver toxicity. This is seen as being a result of its quality as an antioxidant.

There is no research that suggests artichoke can be harmful.

Aloe vera juice

Aloe vera juice has antioxidant properties which can reduce oxidative stress and reduce blood sugar levels.

There is no research that suggests that aloe vera juice can be harmful.

Schisandra

Schisandra has been linked to reducing oxidative stress in the liver, although research into its properties is limited.

There is no research that suggests schisandra can be harmful.

Astralagus

There is evidence that astralagus can reduce oxidative stress in the liver, although research into its properties is limited.

There is no evidence that suggests that schisandra can be harmful.

Green tea

Green tea is generally seen as being beneficial for the liver as it contains a high quantity of antioxidants which can have a protective effect.

Several studies support green tea’s therapeutic effects on the liver. A comprehensive analysis of all the evidence to date found that drinking green tea can reduce the risk of developing a variety of liver conditions including hepatocellular carcinoma, cirrhosis and chronic liver disease.

One study suggested that green tea extract could be toxic to the liver but this referred to extract from green tea which can be taken as tablets. There is no evidence that suggests drinking green tea can be harmful.

Chamomile tea

Chamomile tea is linked to lowering blood sugar levels, however it can also thin blood so it should be avoided if you are taking blood thinning drugs.

Toxic herbs

The following herbs have been associated with hepatotoxicity which means they are toxic to the liver. Hepatotoxicity is a chemical-driven cause of liver damage. It is not an exhaustive list, but these are herbs which have been judged as toxic to the liver by academic studies.

  • Black Cohosh
  • Chaparral  (made from the leaves of creosote bush or greasewood)
  • Chinese skullcap
  • Comfrey
  • Distaff thistle (Atractylis gummifera)
  • Germander
  • Greater celandine