Milk thistle extract silymarin, supplement dosage, health benefit, side effects, dosage and benefit for liver and other medical conditions

Milk thistle extracts have been used as traditional herbal remedies for almost 2000 years. The extracts are still widely used to protect the liver against toxins and to control chronic liver diseases. Recent experimental and clinical studies suggest that milk thistle extracts also have anticancer, antidiabetic, and cardioprotective effects. Several trials have studied the effects of milk thistle for patients with liver diseases, cancer, hepatitis C, HIV, diabetes, and hypercholesterolemia.

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is an herbal supplement used to treat liver and biliary disorders. Silymarin, a mixture of flavanoid complexes, is the active component that protects liver and kidney cells from toxic effects of drugs, including chemotherapy.

Side effects, caution, risk
Milk thistle extracts are known to be safe and well tolerated, and toxic or adverse effects observed in clinical trials seem to be minimal.
Exacerbation of hemochromatosis by ingestion of milk thistle was a case report published in a medical journal.

Availability and to purchase

buy Milk-Thistle extract 4:1 (seed) 250 mg per softgel
Siliphos is an extract

Benefit of Milk Thistle herbal supplements

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is an herb that is increasingly used in oncology research and treatment settings. Historically, it has been used to treat liver and biliary disorders and has been used in detoxification and cleansing protocols. However, milk thistle is increasingly being investigated for its use in adult and pediatric populations for oncology indications. Possible indications during cancer treatment include cleansing and detoxification after chemotherapy, preventing hepatotoxicity during chemotherapy, treating hepatotoxicity after chemotherapy, and potentiating chemotherapy and radiation therapy as an adjunctive treatment. Milk thistle may also have applications in ameliorating long-term hepatic and cardiovascular effects of cancer treatment. Preliminary studies are investigating its use as a chemopreventive agent and possibly to treat cancer directly. Much of milk thistle's current clinical use grows out of historical uses but is informed by an increasing number of clinical trials and animal studies.

Number of studies has established the cancer chemopreventive role of silymarin in both in vivo and in vitro models. Silymarin modulates imbalance between cell survival and apoptosis through interference with the expressions of cell cycle regulators and proteins involved in apoptosis. In addition, silymarin also showed anti-inflammatory as well as anti-metastatic activity. Further, the protective effects of silymarin and its major active constituent, silibinin, studied in various tissues, suggest a clinical application in cancer patients as an adjunct to established therapies, to prevent or reduce chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy-induced toxicity.

Depression and mood disorders
Comparison of Silybum marianum with fluoxetine in the treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2009.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common neuropsychiatric condition. Although a variety of pharmaceutical agents is available for the treatment of OCD, psychiatrists often find that many patients cannot tolerate the side effects of these medications; do not respond properly to the treatment; or the medications lose their effectiveness after a period of treatment. Herbal medicine can be a solution to some of these problems. In fact many herbs with psychotropic effects exist which can have fewer side effects. They can provide an alternative treatment or be used to enhance the effectiveness of conventional anti-obsessive and compulsive symptoms. Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn. is a well-known medicinal plant with a long history of usage in Iran. This plant is reported to be safe on humans. Our objective in this study was to compare the efficacy of the extract of milk thistle with fluoxetine in the treatment of OCD. The study was an 8-week pilot double-blind randomized trial. Thirty five adult outpatients who met the DSM-IV-TR criteria for OCD based on the structured clinical interview participated in the trial. The minimum score of Yale-Brown Scale for OCD was 21 for all patients. In this double-blind and randomized trial, patients were randomly assigned to receive either capsule of the extract (600mg/day) or fluoxetine (30mg/day) for 8weeks. The results showed no significant difference between the extract and fluoxetine in the treatment of OCD. There was also no significant difference between the two groups in terms of observed side effects.

Alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C virus liver diseases
Silymarin, a flavonolignan from milk thistle plant, is used for the protection against various liver conditions in both clinical settings and experimental models.

J Vet Intern Med. 2013. Milk thistle and its derivative compounds: a review of opportunities for treatment of liver disease. Hackett ES, Twedt DC, Gustafson DL. Department of Clinical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA.
Milk thistle extracts have been used as a "liver tonic" for centuries. In recent years, silibinin, the active ingredient in milk thistle extracts, has been studied both in vitro and in vivo to evaluate the beneficial effects in hepatic disease. Silibinin increases antioxidant concentrations and improves outcomes in hepatic diseases resulting from oxidant injury. Silibinin treatment has been associated with protection against hepatic toxins, and also has resulted in decreased hepatic inflammation and fibrosis. Limited information currently is available regarding silibinin use in veterinary medicine. Future study is justified to evaluate dose, kinetics, and treatment effects in domestic animals.

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007. Copenhagen Trial Unit, Centre for Clinical Intervention Research, Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group, Copenhagen, Denmark
Randomised clinical trials have assessed whether extracts of milk thistle, Silybum marianum, have any effect in patients with alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C virus liver diseases. To assess the beneficial and harmful effects of milk thistle or milk thistle constituents versus placebo or no intervention in patients with alcoholic liver disease and/or viral liver diseases (hepatitis B and hepatitis C). Only randomised clinical trials in patients with alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C virus liver diseases (acute and chronic) were included. Interventions encompassed milk thistle at any dose or duration versus placebo or no intervention. The trials could be double blind, single blind, or unblinded. The trials could be unpublished or published and no language limitations were applied. Eighteen randomised clinical trials assessed milk thistle in 1088 patients with alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C virus liver diseases. Milk thistle versus placebo or no intervention had no significant effect on mortality, complications of liver disease, or liver histology. Liver-related mortality was significantly reduced by milk thistle in all trials, but not in high-quality trials. Milk thistle was not associated with a significantly increased risk of adverse events. Our results question the beneficial effects of milk thistle for patients with alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C virus liver diseases and highlight the lack of high-quality evidence to support this intervention. Adequately conducted and reported randomised clinical trials on milk thistle versus placebo are needed.

Effects of Silybum marianum on serum hepatitis C virus RNA, alanine aminotransferase levels and well-being in patients with chronic hepatitis C.
J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2006; Gordon A, Hobbs DA. Department of Gastroenterology, The Alfred Hospital, Victoria, Australia.
Milk thistle is a herbal preparation commonly used by subjects with chronic hepatitis C (CHC). The aims of this pilot study were to assess the efficacy and safety of S. marianum on serum hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA, alanine aminotransferase levels and well-being in patients with CHC. Twenty-four subjects with CHC were enrolled into a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. Subjects received 12 weeks of S. marianum (either 600 mg or 1200 mg/day) and placebo separated by a 4-week washout interval. Baseline biochemical, virological, psychological and quality-of-life tests were performed, with biochemical tests repeated monthly, and HCV RNA titer and quality-of-life and psychological assessments repeated at the end of both treatment periods. Seventeen patients completed the trial. Mean changes in HCV RNA titers, serum ALT levels and Short Form-36 scores were not significantly different for subjects on S. marianum compared to those on placebo. There was no significant change in mean State-Trait Anxiety Inventory State-Anxiety scores on S. marianum from baseline. Adverse events were similar with S. marianum and placebo. S. marianum is well tolerated in subjects with CHC, but does significantly affect serum HCV RNA, alanine aminotransferase levels, quality of life or psychological well-being in subjects with this condition.

Silymarin treatment of viral hepatitis: a systematic review.
J Viral Hepat. 2005.
Silymarin is used by many patients with chronic viral hepatitis. We performed a systematic review of silymarin for the treatment of chronic viral hepatitis B and C. An exhaustive search strategy identified 148 papers that studied silymarin compounds in liver disease. Of these, four trials included patients with hepatitis C, one included hepatitis B patients, and two, unspecified chronic viral hepatitis. However, only one trial exclusively studied patients with hepatitis C, and none involved patients with only hepatitis B. Silymarin treatment resulted in a decrease in serum transaminases compared with baseline in four studies, and compared with placebo in only one study. There is no evidence that silymarin affects viral load or improves liver histology in hepatitis B or C. No studies were found that investigated the use of silymarin concomitantly with interferon, nucleoside analogues, or other conventional treatments for hepatitis B or C. In conclusion, silymarin compounds likely decrease serum transaminases in patients with chronic viral hepatitis, but do not appear to affect viral load or liver histology. Nevertheless it may be worthwhile to determine its effects in conjunction with standard antiviral treatment.