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Clinician’s Corner: Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle—weed or liver saver???

Latin Name:  Silybum marianum also called “Mary thistle” or “holy thistle”

Milk thistle grows in North and South America, and throughout most of the world, as it is native to the Mediterranean region.  This plant is considered by most to be an invasive species and can be found growing in our own back yards! Silymarin is the main component of milk thistle seeds.

People have used milk thistle for liver disorders, such as hepatitis and cirrhosis, and gallbladder problems. Silymarin is the most commonly used herbal supplement in the United States for liver problems. The silymarin exerts antioxidant activity, stabilizes liver cell membranes, promotes regeneration of the liver cells, and inhibits fiber formation in the liver, which drives the progression of chronic liver disease.  Silymarin also increases survival time in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis.

EVIDENCE:

The 2008 Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment Against Cirrhosis (HALT-C) study, found that hepatitis C patients who used silymarin had fewer and milder symptoms of liver disease and somewhat better quality of life but no change in virus activity or liver inflammation.

DIABETES:  Milk thistle might lower blood sugar in people who have type 2 diabetes

NASH: NonAlcoholic SteatoHepatitis (NASH) is a more severe form of liver disease with inflammation and sometimes fibrosis, which is becoming one of the most frequent causes for liver transplants. Milk thistle seems to be of minimal value.

SAFETY

In clinical trials, milk thistle appears to be well tolerated in recommended doses. Occasionally, people report various gastrointestinal side effects.

CYP2C9 interactions: milk thistle may significantly increase the levels of warfarin (Coumadin and diazepam (Valium).

ALLERGIC REACTIONS: Milk thistle may produce allergic reactions, which tend to be more common among people who are allergic to plants in the daisy family (for example, ragweed, chrysanthemum, marigold, and daisy).

DIABETES: Compounds in milk thistle may lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes, working like the prescription drug, Actos (pioglitazone).

Your Thompson pharmacist is a great resource for any of these over the counter remedies.  Always ask about any over the counter supplements especially if you take any prescription products.  Go ahead and ASK… at Thompson Pharmacy it’s all for YOU!