Milk Thistle

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Information about Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is an annual or biennial herb native to the Mediterranean region, which has been used for centuries as a food and as an herbal for treatment of liver conditions. 

Liver safety of Milk Thistle

Milk thistle has not been implicated in causing liver injury and is still used widely as a liver tonic in patients with acute and chronic liver diseases.

Mechanism of action of Milk Thistle

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is an herb native to Europe, Asia Minor and Northern Africa that has been used widely to treat liver disease.  Extracts of milk thistle seeds contain multiple flavanolignans, known collectively as silymarin, consisting largely of silybinin, silychristin and silydianin.  In cell culture and animal models, silymarin has been shown to prevent or ameliorate acute liver injury due to many toxins including acetaminophen and Amanita phalloides.  Human studies of silymarin in patients with chronic liver disease have been promising but inconclusive. 

Dosage and administration for Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is marketed as capsules or tablets containing ethanol extracted silymarin in amounts of 250 to 750 mg and purported to be beneficial for liver disease, including alcoholic and viral liver disease. The daily dosage varies but it is typically taken 2 to 3 times daily. Intravenous preparations of purified silybinin are approved in Europe for therapy of Amanita phalloides mushroom poisoning.  Recent human studies have shown that intravenous silybinin lowers hepatitis C virus RNA levels in serum and may be beneficial in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin in treating chronic hepatitis C.  Prospective controlled trials of intravenous silybinin are ongoing.


Herbal and dietary supplements

Chinese and Other Asian Herbal Medicines

Multi-Ingredient Nutritional Supplements

See also Nutritional supplements

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