Hepatitis C is an infectious disease of the liver caused by hepatitis C virus. Around 170 million people world-wide are chronically infected with this virus. The infection is associated with severe sequelae such as liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, or liver failure. Herbal medicines have been used for treating hepatitis C. This systematic review evaluates the effects of herbal medicines for treating acute and chronic hepatitis C infection.
Ten different herbal medicines were tested in ten randomised trials in patients with chronic hepatitis C. The present systematic review found no significant antiviral effect of the herbal medicines when compared with placebo, but the data suggest that some herbal medicines in combination with interferon may have effects on the clearance of HCV RNA and on normalisation of liver enzymes. However, there is no strong evidence for any efficacy of these medicinal herbs for chronic hepatitis C due to the fact that most positive effects came from clinical trials with low methodological quality. Medicinal herbs for hepatitis C virus infection should not be used outside well-designed, randomised clinical trials.