What are the most important issues to address in treating Hepatitis C?
There are many important issues to address in treating Hep C, all with the goal of restoring the person’s total health. These include: controlling inflammation anywhere in the body, enhancing the body’s immune response, protecting the liver from any viral damage, eliminating the virus (where possible), and strengthening the detoxification systems of the body.
One must take a holistic approach to addressing Hep C because it attacks the liver, an organ that is responsible for so many crucial body functions. The liver synthesizes proteins, including albumin to help maintain blood volume. It synthesizes, stores and metabolizes fats, including fatty acids- that are used for energy- and cholesterol. It metabolizes and stores carbohydrates, which are converted into sugar in the blood stream that is used by the red blood cells and the brain. It secretes bile acids, which aid in the intestinal absorption of fats and fat soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D and E. It’s also responsible for eliminating most of the potentially harmful chemicals that we ingest, manufacture, or absorb via the processes of metabolism and secretion. The liver performs over 300 known functions; thus, strengthening and assisting these functions is one of the main goals of a proper Hep C treatment.
Are there specific herbs that are known to decrease the viral load?
This is a difficult question because the viral load decreases due to a number of factors working together. There are many herbs that have antiviral properties, but holistic medical practitioners don’t use the herbs allopathically. Therefore, in order to decrease the viral load, you need to use a combination of herbs that accomplish multiple tasks. This process involves rotating herbs that have antiviral properties with herbs that protect the liver (anti-hepatotoxins), hepo-supportives (tonics) herbs that clear stagnation (cholagogues) and immunomodulators. This treatment regimen is the best way to improve the overall immune responses of a person diagnosed with Hep C, thereby lowering the viral load.
On the other hand, there are some cases where the viral load increases temporarily, then decreases, so the lessening of the load is not necessarily the main goal. Some people may have a viral load that is higher than the normal value, but never have any deterioration in their health, whereas others that have a lower load value yet still experience scarring and sometimes develop liver cancer.
While it’s true that some herbs have stronger anti-viral properties, using more of them does not insure success. Being that their effects are non-specific- (like homeopathic remedies) as they mildly inhibit viruses through several mechanisms, I am often hesitant just to list them. The number one goal is always to treat the whole person, not just the disease. That is why I design a formula with several stronger antiviral herbs to be used in rotation with milder antiviral herbs, while using some of the hepo supportive herbs that help eliminate the waste tissue, or immune modulating herbs that help develop a resistance to the virus, and protective herbs that stimulate regeneration and enhance hepatic glutathione. This balanced approach allows for the therapy to be calibrated to the person’s changing symptoms.
Notwithstanding, these are some of the stronger antiviral herbs: Andrographis, Isatis, Wild Ind., and Honesysuckle. Milder antiviral herbs are: Phyllanthus, Hyssop, Oregano, Rosemary, Ground Ivy, Melissa, Polygonum and Thuja. Combined correctly, the herbs work synergistically without stressing the body.
An example of case-specific herb selection is choosing an herb like Prickly Ash in an antiviral formula because it not only has some antiviral properties but also may be needed by someone with sluggish circulation. Using a small amount of this herb can enhance the herbal formula’s effectiveness to the organs and tissue.
In another context, the herb Thuja can be included in a stronger formula balanced with other antivirals if the person also had signs of fungal conditions. The same may be said about the herb Fringe Tree which is known for its antiviral properties as well as stimulating detoxification in a sluggish gall bladder.
What do you counsel about diet?
Diet is a key part of the treatment program. Everything we eat has to go through the process of being broken down and utilized. Digestion, absorption and elimination are all crucial to liver health. You can ingest the healthiest foods, supplements, and herbs, but if they pass undigested through the alimentary canal, they offer little or no benefit. If digestion is good, absorption in the small intestine is usually effective as well.
If the person is not processing his/her nutrients, they could be reabsorbing metabolic waste, not creating healthier tissue, and thus re-circulating the viral cells.
I start many cases by having the person start eating more fresh herbs (not dried) with anti-viral properties in their foods and switch out fruit juices for teas. Some examples of these herbs are: basil, garlic, onions, ginger, licorice root, thyme, turmeric, oregano, and rosemary. For teas I suggest drinking teas using lemon balm, elderberry, green, red and white teas, dandelion root, and chicory. I advise adding some Milk thistle and turmeric capsules as well in stronger standardized formulas as part of a vitamin protocol.
There are a myriad of cooking spices that have antiviral activities and enhance digestion. If a person needs more digestive “fire”, we use more warming spices like ginger. If the person has too much acid, we will use more carminative herbs like licorice root instead.
Dietary supplements are also used when necessary to assist the body when it is unable or unwilling to make the dietary accommodations necessary to support the liver.
What kind of mistakes might a homeopath make in treating Hep C?
Viruses are tricky; they adapt and then come back when the system is stressed. I get many cases where people previously tried homeopathy and had no results. In almost all of those cases, they were given dry homeopathic doses, starting with one potency, and then moving up into more dry doses. Some started with an LM in water and some have started with poly pharmacy.
I typically use the low doses of the X potencies when I want to “dredge” the liver for drainage or to break up scar tissue. I use the higher doses when there is pain and inflammation and repeat the lower dosages of the remedies if the person has had Hepatitis for many years. In between the low and high dose homeopathics, I choose inter-current, miasmatic remedies.
I also always advocate using the homeopathics in water. By succussing the remedies before using them, the potency changes slightly with each dose. I change remedies when the case calls for it.
I have had the blessing of learning from a plethora of wonderful teachers, each with his own methodology. All had successes, and all had failures, as well as wisdom gained from those experiences. That is one of the reasons why I try not to get stuck into one system of prescribing. One size does not fit all. Again, I think the biggest mistake is NOT treating each person’s individual case uniquely. It’s crucial to perceive what is going on in the case at hand, in order to stimulate the systems where needed and then neutralizing the overreactions of the body when needed. A person’s specific symptoms and blood work tell a story, as does their diet and responses to stress. It is critical in any treatment to focus on lessening the stressors, whether they are from food, drugs, or other environmental factors. I also tell my patients to spend less time on the Internet researching their disease and more time living their life. A person with Hep C should not just become stigmatized and enslaved, but should continue functioning as best they can, as this too can aid in the healing process.
My general advice concerning Hep C is that, due to the complexity of the disease- including its ability to cause additional damage if not treated properly- it’s better to let experienced practitioners handle these cases.
How long might it take for lab tests to show improvement?
If it is an active case with pain and inflammation, the person should have relief of symptoms within weeks.
In cases where there are not a lot of symptoms, three to six months after starting the protocol is a good time to retest and do a follow up session to adjust the remedies. If there is scarring, or other forms of inflammation, the results are typically seen more slowly, but the person will likely notice other improvements in energy, sleep, digestion and elimination.
What constitutes a successful outcome in a Hep C case?
The most successful outcome would be a “sustained virologic response,” which simply means that the virus remains undetectable in your blood 6 months or more after you are finished with the program. Then I would prescribe a constitutional remedy and work toward prevention. If symptoms have improved, a good program can leave them less susceptible to external factors in the future and regenerate the liver’s functions.
If the person still has the virus, in a very advanced case, then success would be prevention of cancer. With proper diagnoses, Phase I and Phase II detoxification can be enhanced and the condition of the blood work improved. Of course, good liver function is dependent on the person’s age, ethnicity, gender, drug or alcohol use, smoking, hypoxia, other diseases, and how someone metabolizes foods and chemicals.
All of these outcomes are preferable to using only pharmaceutical drugs, which suppress the disease without curing it and can lead to many serious side effects. That is why I highly recommend a Hep C program that includes all of the protocols that I mentioned above: properly prescribed herbs and homeopathics, as well as diet changes.