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New Herbal Compound Inhibits the Hepatitis C Virus

Nicole Cutler L.Ac. May 15, 2014

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SBEL1 is a Chinese herbal extract showing great potency against the Hepatitis C virus. In addition, this compound may be paving the way for integrative Hepatitis C treatment.

With an estimated 150 million people chronically infected with the Hepatitis C virus, the stakes for developing a cure are high. In hopes of being first to defeat the Hepatitis C virus, most pharmaceutical companies have ignored the potential of herbal medicine. However, a presentation at the International Liver Congress in April 2014 put Chinese Herbal Medicine in the spotlight for having a chance of successfully treating Hepatitis C.

Evolved over thousands of years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complete system of healthcare that includes a complex, highly evolved, therapeutic herbal component. In TCM theory, the Hepatitis C virus is traditionally considered to be a hot, toxic pathogen. As such, the Chinese Herbal Medicine treatment approach focuses on herbs known to clear heat and toxins. Although several Chinese herbal formulas have been used by TCM practitioners to help clients with Hepatitis C, the general population has not recognized the antiviral potential of Chinese herbs.

The European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) attracts the foremost hepatology experts as members and has an impressive track record in promoting research in liver disease, supporting education and promoting changes in liver health policy. At the April 2014 EASL meeting in London, Markus Peck-Radosavljevic, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Vice-Chairman at the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the Medizinische Universität Wien (MedUniWien) in Austria presented a study that a Chinese herbal extract demonstrated great potential for treating the Hepatitis C virus.

According to the Austrian researchers, SBEL1, a compound derived from a plant used in Chinese Herbal Medicine demonstrated activity against Hepatitis C viral replication in human liver cells. Based on their data:

  • SBEL1 inhibited Hepatitis C activity at several different points in the virus’ lifecycle.
  • SBEL1 was found to inhibit Hepatitis C activity by approximately 90 percent.

Unfortunately, the etiology of SBEL1 has not yet been revealed, except that it is a compound isolated from a Chinese herb:

  • Found in certain regions of Taiwan and Southern China.
  • Traditionally used to treat sore throats and inflammation.

In the Austrian study, scientists pre-treated human liver cells in vitro with SBEL1 prior to Hepatitis C infection. They found that SBEL1 pre-treated cells contained 23 percent less Hepatitis C protein than the control, suggesting that SBEL1 blocks virus entry. This indicates the herb contains a protective property. In addition:

  • SBEL1 was also found to inhibit IRES-mediated translation, a critical process for Hepatitis C viral protein production.
  • SBEL1 also impairs the viral RNA replication process.

As we hope for further research with this Chinese herbal constituent and eagerly await finding out what herb contains SBEL1, we are left with incomplete – yet encouraging news. Nonetheless, the capacity demonstrated by SBEL1 is on par with some of the most hopeful Hepatitis C drugs.

Finding out an herb that clears heat and toxins inhibits Hepatitis C viral replication in lab tests is not surprising to practitioners of TCM, but this research could be the beginning of greater acceptance of Chinese Herbal Medicine into the mainstream. Taking this information one step further, Peck-Radosavljevic’s poster may even convince a major pharmaceutical company to incorporate a potent herbal extract into an antiviral medication for a first-of-its-kind, integrative medicine Hepatitis C trial.

http://www.easl.eu/_about-easl, About EASL, Retrieved April 20, 2014, EASL, 2014.

http://www.hivandhepatitis.net/hepatitis-c/hepatitis-c-topics/hcv-treatment/438,632-hcv-alternative-complementary-therapy/4630-easl-2014-chinese-herbal-compound-inhibits-hepatitis-c-virus-replication, EASL 2014: Chinese Herbal Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C, Retrieved April 20, 2014, hivandhepatitis.com, 2014.

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