Re: [GIWorld-Hepatitis] silymarin/Milk Thistle: Miracle or Malarky?
- From Hepatitis Neighborhood
Milk Thistle: Miracle or Malarky?
Herbs are selling like hotcakes these days; and why
shouldn't they be? In an age of modern medicine,
modern conveniences, and modern lifestyles, something
inside all of us longs to find answers buried deep
within ancestral secrets. Searching for the cure
ourselves feels like a relentless and passionate
pursuit...especially when "they" are telling us there
is just no cure. The burning question for all of us
remains: is milk thistle one such miracle herb, or
just more hype from suppliers who are seeking consumer
Milk Thistle: Miracle or Malarky?
By Heidi Genarro, RD, Your Hepatitis Neighborhood
...Milk thistle is one such herbal remedy touted as a
liver disease wonder drug.
But is it really? In Germany they think so. In fact,
the rather tall and prickly-leaf plant has been used
for centuries to treat liver ailments up until about
the twentieth century. According to Varro Tyler, PhD,
noted American authority on herbal remedies, and
author of The Honest Herbal and Herbs of Choice, it
was German scientists who began an intensive study of
the fruits of this plant just 25 years ago. What they
discovered was a mixture of three different
flavonolignans as the active ingredient, which they
collectively named silymarin.
Silymarin was found to exert potent liver protectant
properties. One such property is liver cell membrane
protection from the entry of toxic substances. In
other words, silymarin acts like a potent antioxidant,
preventing free radical and toxic damage to the liver
(see Food Market nutrition article, Aisle 1). In fact,
the silymarin in milk thistle is many times more
potent than Vitamin E in terms of protective
The second most exciting property of silymarin is the
regeneration of new liver cells. What that means is
that there is an increase in production of new liver
cells to replace the old damaged ones. Today, because
of this research, milk thistle is often prescribed by
German doctors as a supportive treatment for
hepatitis, usually along with interferon.
As far as human study trials go, silymarin has
demonstrated positive health effects in people
suffering from chronic hepatitis, as well as
cirrhosis, fatty liver infiltration, liver damage
resulting from alcoholism of exposure to liver toxic
chemicals, and bile duct inflammation. In fact, the
only antidote for poisoning from the deadly mushroom
called Amanita (death cap) is silymarin.
Many of these studies were conducted by European
scientists, and have passed the scrutiny of American
scientists as well. According to Stephen Piscitelli,
MD, despite a few study limitations, such as small
sample sizes, "silymarin does appear to be more
effective than placebo for viral hepatitis, as well as
hepatitis caused by toxins and alcohol."
That's the good news. What is the downside to taking
milk thistle? First, the assurance that what you buy
from your local health food store, pharmacy, or
grocery store really contains what it claims on the
Unfortunately, because of loose government
regulations, many are getting away with selling
supplements that don't contain any or all of the
�marker compound" that makes the herb effective (in
regard to milk thistle, it must contain 70% to 80% of
silymarin). Some supplement brands have been tested in
independent laboratories and found to contain none of
the herb or marker compound! That's scary. Know what
brands you can trust.
According to a July 1999 article in Environmental
Nutrition, their thorough research and discussion with
experts allowed them to compile the following list for
reputable herbal supplements: Celestial Seasonings;
Eclectic Institute; Enzmymatic Therapy/Phyto Parmica;
Gaia Herbs, Inc.; Herbalist & Alchemist; Herb Pharm;
Indena; Lichtwer Pharma; Nature's Herbs (Twin Lab);
Nature's Way; Pharmaton; Warner-Lambert;
Whitehall-Robins (American Home Products). I highly
recommend also that you check with www.consumerlab.com
to find out the results of their independent
laboratory tests on various herbs and supplements
before you buy.
Another downside is possible mild allergic reaction to
milk thistle. According to Nurses Drug Alert,
23(7):51, 1999, M.J. Powers & Co. Publishers, a 57
year-old woman was found for two months to be
suffering from weakness, watery diarrhea, nausea, and
abdominal pain shortly after she would take her
self-prescribed capsules of milk thistle. The symptoms
stopped after she stopped taking the herb. Whether or
not it was an allergic-type reaction, a contaminant in
the supplement, or the side-effect of the herb itself
is not known. No serious side effects of deaths have
ever been reported with humans taking milk thistle. A
few cases of intestinal upset with larger doses has
also been reported.
Can milk thistle interfere with other drugs?
Unfortunately, that question remains unanswered. At
this present time, no negative interactions have been
reported. Other herbs such as St. John's Wort, willow
bark, dandelion, ginseng, yohimbe, chamomile, gingko,
ma haung, natural licorice, and more have reported
drug-herb interactions with certain medications. As
always, your best bet is to inform your physician of
any and all herbs and dietary supplements you may
What's the final fair wind on milk thistle? It's
probably safe to take, and can likely work along with
your primary treatment for hepatitis as a supportive
treatment. Just be sure you purchase milk thistle from
a reputable source. Above all, remember to avoid the
temptation into "magical thinking�. Milk thistle is
NOT a cure for hepatitis C. However, it does appear to
be another good weapon in the fight.
--- "JeeKim.com" <ung@...> wrote:
> Doesn't milk thistle extract protect liver?
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