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Viral Hepatitis

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Alternative Therapies--Licorice root

for Veterans and the Public

Licorice root

Licorice root, sold as capsules and liquid extracts, comes from the licorice plant. Its active component is called glycyrrhizin.

Glycyrrhizin shows potential for reducing long-term complications from hepatitis C. For example, some evidence suggests that long-term use of glycyrrhizin might prevent liver cancer in patients with hepatitis C. The several clinical trials found that taking glycyrrhizin reduced the levels of liver enzymes, such as ALT, but did not reduce the amount of hepatitis C virus in the blood. These studies, however, gave glycyrrhizin in intravenous (IV) form, not as dietary supplements.

People with hepatitis C should not take licorice without first talking to their doctors. The herb can interact with certain medications. And taking licorice over a long period of time can cause serious side effects, including high blood pressure, headache and sluggishness. Glycyrrhizin can worsen ascites, the buildup of fluid in the abdomen, a condition sometimes caused by cirrhosis.