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Opiates Destroy Our Livers but Milk Thistle is NOT the Answer!
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Opiates Destroy Our Livers but Milk Thistle is NOT the Answer!

I've been a private troll, lurking behind my computer screen and reading all of the comments on overcoming narcotic pain medication. I must say that I have been truly inspired. I have no idea how long I've been lurking. But, I'm sure that it's been over a year now. Anyhow, I noticed that many people were discussing the severe liver damage caused by narcotic pain relievers like hydrocodone, oxycontin and percocet. As well, I saw that a few posters were reccommending milk thistle as a liver-protecting agent and I felt that it was my humanly duty to share the information that I learned regarding milk thistle and it's affects on the liver, namely, so that no one who is battling an opiate addiction ends up doing more damage to their liver than they already have. I have copy and pasted the article at the bottom of this comment. The article that I found is entitled, "Milk thistle, friend or foe?" and you can find it at this website:

"True or False?
1) Milk Thistle protects the liver.
2) The liver needs protecting.
3) Up to 25% of the liver can be removed and it will still grow back.
4) Taking Milk Thistle can make you and your liver worse.
5) Like a muscle, the liver needs to be active and worked to be effective.
6) Milk Thistle is the #1 herb on the planet for liver issues.
7) The biggest mistake people make when doing anything for their liver, is to use Milk Thistle.
8) Milk Thistle is without question the worst herb now being used for liver issues.
9) Milk Thistle does the exact opposite of what an herb should do to help the liver.
10) Use of Milk Thistle could make you sick or sicker.
11) Milk Thistle supports the structure and function of the liver.

The answers to the above questions are: #1 True, #2 False, #3 True, #4 True, #5 True, #6 False, #7 True, #8 True, #9 True, #10 True and #11 False.

If you have not fainted yet, read on.

The use Milk Thistle has been well documented and accepted as common knowledge for centuries. Milk Thistle is a liver protector, which is why it is a failure. It is also the reason why people use it. Confused? Apparently, someone in history noted (with some amazement), that Milk Thistle "walls off" the liver. His observation may have gone no further or he may have also noted that this "walling off" response was not optimum for the body.

Over time, all that remains of any observation he made, is the one line "Milk Thistle is a liver protector." That line sounds impressive doesn't it?

By protecting the liver, Milk Thistle prevents the liver from doing its only job. The job of the liver is to protect you. It also has a self protection mechanism. It can repair up to 25% of the damage it receives. That is like cutting off a leg and growing a new one.

The liver's job is to meet and greet everything we come in contact with (good or bad). Through chemistry, the liver then determines what it is, marries it up with a molecule or conjugates it for safety. Once rendered safe foreign matter can either be used by, or kicked out of the body.

But, if the liver is not allowed to do its job, (by our stepping in and overriding it), then all sorts of havoc can result. Imagine unfiltered material floating through your system. If you use Milk Thistle that is what is happening. Milk thistle reduces the action of the liver by 75 to 80 percent. When this happens the body tries to alert us by giving us symptoms such as pain, low energy, foggy thinking, discomfort, moods, depression or lack of sleep.

The solution to free floating unresolved matter in the body is absorption. The body isolates the dangerous matter in an attempt to damage control the problem. Soon, the waste matter is suspended in our fatty tissue, muscle tissue etc, where it remains. This "storing" also impedes weight loss attempts as the fatty tissue (where the dangerous material is) will not break down. The unresolved material marbles the fat in the body making it (the fat) unsafe to break down (i.e. the body will not self destruct).

To summarize:
1) Milk Thistle builds a wall around the liver preventing it from doing 75 to 80 percent of its job.
2) Up to 25% of your liver can be damage or removed and it will still grow back. That is like cutting off a leg, a lot of room for error there.
3) To prevent damage, the body captures and stores foreign matter that the liver can't process.
4) The body tries to warn us of liver overwhelm, by giving us symptoms, pain, low energy, foggy thinking, discomfort, moods, depression or lack of sleep.
5) Our body becomes a storehouse of dangerous material and unused food. This causes us to stay fat. As the body will not release unfit material to its system unless forced to.

What good can be said about Milk Thistle? At least it is not controlled by the government and force fed to us.

In conclusion, we are not saying to damage your liver since it can fix itself. We are saying that, wearing your clothes over your raincoat is just backwards.

The liver is one tough organ and is made better than your car or washing machine. When was the last time your car fixed it's own paint, door ding or broken window?

Finally, imagine you have hired a bodyguard for protection. Now imagine you are out one night and you and your bodyguard decide to get money at the ATM. As you receive your cash, a big scruffy guy walks up, shoves a gun up your nose and demands all of your money, now.

You look around and you see your bodyguard listening to music while getting a massage (totally oblivious to your situation). If you are taking Milk Thistle, your bodyguard is in a deep sleep.

Therefore, do not, do not, use Milk Thistle. Should you want to research this yourself (and we hope you do), go ahead. Please, prove this article wrong.

Be our guest.

If you want to avoid the agony, read the information on Liver Balance Plus at this site. You will then discover the product designed to support the structure and function of your liver. Your liver is well made. If you give it what it needs and let it do it's job, it will be happy, and so will you."  

Anyhow, that's the article that I found and I hope it helps someone out! Thanks!
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16 Comments Post a Comment
757137 tn?1347200053
Out of 13 medical trials, milk thistle was found to be efficacious in 12. See Andrew Weill and his his discussion of this herb.

Nine years ago my sister was diagnosed with liver cancer. The diseased part of the liver was surgically removed. She refused chemotherapy because it was both nasty and carcinogenic.  She opted instead for natural supplements. At the top of the list was milk thistle. After nine years she remains cancer free and in good health.
757137 tn?1347200053
Just looked at your profile. I see you have a sense of humor. Does this extend to the liver?
1236893 tn?1408490528
This natural ingredient has the power to kick-start healthy liver functioning—and energize good health by renewing your liver all the way down to the cellular level. It’s called silymarin.

What is silymarin? It’s a powerful bioflavonoid antioxidant from a plant called Milk Thistle. This incredible plant has a long history of medicinal use, going all the way back to biblical times. More important, it’s supported by years of modern medical research.

Milk thistle, also known as silybum marianum, is an herb whose properties have strong effects on the function of the liver. Used by herbalists for hundreds of years, milk thistle has been touted as a treatment for hepatitis, liver failure, cirrhosis, cancer, diabetes in people with cirrhosis, and high cholesterol. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Mayo Clinic, milk thistle can sometimes be an effective treatment for these diseases and more (see References below).

The Mayo Clinic reports that oral doses of milk thistle improved liver blood test results for chronic hepatitis. However, in the case of acute viral hepatitis, there has not been enough research at this time to recommend milk thistle for the treatment for this potentially fatal disease.

Avatar m tn
This article is wrong in so many ways that it's hard to believe this wasn't said by a current presidential candidate.  First of all, milk thistle doesn't "wall off" the liver.  Doesn't work that way.  Milk thistle is a liver cleanser, flushing out toxins.  As such, it isn't meant to be taken regularly, only when you do a liver cleanse.  So used properly, it wouldn't be in your system for all that long, since you don't use it on a regular basis.  Also, herbs aren't used singly, though many uninformed people do so.  Milk thistle is used in a formula of herbs and other substances that will have different effects on the liver, including tempering the effects of the other herbs.  Milk thistle is always in formula with herbs such as dandelion root, yellowdock, burdock, alpha lipoic acid, precursors of glutathione (which is the main liver antioxidant, not milk thistle) and many other substances.  You're even wrong on the problem of the opiates.  It's not the opiates that damage the liver, and most of the ones you mentioned aren't opiates, they're synthetic drugs meant to mimic opiates.  It's the addition of acetomenophen, the active ingredient of Tylenol, that makes them liver toxic.  You could smoke opium every day and not suffer liver damage.  Heroin and morphine aren't associated with liver damage.  But the drugs you mentioned are all a combination of synthetic opiates with acetomenophen.  It's the latter that causes the liver damage.  And as for your notion that the liver doesn't store toxins, what do you think cirrhosis is?  While it's true the liver's job is to pass or not pass things that enter the body, much of what it doesn't pass it holds onto.  You get cirrhosis when it holds on to so much toxin it turns hard as a rock.  What milk thistle, in combination with other substances in a formula, does is clean out some of those toxins so the liver stays capable of doing its job.  Now you don't have to liver cleanse with milk thistle to do this.  Fasting does it, too.  Wheat grass is very high in glutathione, so a wheat grass fast will also clean out the liver.  And of course, if you put less junk in, you have less junk to take out.  Where does this stuff come from?
Avatar m tn
And just a comment on the subject of silymarin, since it was brought up.  This is about how herbs are used, which also matters as to how potentially harmful they might be.  Traditionally, milk thistle, as with all herbs, would be taken either mixed in with other food, or what became the tablet, as a tea, which is a water extract, or a tincture, an alcohol extract.  The weakest form is just the dried herb, the second is tea, because water is not an efficient extractive agent, and the most effective would be considered the tincture, since alcohol is a better extractive agent of the active ingredients.  Today, however, most people in the US and Europe take herbs also in new ways.  One is a supercritical extract, which is a combination of an alcohol extract and a newer technique that is better at extracting fat soluble ingredients than is alcohol.  But the most different method is the standardized herb.  Most people taking milk thistle these days are probably taking it standardized to silymarin.  We really have little information about the safety of this method, since it's a pharmaceutical process that hasn't been around that long.  These products are considered stronger, and therefore potentially more effective more quickly but, like pharmaceuticals, perhaps more potentially dangerous as well.  There's insufficient research to know, and no long historical record to consult, and because money for research doesn't flow to products you can't patent (anything not significantly altered from its natural state) and get a monopoly on for a period of years, we won't know for a long time.  Already standardized kava may have caused some liver disease, though we don't know for sure, whereas no problems have been reported with traditional kava.  What standardization does is control for, usually, one active chemical that is thought to be responsible for the herb's effectiveness -- thought to be, because nobody knows for sure and because more likely the many chemicals in plants work synergistically both within themselves and with other plants.  The virtue of this method is that the manufacturer can claim the product is the same each time, whereas the natural plant not altered for standardization will be different in chemical strength depending on growing conditions.  Unfortunately, standardizing for one chemical compound requires the elimination of the plant's natural balance.  You can counter for this somewhat by adding to the product both a standardized herb and a traditionally tinctured herb, which most of the best companies do, but you're still not taking the plant the way it was traditionally used.  Personally, I use standardized herbs for some purposes, traditional for others, tinctures for some, capsules for others, teas for others.  The more you know about herbs the more you can make these decisions, but people should be aware that not all companies are the same, not all products are the same, and not all natural products are in fact natural.
Avatar f tn
Milk thistle is extremely supportive to the liver. It is safe to be taken over long periods of time by itself. If you take 3 tablespoons of the crushed up seed in the morning and 3 at night you will notice an increase in energy in 3 days of taking it because your liver will be functioning that much better. After a period of partying your liver is stressed. You don't want to do a harsh liver detox and kick your liver while its down and make it work harder. You want to take something that's going to support it. Milk thistle is great for that. Turmeric is as well. Turmeric is also great for the liver; anti inflammatory; and a great antioxidant... it has a great deal of other benefits as well. But I think those 3 qualities are the most important to mention when referring to recovering from opiates.
Avatar m tn
Milk thistle is not traditionally meant to be used for long periods of time.  Because it cleans toxins out of the liver it should only be used when you wish to do that.  But it also cleans out things that you don't want cleaned out, which is why cleansing is only done occasionally, not all the time.  For example, if you're on medication, or taking a "natural" product that isn't, in fact, natural, milk thistle might eliminate it before it has a chance to work.  It's the same theory of why you don't take colon cleansers regularly, just when you need them -- there's too much possibility you'll clean something out you don't want out.  Turmeric, on the other hand, isn't a liver cleanser, it is a liver protector.  They each have their place, but there's no reason to take milk thistle on a regular basis, so why take the risk?  First, do no harm.  
Avatar m tn
By the way, the above is my opinion -- if you want to take milk thistle all the time, be my guest -- there's no monopoly on truth with any form of medicine.  I just think it's best to be informed and cautious.
Avatar m tn
My doctor put me on milk thistle when my liver enzymes (AST, ALT) were abnormally elevated. After less than two weeks on milk thistle my liver enzymes returned to normal.
Avatar m tn
I was given tainted blood in 1981. Didn't know but was diagnosed with Hepc from it in 99.  I was told by chinese Dr that milk thistle would help in the fight.  Now after operating at less than half energy and wellness all these years they finally have a drug that mat cure it called Harvoni but in the meantime I am a stage 4 Cirrhosis.  I recently got something that made me feel like a terrible allergy and made me itch all over felt like my organs were itching at onset and thought perhaps it was the milk thistle for some weird reason and went off it. Dr though good idea. Took liver enzyme levels after  3 was off it and all have ellavated dramatically.  Still feeling as if allergic to something and ver emotional. I read it has estrogen properties and was wondering if anyone had experienced withdrawls or itching going off milk thistle.   I have taken it for 16 yrs and thought it was making me feel better than not.   after reading a post I am wondering if I am not allergic to it but withdrawing from it.  
Avatar m tn
It isn't an addictive drug, and I know of no withdrawals from it, but it's also not an herb that's recommended to be taken on a regular basis as it can theoretically wash out beneficial things from your liver once it's been cleansed.  There are remedies you can take on a regular basis to protect your liver, such as alpha lipoic acid, wheat grass (for the glutathione) and many other things, but milk thistle isn't an everyday herb.  Now, that being said, some people have unusual conditions that allow for aberrations from the norm, but a doctor wouldn't know anything about this, only a specialist in natural medicine would (unless the doctor practiced integrated medicine).   As far as I know any estrogenic properties from it would be minimal to nonexistent, and it isn't found in any hormonal balancing formulas I've ever seen.  When you have liver problems you're prone to all sorts of problems because the liver is an essential part of your immune system.  Now, although you might not have withdrawal, any time you take something regularly for a long time period the body can react when you discontinue it because it's not doing what it was doing and the body has to act to meet that change -- people who stop using caffeine usually get headaches, people who switch to vegetarian diets often find themselves listless for a little while whereas others find themselves more energized -- bodies react to change.  Hope you find the answer.  (Also, it's better to get more responses if you create new posts rather than piggybacking on old posts).
Avatar m tn
"Please, prove this article wrong."

Well, when you've provided your proof, maybe we will. Thus far, a list of reviews for the top three most popular milk thistle products is sufficient to "prove this article wrong." No offense, but you skipped the part where you include relevant scientific data. There are numerous studies in the national library of medicine regarding the "safety and efficacy" of milk thistle, used short term and long term. And excuse me, but I've never heard of this "walling off" crap. As for the comments about milk thistle "removing things you want," it's relative to the person. If you're attempting to trick or force your body into doing something by using pharmaceuticals, the liver wants to get rid of that stuff, so don't take milk thistle (simple as that).
Avatar m tn
I don't disagree with what you said, but relying on Amazon reviews is a bit much.  First, most if not all of those reviewers are paid to review Amazon sold products by getting free stuff to review, at a minimum.  Second, most of the products sold by Amazon are not reliable in quality, a they're direct marketed or internet only products that can't be verified independently.  There are better places to get good info.  That being said, again, I don't disagree with anything you said, but also again, this is a really old post and only oddballs like me are going to look at it.
1236893 tn?1408490528

The seeds of the milk thistle plant (Silybum marianum) are used medicinally. One of the most important part is silymarin, which has several compounds, the most prominent is silybinin.

The silymarin component may decrease blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c, and LDL cholesterol levels when used with conventional therapy in people with type 2 diabetes. It has also been shown to reduce insulin resistance in people with coexisting diabetes and alcoholic cirrhosis.

Silymarin is thought to act as a liver-protectant, that being said, evidence of benefit in liver disease has been mixed. One preliminary study of a specific silybinin preparation improved liver function in people with chronic active hepatitis. However, most studies in patients with hepatitis B or C have not shown an improvement in mortality or liver function using milk thistle or preparations of milk thistle. Similarly, in alcoholic liver disease, some preliminary clinical studies suggested that milk thistle might improve liver function and mortality, but later studies did not show a significant effect.

Preliminary evidence suggests that milk thistle extract standardized to 70% - 80% silymarin may protect the liver against damage from certain toxins, including drugs such as acetaminophen and phenytoin (Dilantin). Milk thistle extract may also reduce liver toxicity associated with chemotherapy. In a study of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia receiving maintenance chemotherapy, milk thistle extract standardized to 33% silybinin was given at a daily dose of 80 mg to 320 mg of silybinin (Ladas, Cancer 2010). Although no benefit was seen during the short course of therapy (28 days), one month later the milk thistle treated children had reductions in levels of liver enzymes that indicate toxicity compared to those who did not receive milk thistle.

Administered intravenously silybinin may lessen liver damage due to poisoning by Amanita phalloides mushroom (death cap) -- although this IV preparation is not readily available in the U.S.

Silybinin is under investigation for use in preventing or treating various forms of cancer, especially prostate cancer.

Additional information about clinical studies with milk thistle is found in the Natural Products Encyclopedia.
Most clinical studies of milk thistle's effectiveness have used specific dry extracts standardized to approximately 70% - 80% silymarin on a weight basis. Milk thistle is also available in non-concentrated, seed powder form containing at least 2% silymarin.

Bluebonnet Herbals Milk Thistle Extract -- 64.5% silymarin
Natrol Milk Thistle Advantage 525 mg -- 58% silymarin
Natural Factors Milk Thistle Extract 80% Silymarin -- 64.1% silymarin
Nature's Plus Herbal Actives Milk Thistle Extended Release -- 48.3% silymarin
NutriCology Innovative Nutrition Phyllanthus Complex -- 46.9% silymarin
Pure Encapsulations Silymarin Milk Thistle Extract -- 61.9% silymarin
Rainbow Light Herbal Prescriptives Milk Thistle contained contamination with 0.9 mcg of lead in a 3 tablet daily serving (and 1.8 mcg in a 6 tablet serving), exceeding the stringent California Prop 65 limit of 0.5 mcg of lead per daily serving, above which a supplement is supposed to carry a warning label.  
Why do the majority of products fail to provide their claimed levels of silymarin?
A likely explanation is that the milk thistle extract purchased to make these products is substandard. Some Chinese ingredient suppliers sell a less expensive, substandard form of milk thistle extract known as "80% silymarin -- UV-vis." This name implies that if analyzed with the "UV-vis" test method, the test will show 80% silymarin. However, the UV-vis test method is not specific to silymarin, i.e., it counts compounds that are not silymarin as being silymarin. If the same ingredient is tested with a more specific and accurate test method, e.g., the HPLC method  the actual silymarin content may be revealed as being significantly lower than 80%,  Suppliers charge a higher price for extract that is "80% silymarin -- HPLC." The FDA does not set standards for the composition of herbal products or how manufacturers are supposed to test them. Consequently, manufacturers may choose to use any form of milk thistle and consumers normally have no way to knowing the quality of what they are buying.

1236893 tn?1408490528
Part 2

Extracts vs. Seed Powder:
Dry milk thistle seed powder contains only 1.5% to about 3.0% silymarin, while dry "extracts" are much more concentrated -- with silymarin accounting for approximately 70% to 80% of their weight. Pills made from seed powder contain about 9 to 15 mg of silymarin, while pills made from dry extracts contain approximately 112 mg to 240 mg of silymarin, depending on the size of the pill. People who prefer to use whole herb products as opposed to concentrated extracts should be aware that much larger doses of milk thistle will be necessary to get the same amount of silymarin and may be more likely to be exposed to contaminants, such as lead.

liquid extracts are not necessarily concentrated extracts.
Products can vary widely in the amount of extract claimed to be in each unit.

The common dosage of milk thistle is 200 mg 2 to 3 times a day of an extract standardized to 70% to 80% silymarin. For diabetes, the 200 mg is taken 3 times a day along with conventional treatment. For cirrhosis of the liver, a daily dose of 420 mg has been used (expected to contain about 300 to 330 mg of silymarin). For chronic active hepatitis, 240 mg of silybinin (the major constituent of silymarin) taken twice daily has been used. There is some evidence that preparations containing phosphatidylcholine may increase absorption of active ingredients of milk thistle.

As a liver-protectant during chemotherapy, milk thistle extract providing 80 mg to 320 mg of silybinin per day has been used in children, with the dosage based on weight (approximately 5.1 mg of silybinin daily per kilogram of body weight) (Ladas, Cancer 2010).
For treatment of mushroom poisoning with Amanita phalloides, 20 mg to 50 mg of silybinin per kg of body weight has been administered intravenously over 24 hours, divided into four infusions, each administered over a two hour period. Intravenous silybinin, however, is not available in the U.S.

Silymarin has a relatively short (1 to 2 hour) half-life and low bioavailability. A short-term (7 day) study in non-cirrhotic patients with hepatitis C showed that much higher doses of silymarin (as much at 700 mg three times per day) could be given without causing adverse events. Plasma levels of silymarin were dramatically increased. However, even these high doses did not cause meaningful reductions in markers of hepatitis viral activity. The milk thistle extract used was 70.8% silymarin. (Hawke, J Clin Pharmacol 2010).

Additional information about clinical studies with milk thistle is found in the Natural Products Encyclopedia
Milk thistle and its extracts are generally well-tolerated but, infrequently, can have a laxative effect and cause other gastrointestinal side-effects.

Some patients may have allergic reactions to milk thistle including itching, rash, hives, eczema, and anaphylaxis. Allergic reactions may be more likely to occur in patients sensitive to plants such as ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies.

milk thistle might reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives and it might inhibit cytochrome increasing the levels of certain drugs metabolized by it such as amitriptyline, diazepam, verapamil, and warfarin.

The following products are good,

GNC Herbal Plus® Standardized Milk Thistle (200 mg extract [80% silymarin] per vegetarian capsule,

Dr. Whitaker Milk Thistle Liver Cleanse (131.5 mg extract [% silymarin not stated] per capsule, 4 per day)

Jarrow Formulas® Milk Thistle Standardized Silymarin 30:1 (150 mg extract [80% total flavonoids, % silymarin not stated] per capsule, 1 per day)

*******® Liver DTX® Complex (100 mg extract
[% silymarin not stated] per caplet, 3 per day)

Trunature® (Costco) Milk Thistle (200 mg extract [80% silymarin] per softgel, 3 per day)

Another oddball!
Avatar m tn
The reason most products don't list the amount of silymarin is because they're not standardized.  Standardized extracts are not traditional herbal medicine, they are pharmaceuticalized herbal medicine approaching drug status.  Obviously the technology used to standardize an herb didn't exist until recently with the advent of mass spectrometers and other devices to measure such things.  Traditional herbal medicine is much less concerned with potency than it is with frequency of use.  Keep in mind that when you standardize one constituent of an herb, you are reducing other constituents of the plant and upsetting the natural balance that evolved in nature.  This might make the product more effective, it might make it less so, we really don't know, and it probably makes it more likely to have unwanted side effects.  
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Avatar m tn
Arlington, VA
1236893 tn?1408490528