Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.
An estimated 3.2 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C, a contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus. What is particularly worrisome about this disease is that most people do not have any symptoms until the virus has caused liver damage, which can take 10 years or more. Conventional medical therapies are available, but still, some people with hepatitis C try complementary health approaches, such as dietary supplements. In fact, we know from the HALT-C study, an NIH-sponsored clinical trial, that 23 percent of the study participants were using herbal products—the most common of which was silymarin (milk thistle).
What we know from current research is that no dietary supplement has been shown to be effective for hepatitis C or its complications. NCCAM’s Web site has information on what the science says about dietary supplements, such as milk thistle, probiotics, zinc, and other supplements, for hepatitis C.
If you or a loved one has hepatitis C, I encourage you to take a look at this information. Get the facts on the research so you can be an informed consumer. And be sure to talk with your health care provider before using any dietary supplement to make certain that it is safe for you and compatible with any medical treatment you are receiving. Take care, and as always, be well!