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Case Study Suggests Milk Thistle Is Potent Against Hep C

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Although merely a single case study, evidence for milk thistle (in the right combination, extract and administration method) confirms this herb’s place in Hepatitis C treatment programs.

For centuries, milk thistle has been the leading herbal remedy for liver ailments. Milk thistle is the most recommended natural supplement for helping those with chronic Hepatitis C (and other liver diseases) to ward off advancing illness. A majority of the hundreds of studies on milk thistle and liver health have documented this herb’s beneficial properties. Nonetheless, poor study designs, a lack of quality uniformity and resistance from pockets of the medical community has interfered with milk thistle’s recognition in mainstream medicine. Learn about the top milk thistle supplements.

However, a 2015 published case study gives the Hepatitis C community more reason to honor milk thistle, the traditional herbal solution for liver problems.

With the relatively recent approval of interferon-free, Hepatitis C drug therapy regimens, the pharmaceutical industry is making enormous strides against this challenging viral infection of the liver. In fact, more people than ever are finding themselves “cured” of Hepatitis C. The progress is encouraging, but is not finite. There are still people who do not respond to the new drug regimens, who can’t afford or tolerate the medications, or are not candidates for the new direct-acting antiviral drugs. In addition, healthcare providers expect to see some level of Hepatitis C drug resistance development in the not-so-distant future. For all of these reasons, consideration of more natural treatment routes remains in contention.

Case Study in Liver International

The case study being reviewed was published in a February 2015 edition of the journal Liver International. The US-based study evaluated intravenous silibinin in a 44-year-old woman with Hepatitis C genotype 1 who developed a severe psychiatric adverse reaction to a previous course of pegylated interferon and ribavirin (the antiquated standard of care for Hepatitis C). The experimental treatment consisted of combing the following:

  • 1,200 mg/day of silibinin
  • 1,200 mg/day of ribavirin
  • 6,000 iu/day of Vitamin D

After the first three weeks of treatment, the patient’s viral load led to a prediction of achieving a sustained virologic response (the measurement correlated with a cure) in 34 weeks. Provided with this information, the patient agreed to complete 34 weeks of treatment and was rewarded with a sustained virologic response – without any adverse reactions. The authors concluded that silibinin-based therapy is a treatment option for patients who do not respond to or cannot receive other Hepatitis C drugs.

3 Important Aspects of this Case Study

In the Western medical model, one case study is insufficient for declaring a treatment successful. However, this singular case study reminds us that when properly prepared and administered, herbs can be powerful medicine. Several important aspects of this case include:

  1. The part of milk thistle studied – The entire milk thistle plant was not used in this study but, rather, its most potent component, silibinin (also called silibin or silybin). The entire active part of the milk thistle plant is derived from its seeds and is know as silymarin. However, silymarin can be further broken down into its components. According to most research, silibinin is milk thistle’s most active component and is responsible for the majority of its therapeutic benefits. Natural Wellness’ UltraThistle® uses silybin for its 360mg of the active ingredient Silybin Phytosome® (Siliphos®).
  2. Milk thistle’s delivery method – One of the characteristics of milk thistle that has hindered many studies is its low absorbability. To bypass the challenge of milk thistle’s absorbability, the case study relied on its intravenous administration. In Europe, silibinin is given by intravenous infusion as the only effective antidote for Amanita phalloides, a mushroom toxin that causes deadly liver failure. For silibinin to be effective orally, it is available in a phytosome form that increases its absorbability up to ten-fold.
  3. Not a solitary injection – In this example, silibinin was administered together with ribavirin (an antiviral medication) and Vitamin D. Ribavirin is not a monotherapy and must be combined with other medications to treat Hepatitis C. Vitamin D has been shown to be low in people with chronic Hepatitis C. (Natural Wellness’ Vitamin D3 is the natural and more effective form of Vitamin D.) Thus, this woman’s “cure” was a result of combining silibinin with ribavirin and Vitamin D.

There are no claims that milk thistle is an approved treatment for Hepatitis C. However, this case study reminds us that more natural options can be effective at helping to conquer this liver virus. Furthermore, intravenous silibinin or oral silybin phytosome represents valid approaches to support anyone attempting to win the battle over Hepatitis C.

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/milkthistle/Patient/page2, Milk Thistle (PDQ®), Retrieved April 12, 2015, National Cancer Institute, 2015.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21605016, Treatment of hepatitis C-virus-reinfection after liver transplant with silibinin in nonresponders to pegylated interferon-based therapy, Eurich D, et al, Retrieved April 12, 2015, Experimental and Clinical Transplantation, February 2011.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25251042, Sustained virological response with intravenous silibinin: individualized IFN-free therapy via real-time modelling of HCV kinetics, Dahari H, et al, Retrieved April 12, 2015, Liver International, February 2015.

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