by Misha Ruth Cohen from The Hepatitis C Help Book

Misha Ruth Cohen, OMD, L.Ac.
2008 Pro‐D Seminar
Chronic Viral illness, HIV, HPV and HCV Protocol Herbs, Cohen, 2008

Although herbal remedies are usually provided in formulas that include a constellation of herbs, it is important to look at the individual herbs that provide some of the most potent, and most commonly used, anti-HCV therapeutics

Herbs that affect immune functions

Herbs that regulate the immune system are called Fu Zheng herbs—literally, herbs that restore Normal Qi. They are used in China to tonify Qi and Xue, increase disease resistance, normalize various bodily functions and regulate the immune system of people with cancer. (The herbal formulas in the HCV herbal protocol contain Fu Zheng herbs.) Fu Zheng herbs are often used in conjunction with what is called Jiedu/Qiuxie therapy—herbal treatments that are designed to clear toxins and heat from the body. These herbs are very powerful and are used only in combination with Fu Zheng therapy, which ameliorates the potential side effects of anti-toxins. Jiedu/Qiuxie herbs are traditionally used to destroy cancers and to treat Toxic Heat-related diseases, which we now know include viral and bacterial infections.

Astragalus (Huang Qi ) is used as a tonic herb for the Spleen and to augment Protective Qi (Wei Qi), that acts as the guard against Pernicious Influences. It is an important ingredient in many herbal formulas used to strengthen Qi. According to Western research, Astragalus has immune restoration capabilities in both the cell-mediated and humoral aspects of the immune system. In a Chinese study of chronic active hepatitis, 18 of 31 participants had liver functions returning to normal.i Astragalus has the ability to stimulate interferon to reduce the viral symptoms of the common cold. ii In combination with other herbs, it helps fight infection and builds up resistance to viruses and bacteria. iii

Atractylodes (Bai Zhu) strengthens the Spleen and the Stomach Systems and improves digestion; it is also used to remove dampness. The chemical constituents include atractylone, actractylol and vitamin A. Researchers in China have reported that Atractylodes can lower elevated blood sugar and prevent excess glycogen concentration in the liver. iv This herb is used in formulas to reduce swelling, ease diarrhea, treat Qi deficiency and Heart disharmonies and to enhance the immune system.

Cordyceps (Dong Chong Xia Cao) is a rare Tibetan mushroom, considered a tonic and
supporting herb that restores energy, promotes longevity and improves quality of life. In the lab, it has been shown to increase natural interferon levels in animal cells. Recent double blind controlled studies conducted in China by Christopher B. Cooper, M.D., of UCLA’s Medical School demonstrated that derivatives from the Tibetan mushroom Cordyceps sinensis could play a significant role in increasing energy and aerobic capacity. It is relatively non-toxic and is often prescribed as an additive to food—it is mainly cooked with meats in doses of 3 to 5 grams, according to Keen Chang Huang , author of The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs. It is the main ingredient in the formula Fu Zheng Plus and is found in Clear Heat and in many cancer support formulas.

Ganoderma (Ling Zhi.) is a mushroom whose active ingredients are primarily found in the spores. Traditionally, the red Ling Zhi variety is considered the most powerful. v The various types contain ergosterol, coumanin and mannitol. The herb lowers plasma cholesterol levels and can improve cardiac function. Ganoderma also contains highly active polysaccharides, which Chronic Viral illness, HIV, HPV and HCV Protocol Herbs, Cohen, 2008
appear to be potent immune regulating vii It is traditionally used to protect the liver from damage,viii reduce the symptoms of hepatitisix and lower liver enzyme levels.x It is the main ingredient in Enhance and is also found in Tremella American Ginseng, as well as the new formulas Fu Zheng Plus

Ginseng—American Ginseng (Xi Yang Shen) and Chinese Ginseng (Ren Shen)
American ginseng is often taken in conjunction with other herbs to nourish Yin and tonify Qi. It is particularly useful after a fever to help counter weakness and irritability (Bensky and Gamble). It is found in the formulas Tremella American Ginseng and Fu Zheng Plus.

Chinese ginseng has an immunomodulating effect, according to The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs, and enhances the body’s resistance to many diseases. Small doses of ginseng saponins (an active chemical constituent) increase serum levels of antibodies. Chinese researchers also have found that it stimulates the production of natural interferon and increases the immune system killer cells activity. Alcohol-based ginseng extract seems to inhibit several types of cancer cell growth in lab experiments.

Do not use if you suffer from insomnia, high blood pressure, clotting problems, irregular heart beat or arrhythmia. Children should not take this herb, and pregnant women should take only with approval of your health care professional.
Licorice (Gan Cao) or licorice root. This root is the most commonly used herb in Chinese medicine formulas. Used in small quantities, it acts as the blending herb that harmonizes the others herbs so that their effects can enter the channels and be transported to the Organ Systems as needed. Therapeutically, Traditional Chinese Medicine uses it to supplement the body, clear heat, regulate digestion, clear fluid from the lungs and energize the spleen. Clinically, it may be used as a primary herb for more disorders than any other plant—coughs, stomach aches, acute respiratory problems, adrenal exhaustion, general inflammatory conditions, hormone-related ynecological problems and skin rashes. Over the past 20 years Japanese researchers have found
that it also has great benefit for treating liver disorders. According to Paul Bergner, it is as powerful a liver protectant as milk thistle. Gan Cao is in Ecliptex, Women’s Balance, and Clear Heat pill formulas.
Chemically, licorice’s active ingredients are glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhetinic acid—the root
contains from 6 to 14 percent according to Merck. These ingredients are often distilled from the licorice root to produce a potent extract called Glycyrrhizin. It is this extract that is most often used as a powerful tool in treatment of HCV and other viruses.

Glycyrrhizin This extract has many anti-viral uses. Research has demonstrated that glycyrrhizin is effective against the hepatitis B virus.xi And in Japan clinical trials of its use in treating chronic active hepatitis have been so successful in Japan that glycyrrhizin is now a standard medical treatment there.xii According to “The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs,” it has also been found to be effective in the treatment of interferon-resistant chronic hepatitis C, gastric ulcers, and to reduce capillary permeability, a problem in advanced stages of hepatitis C.

WARNING: Licorice can cause adverse reactions in about 20 percent of those who take it, warns Quin Cai Zhang, and the extract, glycyrrhizin, can be toxic. According to the Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs, regular daily intake of 1000 milligrams of glycyrrhizin or 100 grams of licorice root may trigger disturbances in the body’s electrolyte balance, cause high blood pressure, reduce thyroid function and produce other serious side effects. (Other researchers caution against taking 50 grams daily for 6 weeks or more.) They also caution that “elderly persons who are suscepitble to the effects of licorice may show rapid
deterioration of renal (kidney) function.” Do not take glycyrrhizin if you have
hypertension, fluid retention problems or disorders, kidney disease or during pregnancy.
Chronic Viral illness, HIV, HPV and HCV Protocol Herbs, Cohen, 2008

Herbs that Stabilize and Bind

The herbs in this category are used primarily for treating diarrhea, vomiting, excess sweating, or any other condition that is characterized by the excretion or expulsion of bodily fluids. In Chinese medicine many of these herbs are considered astringent and are said to draw fluids inward. They are particularly useful in treating symptoms associated with HCV such as chronic diarrhea, fever, nausea, abdominal pain and headaches.

Schizandra Fruit (Wu Wei Zi)—This herb is categorized as an astringent, a Qi Tonic and a Kidney Tonic, good for calming the spirit and increasing memory functions. The fruit’s main active ingredients is lignan. The rhizome contains other active ingredients.

Schizandra is particularly effective in treating liver disease: In a Chinese study, Schizandra showed effectiveness in lowering liver enzyme levels in 72 percent of 102 patients over an average period of twenty-five daysxiii.
It also acts as an astringent to the intestines. Chinese researches have found that in an average of 25 days Schizandra decreases liver enzyme levels (that are associated with liver disease) in almost three-quarters of people studied. xiv It is the first ingredient in HepatoPlex One and is also found in formulas such as Ecliptex, Tremella American Ginseng, Enhance, Schizandra Dreams and Tian Wang Bu Xin Wang.
WARNING: It may stimulate uterine contractions. Do not use if pregnant. Should also be
avoided if you have epilepsy or peptic ulcers.

Ginkgo leaf (Yin GuoYe) may be helpful in treating HCV related memory loss and depression. A double blind study by Dr. Pierre LeBars, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in October 1997, found ginkgo was effective in stabilizing or even improving dementia-related cognitive impairment in a third of people eneolled in the study, all of whom had either Alzheimer’s or had suffered a stroke. It was most effective on those people who were least impaired, suggesting that early treatment may be able to help slow deterioration.
The active chemical seems to be an extract from the leaves of young ginkgo trees called EGb 761. This finding confirms studies findings of many studies in Germany.
Ginkgo is also used as an anti-inflammatory and a vasodilator, and may be particularly helpful in HCV-related circulatory problems such as cold hands and feet and Raynaud’s syndrome. It is an anticoagulant and should not be used by anyone with clotting problems or who is already taking anticoagulants.
Herbs that are antiviral, antibacterial, antitoxin
Most of the herbs that have these functions are in the clear heat, clean toxin category and are used in China as anti-viral, anti-bacterial agents. They are important elements in the fight against Toxic Heat and the symptoms associated with HCV.

Isatis leaf (Da Qing Ye) and isatis root (Ban Lan Gen) is anti-viral and anti-bacterial. Its main chemical component is indigo. Studies demonstrate that isatis is effective in treating viral hepatitis, herpes and viral meningitis. In China isatis leaf and isatis root are used frequently to treat serious bacterial infections such as shigella, salmonella, streptococcus, and staphylococcus.

Dandelion (Pu Gong Ying) has the Latin name Taraxacum mongolium; Dandelion, the Western herb has the Latin name Taraxacum officinale. Both are used for liver disease. Pu Gong Ying is used to treat Liver Heat disorders, especially when there are red, inflamed eyes and Damp-Heat related jaundice. Dandelion root is used to help boost the liver’s detoxifying ability. As a tea it is a powerful diuretic. Its active ingredients are tarazasterol, taraxerol, taraxacerin, taaraxacin, viitamins A,B, and C. It has been observed to protect liver function and has strong antibacterial action and antiviral effects
Chronic Viral illness, HIV, HPV and HCV Protocol Herbs, Cohen, 2008

Marrow-strengthening herbs
These are herbs that tonify and vitalize—that is, circulate and regulate—the Xue and strengthen Kidney Jing.

Milletia (Ji Xue Teng) helps tonify as well as circulate and regulate the flow of Xue. Milletol is its main active ingredient. xvi Milletia is effective in managing the negative side effects of aplastic anemia and lowered white-blood-cell counts, which sometimes accompany hepatitis C. xvii Ji Xue Teng is found in Enhance, Tremella American Ginseng and Marrow Plus formulas.

Warning: Pregnant women should not use Milletia herb—it can cause contractions.

Salvia (Dan Shen) invigorates the Xue and removes Xue stasis. It is traditionally used for soreness in the area of the rib cage that is associated with Qi and Xue stagnation. Found in HepatoPlex One and HepatoPlex Two

Herbs that protect the liver

Bupleurum (Chai Hu) is used to manage Spleen and Stomach Deficiency, so common in hepatitis C. It also helps to even out the flow of Liver Qi and is particularly useful in treating syndromes of advancing hepatitis C, such as pain in the rib cage, a bitter taste in the mouth, and vomiting. The main chemical ingredients are bupleurumol, saponin, phytosterol, adonitol, angelicin, and various acids. xviii Bupleurum is used extensively because of its apparent ability to protect the liver from damage caused by inflammation. A study published in the journal Hepatology in January 1999 reported that in laboratory rats the use of a formula known as Shosaiko- to that contains bupleurum, pinelia tuber, scutellaria root, jujube fruit, ginseng root, glycyrrhiza root and ginger rhizome may supress “the production of hepatic fibrosis. and…may have beneficial effects on hepatocellular carcinoma development in patients with chronic liver disease.” Chai Hu is Found in Xiao Yao San, Woman’s Balance and Yin Chen Hao Tang formulas.

CAUTIONARY NOTE: There is one Japanese study that found a liver toxicity problem
when bupleurum was used at the same time as interferon—at least when the herb is taken in a popular Japanese formula known as Xiao Chai Hu (Minor Bupleurum Combination). This is one of the main reasons why the new formulas that I have devised for treating HCV contian syubstitutes for this herb. There is some speculation that since the side effect caused by the bupleurum formula is the same as is sometimes caused by interferon—lung fibrosis—there might be a similar mechanism of action (see Subhuti Dharmananda article)

Eclipta (han lian cao) protects Liver and Kidney Yin. It also known as a Cool Xue and Stop Bleeding herb—useful in fighting off the effects of Toxic Heat and complications of HCV related to bleeding and circulatory problems. It is one of the main ingredient in Ecliptex herbal formula, designed to prevent progression of fibrosis in HCV infected livers.

Silybum(milk thistle) is a Western herb that has long been used in Europe for the treatment of liver disorders.xix Formulas such as Ecliptex, which is milk-thistle based, are effective when used in conjunction with immune-modulating formulas such as Enhance or Tremella American Ginseng, because chronic viral hepatitis is thought to be an immune dysfunction disorder as well as a viral disease. The main active ingredients in milk thistle are silymarin and flavolignans. The herb has been shown to stimulate liver cell proteins, leading to more rapid recovery of liver cells after they are damaged.xx One Italian study found that it normalized liver enzyme levels. Silymarin, the extract of the plant, is the sole ingredient in Silymarin HC. In Chinese medicine the dried fruit is sometimes used; it is called Shui Fei Ji and appears to stimulate bile secretion
and may act as a calcium channel blocker.
Chronic Viral illness, HIV, HPV and HCV Protocol Herbs, Cohen, 2008

Scutellaria (Huang Qin)— as Scullcap or scute, it is a potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent that acts as a diuretic, a sedative and an antihypertensive. Its principal chemical ingredients are baicalin, wogonin, and beta-sitosterol. In Chinese medicine it is use to clear Heat and drain Fire and is used as an auxillaryherb for Damp Heat jaundice. In cases of Spleen and Stomach Deficiency it should only be used with Spleen and Stomach tonics and never for an extended period of time.
Although this herb appears on many lists of potential liver toxins there is controversy
surrounding that ascertion. It appears that in patent formulas and tonics another herb, germander (Teucrium), is frequently substituted without any changes being made on the ingredient labels.
Germander is in fact toxic and should be avoided. According to one of the leading scholars in herb toxicity, James Duke, Ph.D., who spent 30 years at the Department of Agriculture and university teaching and research positions, “There is no evidence to indicate the Scutellaria is toxic when ingested at normal doses.” As a clarification of the possible hazards, he goes on to state: “The FDA has suggested that overdose of the tincture causes confusion, convulsions, giddiness, pulsar irregularities, and twitching. [There was a] reported fatality in Norway— possibly Scutellaria, possibly Teucrium, a frequent adulterant.”

Curcuma (Yu Jin) is a spice used worldwide. Therapeutically, this root has many benefits. According to the Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs, it contains an essential oil that has been found to stimulate contraction of the gallbladder and increase bile secretion.
Curcumin, a major active ingredient can increase levels of the liver enzyme GST. In general the herb acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. In folk medicine it has been used to counter blood stasis and in Chinese medicine it promotes circulation of Qi and normalizes gallbladder function. It is used in the Ecliptex formula.

Gardenia Fruit (Zhi Zi)— traditionally used for Damp-Heat acute syndromes and jaundice. According to the Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs, it is found to stimulate bile secretion and reduce plasma bilirubin levels, which are a symptom of both acute and advancing liver disease. Its active ingredients include gardenin, ardenoside, shanzhiside, usolic acid, crocin and crocetin.
It is used in Coptis Purge Fire and Long Dan Xie Gan Tang formulas.

Yin Chen Hao (Artemesia Capillaris)—the shoots contains scoparone, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid and beta capinene and some essential oils. It is a long-standing treatment for jaundice and it stimulates bile secretion. It has antibacterial and antiviral properties and has been observed to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Adverse effects include nausea, abdominal distention and dizziness. It is used in HepatoPlex One and Li Dan Pian formulas.

Lychee Fruit, Fructus Lycii (Gou Qi Zi)—Used in Chinese formulas as a Xue tonic, it also tonifies the Yin of the Kidney and Liver and benefits the eyes. According to Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica by Dan Bensky and Andrew Gamble, water extractions of Gou Qi Zi reduced damage in hepatic cells of mice secondary to exposure to carbon tetrachloride and hastened recovery as shown by liver function tests and examination of liver tissue.