A Potentially Deadly Epidemic That’s Not in the News
We often don’t think about the liver until we develop a condition that weakens it. Yet, the liver is one of your most powerful organs in the fight against toxic environmental and dietary compounds. The liver definitely earns its keep. It is the largest organ in the human body and has over 500 known functions, including synthesizing proteins, producing bile, detoxifying drugs, producing cholesterol, maintaining healthy glucose levels in the blood, and storing minerals and vitamins. When the liver isn’t working properly, such as with hepatitis, it can have disastrous effects on your overall health.
Hepatitis C is occurring at epidemic proportions with an estimated 3.9 million people infected in the USA””4 times as many as are infected with HIV. Worldwide, there are an estimated 170 million people with hepatitis C, with a reported 8,000-10,000 deaths per year, and mortality is expected to triple by 2010. Hepatitis increases the risk of death from liver disease 17-fold and increases the risk of death from liver cancer by 6-fold.1
Luckily, a number of natural compounds have been studied for their ability to support the liver when it is exposed to a viral attack. Take glycyrrhizin””the primary active component of Glycyrrhiza glabra root””for example. Glycyrrhizin has been used in Japan for more than 20 years orally and as the intravenous drug Stronger Neo-Minophagen C (SNMC). Oral glycyrrhizin is metabolized in the intestine to a compound called glycyrrhetinic acid (GA) and intravenous glycyrrhizin is metabolized into glycyrrhetinic acid when excreted through the bile into the intestines. Glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhetinic acid have both been tested against Hepatitis A, B, C””with some interesting results.2-6
The studies, which used the intravenous form of glycyrrhizin, showed that this compound can lower levels of an liver enzyme known as ALT, high levels of which are the best predictor with respect to later development of liver cancer.2 What’s more, scientists found that after following subjects for 15 years the incidence of cirrhosis of the liver was 21 percent in the glycyrrhizin group compared to 37 percent in the control group. Liver cancer incidence after 15 years was 12 percent in the glycyrrhizin group and 25 percent in the control group.3 Glycyrrhizin also inactivates viruses and inhibits viral proliferation and selectively inhibits an immune system process that can lead to inflammation. It also protects liver cells from injury.5-6
Glycyrrhizin may pack even more power when it is teamed up with Phlyllanthus, which also has strong antiviral capabilities. Over 20 randomized trials have revealed that this herb is as effective as interferon (a class of naturally-occurring immune proteins that are critical to the antiviral process) in maintaining the health of chronic hepatitis B patients and that it can normalize the liver enzyme ALT.7
Finally, because many people with hepatitis are co-infected with bacteria and fungi, no liver protective regimen would be complete without monolaurin””a natural component of human breast milk that’s known to increase certain virus’s vulnerability to attack by immune cells.8 In-vitro evidence suggests that monolaurin may also support the health of individuals with herpes, HIV and HPV, just to name a few.
1. Patrick L. Hepatitis C: Epidemiology and review of complementary/alternative medicine treatments. Alt Med Rev. 1999;4(4):220-221.
2. Iino S, Tango T, Matsushima T et al. Therapeutic effects of stronger neo-minopahgen C at different doses on chronic hepatitis and liver cirrhosis. Hepatol Res. 2001;19:31-40.
3. Kumada H. Long-term treatment of chronic hepatitis C with glycyrrhizin [Stronger Neo-Minophagen C (SNMC)] for preventing liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Oncol 2002;62(suppl):94-100.
4. Okuno T, Arai K, Shindo M. Efficacy of interferon combined glycyrrhizin therapy in patients with chronic hepatitis C resistant to interferon therapy. Nippon Rinsho. 2004;52(7): 1823-7.
5. Fiore C, Eisnhut M, Krausse R et al. Antiviral effect of Glycyrrhiza species. Phytother Res 2008;22:141-148.
6. Numazaki K. Glycyrrhizin therapy for viral infections. African J Biotech. 2003;2(10):392-393.
7. Liu J, Lin H, McIntosh H. Genus Phyllanthus for chronic hepatitis B virus infection: a systematic review. J Viral Hepat. 2001;8:358-366.
8. Lieberman S, Enig MG, Preuss HG. A review of monolaurin and lauric acid: natural virucidal and bactericidal agents. Alternative & Complementary Therapies. 2006;12(6):310-314.