Thistle (Silymarin, blessed thistle, Chardon Marie)
This is one of the most common herbal treatment
for hepatitis. It is non toxic and very few people report any side
It is known to reduce
ALT and has been shown to be effective in protecting the liver
against damage by certain toxins.
In Germany milk thistle is frequently prescribed to those on
Thistle (Silymarin) is reported to be an anti-inflammatory and mast cell
stabilizer that helps protect the liver against toxin, drugs, and the
affects of alcohol (Better Nutrition for Today's Living, March 1993).I .
Two capsules of 100mg extract of milk thistle (Silybum marianum)
containing 70% silymarin (ie 140mg of silymarin) are normally taken
twice or three times a day. European research shows that it stimulates
regeneration of liver cells and protects them from toxic injury" It is
usually stocked in health food stores under the names milk thistle,
silybum, or silymarin.
From the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine Michael Murray, N.D. and
Joseph Pizzorno, N.D.
common milk thistle contains some of the most potent liver protective
substances known, a mixture of three flavanolignins colelctively
referred to as silymarin. (30-33) The concentration of silymarin is
highest in the fruit, but it is also found in the seeds and leaves.
Silymarin's effect in preventing liver destruction and enhancing liver
function relates largely to its ability to inhibit the factors that are
responsible for hepatic damage, i.e., free radicals and leukotrienes,
coupled with an ability to stimulate liver protein synthesis. (30-33)
Silymarin prevents free radical damage by acting as an antioxidant.
Silymarin is many times more potent in antioxidant activity than vitamin
E. Silymarin not only prevents the depletion of glutathione (GSH)
induced by alcohol and other liver toxins, but it was shown to increase
the basal GSH of the liver by 35 per cent over controls in one study.
This is extremely useful when exposure to toxic substances is high, due
to glutathione's vital role in detoxification reactions.
protective effect of silymarin against liver damage has been
demonstrated in a number of experimental and clinical studies. (30-38)
Experimental liver damage in animals can be produced by such diverse
toxic chemicals as carbon tetrachloride, amanita toxin, galactosamine
and praseodymium nitrate. Silymarin has been shown to protect against
liver damage by all of these agents. (30-33)
Another way in which the liver can be damaged is by the action of
leukotrienes. These compounds are produced by the transfer of oxygen to
a polyunsaturated fatty acid. This reaction is catalysed by the enzume
lipoxygenase. Silybum components inhibit this enzyme, thereby inhibiting
the formation of these damaging compounds.
Perhaps the most interesting effect of silybum components on the liver
is their ability to stimulate protein synthesis. (30-33) The result is
an increase in the production of new liver cells to replace the damaged
old ones. This demonstrates that silymarin exerts both a protective and
restorative effect on the liver.
human studies, silymarin has been shown to have positive effects in
treating liver diseases of various kinds, including cirrhosis, chronic
hepatitis, fatty infiltration of the liver (chemical and alcohol induced
fatty liver) and inflammation of the bile duct. (32-38) The therapeutic
effect of silymarin in all of these disorders has been confirmed by
histological (biopsy), clinical and laboratory data. Silymarin is
especially effective in the treatment and prevention of toxic chemical
or alcohol induced liver damage. (32-38)
Hikino, H. Kiso, Y., Wagner, H. and Fiegig, M., "Antihepatotoxic actions
of flavonolignans from Silybum marianum fruits", Planta Medica, 1984,
50, pp 248-50
31.Vogel, G., Trost, W., Braatz, R., et al., "Studies on
pharmacodynamics, site and mechanism of action of silymarin the
antihpatotoxic principle from Silybum marianum (L.) Gaert".,
Arzneim-Forsch, 1975, 25, pp 179-85
32. Wagner, H., Antihepatotoxic flavonoids", in Cody, V., Middleton, E.
and Harbourne, J.D. (eds), Plant flavinoids in Biology and Medicine:
Biochemical, Pharmacological and Structure-Activity relationships, Alan
R. Liss, New York, NY 1986, pp545-5
33. Wagner, H., "Plant constituents with antihepatotoxic activity", in
Beal, J.L. and Reinhard, E. (eds) Natural Products as Medicinal Agents,
Hippokrates-Verlang, Stuttgart, 1981
34. Sarre, H., "Experience in the treatment of chronic hepatopathies
with silymarin", Arzneim-Forsch, 1971, 21, pp 1,209-12
35. Canini, F., Bartolucci, A., Cristallini, E., et al., "Use of
silymarin in the treatment of alcoholic hepatic stenosis", Clin. Ther.,
1985, 114, pp 307-14
36. Salmi, H.A., and Sarna, S., "Effect of silymarin on chemical,
functional, and morphological alteration of the liver. A double-blind
controlled study" Scand.J.Gastroenterol., 1982, 17, pp 417-21
37. Scheiber, V., and Wohlzogen, F.X., "Analysis of a certain type of 2
x 3 tables, exemplified by biopsy findings in a controlled clinical
trial", Int.J.Clin.Pharmacol., 1978, 16, pp 533-5
38. Boari, C., Montanari, M., Galleti, G.P., et al., "Occupational toxic
liver diseases. Therapeutic effects of silymarin", Min.Med., 1985, 72,
Modern Uses of Milk Thistle Seed by Paul Bergner
thistle seed extracts, usually standardized to 70% silymarin content,
are commonly used in conventional medicine in Europe, where it has been
officially available since 1969. More than $180 million in silymarin
products were sold in Germany alone in one recent year. The trials below
all used this 70%-silymarin
pharmacetuical preparation, but this does not in any way prove that only
such preparations would have this clinical result. See the accompanying
articles for reports of clinical use of other forms of milk thistle
patients with acute viral hepatitis, 42 were treated with placebo and 35
with a milk thistle seed extract. Recovery time for the placebo group
averaged 43 days, and for the silymarin group, 29 days (Legalon).
well-controlled double-blind study of ninety-six cases of alcholic
hepatic cirrhosis, forty-nine patients were treated with placebo and
forty-seven with silymarin. After a five-year period, there were only
five deaths (10.5%) in the silymarin group, and fourteen deaths (28.5%)
in the control group (Benda et al).
Pediatric liver disease
study of 166 children under the age of seventeen with chronic liver
disease, the following results were obtained: For cases of chronic
persistent hepatitis, 70% showed improvement, 27% stabilized; 4% had no
improvement or stabilization. For cases of chronic active hepatitis, 32%
showed improvement; 44% stabilized, and 24% had no beneficial effect (Jodl
group of 88 patients with toxic-metabolic liver damage due to alcohol
abuse or diabetes mellitus, elevated transmaminase values and abnormal
bromsulphalein test results tended to revert to normal. Ninety-one
abnormal test results fell to only 37 (59% improvement) after treatment
with silymarin (Fintelman V).
study of sixty-six female patients taking pychopharmacological or
anticonvulsant agents for neurological or psychiatric problems, liver
function tests gave a total of 71 abnormal results. Fifty-two of these
(73% responded to silymarin treatment, the gret majority of them
returning to normal ranges (Legalon).
sixty-one patients receiving anesthesia using halothane or hexobaribtal,
the thrity-two control showed a distinct post-operative rise in serum
enzymes. Twenty-nine patients receiving silymarin showed no such rise (Benda
Studies showed that silymarin could rapidly cure workers producing
pesticides who had disturbed liver function; other studies showed that
in forty patients with posioning by silicon dioxide, the effect could be
completely antagonized by silymarin at certain doses (Legalon)