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Blueberry leaves can fight hepatitis C

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Blueberry leaves

Results of a new study show the blueberry leaves can help fight against hepatitis C. The leaves of blueberry contain a powerful compound that prevents the virus from reproducing. Hepatitis C affects 200 million people worldwide, and can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer, and death.

Researchers Hiroaki Kataoka and colleagues at the University of Miyazaki and elsewhere in Japan found that a particular type of blueberry found in the southeastern regions of the US strongly suppressed replication of the hepatitis C virus. The study was implemented to find better treatment options for individuals who suffer with the disease. Cases of hepatitis C are prevalent in southern Japan, and the scientists wanted to find out if a supplement might offer some help.

Current treatments for hepatitis C are only sixty percent effective and have side effects that can be intolerable to many patients. There is no cure. The disease worsens over time.

Not all individuals with hepatitis C need treatment. If you have few symptoms, and blood work shows only milk liver abnormalities, treatment for hepatitis C may not be recommended. Common medications used to treat the virus include once a week injections of a drug called pegylated interferon alfa, in addition to the antiviral drug ribavirin (Rebetol), taken twice daily by mouth. Success of the treatment for clearing hepatitis C from the bloodstream varies, depending on the type of virus. There is no assurance with treatment regarding outcome.

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Medications used to treat hepatitis C can be harsh. Side effects of injections include depression, insomnia, lack of concentration, fatigue, skin problems and symptoms that mimic flu. The oral antiviral drug ribavirin can cause anemia, birth defects, fatigue, and itching. S liver transplant is not a cure for hepatitis C. The virus can recur, and the risk of cirrhosis is high. There is a vaccine for hepatitis A and B, but no vaccine exists for hepatitis C.

Lifestyle factors that can help halt the progression of hepatitis C include avoiding alcohol, rest, a healthy diet, drinking plenty of fluids, and avoidance of medications that are broken down by the liver for excretion, such as acetaminophen and cholesterol lowering drugs. Hepatitis C is transmitted from body fluids including blood and semen. Recent increases in the disease are through to be the result of contaminated drug paraphernalia, including sharing of straws for cocaine use. Unsterile needles, surgical equipment, and tattooing needles can spread hepatitis C.

The new study shows much promise, given the difficulty of treating hepatitis C. The researchers found that purifying the chemical compound proanthocyandin, found in blueberry leaves could provide a safe and effective supplement to help fight hepatitis C.

Proanthocyandin can be toxic, but the scientists found that the chemical found in blueberry leaves and other plants stopped replication of the hepatitis C virus at 100 times less than levels that would harm. More studies are planned to find out how blueberry leaves stop the hepatitis C virus from replicating.

Source: JBC.org