Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by a virus. It is usually chronic (long-lasting), but most people do not have any symptoms until the virus causes liver damage, which can take 10 or more years to happen. Without medical treatment, chronic hepatitis C can eventually cause liver cancer or liver failure. Conventional medical treatments are available for chronic hepatitis C. Some people with hepatitis C also try complementary health approaches, especially dietary supplements.
If you are considering any dietary supplement for hepatitis C, here are some things you should know.
- No dietary supplement has been shown to be effective for hepatitis C or its complications.
- The results of research supported by the National Institutes of Health have shown that silymarin, the active extract of milk thistle and the most popular complementary health product taken by people with liver disease, was no more effective than placebo in people with hepatitis C.
- Research on other dietary supplements for hepatitis C, such as zinc, licorice root (or its extract glycyrrhizin), SAMe, and lactoferrin, is in its early stages, and no firm conclusions can be reached about the potential effectiveness of these supplements.
- Colloidal silver is sometimes promoted for treating hepatitis C, but is not safe. Colloidal silver can cause irreversible side effects, including a permanent bluish discoloration of the skin.
- Check with your health care provider before using any dietary supplement to make sure that it is safe for you and compatible with any medical treatment that you are receiving for hepatitis C or any other health problem.