CURE FOR HEPATITIS B? "If you contract hepatitis B, don't call your doctor, call your travel agent.".

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Natural cure for hepatitis B?

CURE FOR HEPATITIS B? "If you contract hepatitis B, don't call your doctor, call your travel agent."

Hepatitis B infection has reached epidemic proportions in much of the world, and has become a serious problem in the U.S. as well. Immunization programs have been implemented and urged for nearly all high-risk groups, including health care workers. The potentially fatal liver disease, also referred to as "serum hepatitis," has long been considered to be a permanent infection. Survivors of the acute phase of the disease carry the virus for life and can have recurring bouts of illness when their resistance is reduced. They can also infect others, although, like AIDS, hepatitis B is a blood-borne disease, not easily transmitted by casual contact.

For over 2,000 years, plants of the genus Phyllanthus have been used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine to treat liver disease, including jaundice. The plants have also been used in China, the Philippines, Cuba, Nigeria, Guam, East and West Africa, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Modern research on the plant has been under way for over a decade.

Research conducted in India has shown that Phyllanthus amarus can effectively eliminate the virus from the body in 59% of cases treated. The clinical research, reported in the prestigious British journal Lancet, is coauthored by Nobel Laureate B. S. Blumberg, Ph.D. Dr. Blumberg received his Nobel prize for discovery of the hepatitis B virus and development of the blood test used to detect it.

In this clinical trial, 78 patients were selected, all careers of the virus. Within the group, 28 were symptom-free carders, while others had active, chronic liver disease. Treatment consisted of 200 mg of dried, powdered Phyllanthus herb (the whole plant, minus roots) in capsules, taken three times per day for 30 days. Lactose was used as a placebo. Both treated and placebo groups returned to the clinic for testing and interviews for at least three months, and some had been followed for nine months at the time of publication of the study. By the first follow-up visit, 59% of the treated subjects had no detectable antibodies to the virus, indicating the absence of virus in the body. Only 4% of the placebo group had become seronegative for hepatitis B virus. In no case has the antibody returned in any of the patients who were successfully treated with Phyllanthus. After follow-up, only one of the placebo-treated subjects remained virus-free. No toxicity or side effects could be attributed to the drug (or the placebo). This is confirmed by absence of toxicity in animal studies which preceded the clinical tests.

As we have noted many times in HerbalGram, this natural remedy, like others, will likely not be pursued in the U.S. because of the extreme expense of FDA-required drug approval procedures, and insufficient profitability to drug companies who would need to bear the expense. Frustration with the regulatory barriers to safe and effective plant-derived medications has led one of our physician friends to remark, "If you contract hepatitis B, don't call your doctor, call your travel agent." (Thyagarajan, S.P., et al. "Effect of Phyllanthus amarus on Chronic Carriers of Hepatitis B Virus." The Lancet. Oct. 1988 2:764-766.)

American Botanical Council.

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By Rob McCaleb

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