Hepatitis C, CFS/CFIDS and Other Viral Concerns
Introducing New Viral Care Formula (VCF), An Interview with Shari
Lieberman, PhD, CNS, FACN
By Jim English
The last time we spoke with Dr. Shari Lieberman, PhD, CNS, FACN, we
discussed her Auto Immune Formula (AIF) — designed to nutritionally
support those with autoimmune and immune system concerns — and her
two unique nutritional support formulas, BCF (Breast Care Formula)
and PCF (Prostate Care Formula). We recently had the opportunity to
catch up with Dr. Lieberman to learn about a new formula she has
just made available through Vitamin Research Products.
VRP: Dr. Lieberman, your previous formulas were designed to support
healthy immune function in people diagnosed with, or concerned
about, cancers of the breast or prostate. Now youve turned your
efforts to a new area with the introduction of Viral Care Formula
(VCF). What is the rationale behind this new formula and who should
consider its use?
Dr. Lieberman: VCF was designed as a nutritional support formula for
those with chronic viral-induced illnesses, such as Hepatitis C (Hep
C) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Hep C, for example, is
reaching epidemic proportions, with close to four million people
infected in the US alone. Thats four times the number of people
infected with HIV. Hep C is responsible for some 10,000 deaths each
year, and this rate is expected to triple by the end of the decade.
Hep C is also the most common cause of chronic liver diseases, such
as cirrhosis, and is a leading cause of liver cancer.
Interferon (INF) and ribavarin, the current standard of medical
treatment for Hep C, are effective for less than 30 percent of all
patients after a year of treatment. And of those patients who do
benefit from interferon, up to 70 percent of patients suffer a
relapse within a few months of treatment. In total, only about 10 to
15 percent of Hep C patients enjoy a sustained recovery lasting even
6 months following treatment with interferon, and a slightly higher
number of patients benefit from treatment with pegylated interferon.
VRP: Interferon also has a reputation for causing severe side
Dr. Lieberman: Absolutely. In fact, the side effects from
interferon and ribavarin are so harsh that many patients cant
function or work during treatment. The list of side effects
includes muscle pains, fatigue, fever, headaches, nausea, hair
loss, irritability, depression, thyroid abnormalities, pulmonary
complications and retinal damage.
VRP: But put in perspective, arent these side effects a small
price to pay for reducing the risk of developing liver cancer?
Dr. Lieberman: Interferon treatment has only been shown to
reduce risk of liver cancer in the small portion of patients who
were able to maintain a sustained reduction of the Hep C virus.
Now, these numbers increase somewhat when interferon is combined
with ribavarin, but the side effects of combination treatment
are significant and serious, including hemolytic anemia
(destruction of blood cells) and birth defects. So you really
have to ask, is the treatment worse than the disease?
VRP: So, given the low rate of successful recovery and the long
list of serious side effects, what options are available to
Dr. Lieberman: Well, to solve the problem I reviewed the medical
literature looking for natural and alternative therapies that
have been shown to be effective in supporting the bodys defense
against viral agents. One of the most impressive compounds in
this regard turned out to be a natural agent called
glycyrrhizin. Glycyrrhizin (GL) is an active compound from the
licorice plant (Glycyrrhiza glabra) found throughout Europe and
Asia. Licorice root is a favored herbal treatment that has been
used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat coughs,
bronchitis and liver inflammation. This herbal tradition
intrigued Japanese researchers — and extensive research led to
the development of a formula, known as Stronger Neo-Minophagen
C, or SNMC, that combines glycyrrhizin, L-cysteine and glycine.
SNMC is used extensively in Japan to treat acute and chronic
hepatitis. Over 20 years of clinical research has shown that
glycyrrhizin exhibits a number of mechanisms that make it
effective against a wide range of human viruses.
First, glycyrrhizin acts directly as an antiviral to inhibit RNA
transcription, particularly with the HIV virus. Glycyrrhizin has
also been shown to act indirectly against a number of viruses by
decreasing cell membrane permeability, making it more difficult
for the virus to infect host cells. Additionally, glycyrrhizin
has been found to act by inactivating viruses, and by inhibiting
viral proliferation. In cases of chronic hepatitis, glycyrrhizin
has also been found to lower serum levels of alanine
aminotransferase (ALT). ALT is a liver enzyme associated with
hepatitis, cirrhosis and cancer of the liver. In fact,
normalization of ALT levels turns out to be the most important
factor for reducing the risk of long-term complications, such as
fibrosis and liver cancer, regardless of the presence of viral
markers in the serum.
VRP: You mentioned that glycyrrhizin also has anti-inflammatory
Dr. Lieberman: Yes, glycyrrhizin has been shown to inhibit
immune responses that cause inflammation, primarily by
inhibiting the production and actions of several important
pro-inflammatory compounds produced by cells in response to
injury — prostaglandins, eicosanoids, and cytokines.
Glycyrrhizin also acts as an antioxidant by promoting two vital
antioxidant systems, glutathionine-S-transferase and catalase,
and by reducing the formation of cellular oxidative products.
Additionally, glycyrrhizin supports the bodys immune responses
by increasing the production of antibodies, as well as gamma
interferon, T cells, and NK (Natural Killer) cells.
VRP: What about clinical studies with glycyrrhizin and
Dr. Lieberman: Glycyrrhizin has been shown to be effective in a
number of human studies. In one paper, Japanese researchers
found that ALT levels dropped significantly when 100 patients
who had previously not responded to other therapies were treated
for three weeks with glycyrrhizin. A second study found similar
results when 194 patients suffering from chronic hepatitis B
were treated with two different doses of glycyrrhizin. Both
groups showed a significant improvement, with 74 percent of
those receiving the higher dose, and 79 percent of those
receiving the lower dose, showing normalization of ALT levels
after only eight weeks of treatment. More recently, Japanese
researchers found that glycyrrhizin was effective in both
reducing ALT levels in persons infected with Hep C, as well as
in reducing progression to liver cirrhosis in a group of 178
patients treated to eradicate Hep C for as long as 15 years.
This is an important finding, because controlling Hep C and
suppressing the inflammatory processes that lead to cirrhosis
may help prevent liver cancer, which kills some 30,000 people
each year in Japan.
VRP: So glycyrrhizin is effective in treating Hep C,
particularly in cases where patients didnt respond to interferon
or combined interferon and ribavarin therapy?
Dr. Lieberman: Yes, and glycyrrhizin has also been shown to
improve the response of those taking interferon or combination
therapy and to make those treatments more tolerable. But its
vital to point out that the benefits of glycyrrhizin go beyond
Hep C. Glycyrrhizin has been shown to also be effective for
Hepatitis A and B, and against HIV. Glycyrrhizin has actually
been shown to be superior to AZT. Other viruses that
glycyrrhizin can help control include Herpes I, Herpes II,
Herpes zoster (shingles), as well as Lichen Planus, Influenza,
and Cytomegalovirus (CMV). And in my personal experience,
glycyrrhizin is also effective for chronic fatigue syndrome
(CFS) and chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS).
VRP: Lets come back to the CFIDS issue in a bit. What else did
you include in the VCF formula, particularly with regard to
liver support for Hep C?
Dr. Lieberman: Of course, Ive included the herb silymarin (milk
thistle). Silymarin has been used in Europe since the 16th
century, and continues to be used today as a treatment for liver
disease and jaundice. There are numerous studies supporting its
ability to help treat acute viral hepatitis and hepatitis B.
Silymarin has also been shown to protect the liver from injury
while repairing liver tissue and normalizing liver enzymes. One
paper that especially impressed me detailed the effects of eight
patients diagnosed with chronic hepatitis, including both
hepatitis B and C, who were treated with silymarin and
phosphatidylcholine. At the end of the 60-day trial, liver
enzymes were significantly improved, as were levels of
malondialdehyde, a marker of lipid peroxidation in liver
VRP: And monolaurin—I see youve included 1,500 mg per serving.
What is monolaurin, and why is it included in the formula?
Dr. Lieberman: Monolaurin is a short chain fatty acid (SFA) and
an ester of lauric acid. Lauric acid was first identified as the
most active antiviral and antibacterial substance found in human
breast milk. Monolaurin is more biologically active than lauric
acid, and works by a number of mechanisms to disrupt and
inactivate viruses. First, lauric acid binds to the
lipid-protein envelope that surrounds the virus. This, in turn,
inhibits the replication cycle of the viruses by interrupting
its ability to bind to the host cells. Lauric acid also prevents
the uncoating, or shedding of the viral envelope that is
required for replication and infection. Additionally, lauric
acid directly disintegrates the viral envelope to make the virus
more susceptible to host defenses.
VRP: And monolaurin has been shown to have antiviral effects as
Dr. Lieberman: Monolaurin has been shown to be active against
influenzavirus, pneumovirus, paramyxovirus (Newcastle),
morbillivirus (Rubeola), coronavirus, Herpes simplex I and II,
CMV (cytomegalovirus), Epstein-Barr (EPV), and HIV, just to name
a few. Some of the viruses monolaurin is not effective against
include Polio, Coxsackie, Encephalomyocarditis, Rhinovirus and
Rotavirus. In addition to its antiviral effects, monolaurin has
also been shown to have antibacterial activity against
Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus agalactiae, Chlamydia, H.
pylori, and against yeast and fungi as well, including Candida
VRP: Youve also included extracts of Phyllanthus amarus and
Phyllanthus urinaria. Could you address these and explain their
Dr. Lieberman: Phyllanthus species have traditionally been used
to treat jaundice and other general conditions of liver disease.
Researchers have shown that phyllanthus extracts exhibit
significant antiviral activity, primarily by inhibiting viral
DNA replication of hepadnaviruses, a viral family including the
human hepatitis B virus and several animal hepatitis viruses.
When researchers systematically reviewed 22 randomized trials
they found that phyllanthus significantly reduced hepatitis B
antigens while normalizing liver enzymes. Phyllanthus extracts
were also found to enhance the effects of interferon therapy,
while outperforming interferon in normalizing ALT levels.
A recently published German study shows that phyllanthus
extracts also act as potent anti-inflammatory agents. When rat
cells and whole human blood were treated to simulate liver
damage, phyllanthus was shown to suppress production and or
secretion of a number of pro-inflammatory chemicals, including
endotoxin-induced nitric oxide synthase (NOS), cyclooxygenase
(COX-2), and tumor necrosis factor (TNF-alpha) as well as other
cytokines. This anti-inflammatory effect is important for aiding
the liver in recovery from viral-induced damage and preventing
cirrhosis and potential liver cancer.
VRP: I note that youve included R-Lipoic Acid, a potent
antioxidant that weve seen a lot of new research on.
Dr. Lieberman: As mentioned earlier, antioxidants play a vital
role in protecting liver cells from oxidative damage.
Additionally, antioxidants have been shown to be effective in
interfering with and disrupting viral proliferation. In one case
study researchers treated 3 subjects randomly selected from a
group of fifty patients diagnosed with cirrhosis from chronic
hepatitis C infection. Each patient was treated with an
antioxidant combination that included alpha-lipoic acid and
selenium (as selenomethionine), along with silymarin, vitamins C
and E and a multi-mineral. All patients recovered, showing a
remarkable improvement in liver function and enzyme levels.
Most importantly, the patients avoided undergoing liver
transplants. A liver transplant costs over $300,000 and
transplanted livers frequently become infected with the virus
again. Even more important is the fact that whereas five years
ago only 20 percent of Hep C patients required a transplant,
today the number has increased to 50 percent!
VRP: Earlier you mentioned that these substances were also
effective for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Can you expand on
Dr. Lieberman: Yes. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also known
as Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), is
characterized by incapacitating fatigue, profound exhaustion and
an extreme lack of stamina. CFS is also associated with an
inability to concentrate and loss of short-term memory. CFS
often starts with symptoms that are viral in nature, including
joint and muscle pain, poor sleep, swollen glands, sore throat,
headache, fatigue and malaise. Recovery from CFS requires lots
of rest and very long periods of convalescence. In fact, a
hallmark of CFS is that any mental or physical activity leads to
a profound fatigue that can require a full day for recovery.
VRP: Is there currently any cure or treatment for CFS or CFIDS?
Dr. Lieberman: Not really. Standard medicine can offer some
support by treating individual symptoms, but currently there is
no medical treatment or cure for CFS. One has to understand that
diagnosing and treating CFS is complicated by the fact that the
syndrome is associated with a number of viruses, including
Epstein-Barr (EBV), CMV (cytomegalovirus), Human Herpes-virus
(HHV)-6 and 7, retroviruses and enteroviruses (including polio
and Coxsackie virus).
As mentioned earlier, glycyrrhizin can help to control many of
the viruses implicated in CFS, including cytomegalovirus (CMV).
In my experience glycyrrhizin is effective in treating CFS when
taken in combination with the ingredients found in the VCF
formula. For best results I put my clients on a comprehensive
program that includes:
-Fish Oil (EPA/DHA): 6-9 caps per day
-Quercetin: 2-4 grams per day
-NAC: 2-4 grams per day
-Glutathione: 1-2 grams per day
-CoQ10: 100-200 mg per day
Other helpful substances include aloe vera, natural antifungals (Citricidal,
berberine, oregano), medicinal mushrooms, bromelain, curcumin
(turmeric), proanthocyanidins (grape seed extract), ginger, gingko
biloba, and proteolytic enzymes. And, of course, I also recommend
taking broad-spectrum multi-vitamin and multi-mineral supplements
daily. (Additional information and expanded protocols are available
online at www.drshari.net.)
VRP: Do you have any other comments to share regarding the VCF
Dr. Lieberman: Just as my other formulas are intended for use with
standard medical protocols, Viral Care Formula can be used alone or,
concomitantly with current medical antiviral therapies. I believe
that the best outcomes occur when VCF is taken in conjunction with
medical supervision, particularly given the potential for
glycyrrhizin to elevate blood pressure. The potential blood pressure
effects are offset by the inclusion of potassium and cysteine in the
formula, but I still recommend that patients monitor their blood
pressure at least once or twice a week.
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