New evidence implies that milk thistle interrupts the Hepatitis C virus' reproduction and proliferation cycles.
by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.
For centuries, the extract from the milk thistle plant has been used to improve liver function. This practice is widely recognized - especially by the millions of people living with chronic Hepatitis C - a viral infection that can cause progressive damage to the liver. Hundreds of studies have provided evidence that silymarin, milk thistle's extract, is a potent liver cell protector. However, there have also been an abundance of conflicting reports regarding milk thistle's ability to directly affect the Hepatitis C virus. Providing even more reason for those with Hepatitis C to take milk thistle, a new study tips the scales of doubt by showing that silymarin exerts multiple effects against the lifecycle of the Hepatitis C virus.
Two previous studies that have indicated silymarin's usefulness against Hepatitis C include:
· The February 2008 issue of Hepatology looked at milk thistle use among 1,145 participants in the HALT-C study, sponsored by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Although milk thistle users in this study showed similar liver enzyme levels and Hepatitis C viral loads to non-users, those taking milk thistle showed fewer liver-related symptoms and an improved quality of life.
· The March 2010 issue of Gastroenterology published a French study where researchers evaluated a commercially available intravenous preparation of silibinin - the most active component of silymarin - in those with the Hepatitis C virus. The researchers agreed that silibinin inhibited Hepatitis C polymerase function - a result comparable to what the STAT-C (specifically targeted antiviral therapy for Hepatitis C) drugs can do - without their accompanying hazards.
The new study that further identifies milk thistle as an anti-Hepatitis C substance examined the antiviral properties and mechanisms of silymarin on cultured (grown in a lab) human liver cells infected with the virus. The study, funded in part by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), was published in the June 2010 edition of the journal, Hepatology.
After growing human liver cells and infecting them with the Hepatitis C virus, the cells were exposed to either standard Hepatitis C drug treatment or a diluted dose of silymarin. The researchers then found the following:
· Silymarin prevented the entry and fusion of the Hepatitis C virus into the target liver cells.
· Silymarin inhibited the ability of the virus to produce RNA, thus interfering with a portion of the virus' lifecycle.
· When measured against untreated cells, silymarin significantly decreased viral load (although to a lesser degree than treatment with interferon did).
· Silymarin prevented the cell-to-cell spread of the Hepatitis C virus.
Upon carefully taking all of the variables into account, the researchers concluded that silymarin's antiviral action appears to include blocking the entry and transmission of the Hepatitis C virus, possibly by targeting the host cell.
Experts agree that more well-structured trials are needed to understand, quantify and verify silymarin's effectiveness against the Hepatitis C virus. More ammunition is required to break down the wall of doubt surrounding this herb's contribution to the Hepatitis C community. In the meantime, there is sufficient evidence confirming silymarin's ability to protect liver cells and improve liver function - two properties that everyone with Hepatitis C could benefit from.
I take 1000mg daily and have for about 4 years. I don't know if there is any corolation, but my ALT and AST have dropped 50% in the past two years. This shows liver swelling down 50%. The Gastro said this is an indication that the virus is being contained and not spreading as rapidly. The Hepatologist said "it couldn't hurt" in taking Milk Thistle. Europeans have been taking it for many years for liver problems. Otherwise, it's up to you...
I take 2500 mg's a day and have been for over 5 years before that my ALT and AST were between 70-90 nd in the past 4 years they have been normal. My last blood test were both in the low 20's. It made my GI a believer. He used to say the same thing as Magnums Hep "it couldn't hurt". I wouldn't take any more than what I am taking now and would recommend you starting off with a 1000mg.
Puritan's pride has Milk Thistle in a 1000mg pill, I use them because consumler Labs testing them to be accurate. Nazzareno I read how most of the supplement is not absorbed and talking with my GI decided to increase my dosage. I did it gradually over a few years. Stick with a 1000mg for awile. I get blood test done every 4 months.Selenium is also a good supplement at 200mcg a day and R Alpha Lipoic Acid, I take 300mg a day.
OK, the pills I have state that they are 325mg of Milk Thistle Seed and 75mg of Milk Thistle Seed Powder Extract Standardized to 80% Silymarin. So is this a 325mg pill, a 400mg pill or something else based on the 80% Silymarin statement? The label's "Suggested Use" statement indicates to take "1 capsule 3 times daily". Would that be a 1200mg regimen per day?? What is the difference between the seed and "seed powder extract"?
I've been taking 1 daily, but the prior posts make me wonder if I'm just wasting my money by taking too little for it to have any effect.
For those concerned about taking too much, here's this passage from the wikipedia silymarin page at:
"The acute toxicity of silymarin and silybin were investigated by oral and intravenous route in various animal species. No mortality or any signs of adverse effects were observed after silymarin at oral doses of 20 g/kg in mice and 1 g/kg in dogs. The 50% lethal dose (LD50) after intravenous infusion values are 400 mg/kg in mice, 385 mg/kg in rats and 140 mg/kg in rabbits and dogs. These data demonstrate that the acute toxicity of silymarin is very low.
Similarly, its subacute and chronic toxicity are very low; the compound is also devoid of embryotoxic potential."
Does it matter what brand you take? I have heard people say that some brands like the stuff you can get at walmart or CVS.... is not very goodl can you just take silymarin supplement since that is the active ingredient in milk thistle? I think I have seen both in the health food store.
Thanks. I just bought some over the internet. Was buying a more expensive brand and taking 3 times a day . It was doing anything for me, maybe the brand or not enough dosing. I'll try the one from Walmart. Can't beat that pricing.
Maybe I will start taking Walmart or Puritan. Spending a furtune on Life Extension super whatever. Don't think I'm getting 1000mg a day however. god I spend so much money on these nutrients. But smarter to do that, follow suggestions here by HR et al, than not to. . . .
Cindy, the article quoted above is interesting, but the overview itself is written by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac. This is a degree for acupuncture, so I’m not sure she herself is qualified to provide advice. The references to published, peer reviewed journals of course might carry some weight. Her summary at the end sounds like sage counsel:
“Experts agree that more well-structured trials are needed to understand, quantify and verify silymarin's effectiveness against the Hepatitis C virus….”
Guess your doctor knows something many others don`t.
i am usually all for protecting your liver , slowing and or reversing fibrosis ect.... but NOT
while on treatment.
How do you know that Milk Thistle for example does`nt clear out SOC meds out of liver
to quickly by trying to detoxify it ?
What can have a beneficial effect normally does not nessecarily mean it is good on tx.
Pre tx I took lots of quality pharmaceutical grade Milk Thistle from Germany so it was regulated with garanteed Silibin potencies It had zero effect on my viral load.
There are also absorption issues and there is a trial where Silibin is administered
intraveneously also in Germany that showed some response but it had to be done very often
meaning you end up with an IV-pole next to you most of the time. End result only showed
a marginal HCV decline but no SVR as far as I remember. I studied that almost a year ago.
Missy I totally agree with Bali and we have discussed this many times over the years and whileI am no rocket scientist who can remember every detail I am relatively sure we are not supposed to take it exactly for that reason.
With any drug while ON treatment if you cannot 100% disprove that it will not cause any problem it's totally NOT worth taking it.
Treatment is hard enough to succeed with and beat this stupid disease but to give yourself less odds by accident?
I think if you put milk thistle in here in the search feature there will be 100s of doctors who have told thier patients fine but not on treatment.
I have been calling clinical trials. One asked if I had had a flu shot (never) so I could be included. she asked about herbs or health product. I told her I take vit E. (just started) she was ok with that. I told her I wanted to start taking vit D. she was ok with that. I told her I just bought milk thistle but had not taken one yet. She said dont that would not be ok. Today I went and screened @ another clinical trial. The doctor said dont take it it , you would be just be wasting your money... He seems like a knowlegable doctor. Im dying to pop a thistle pill. But not. Maybe I'll go trade them for D vitimin.
Thanks everyone. I think I have an answer to my original question.
I read so much about it but my doctor kept telling me 'no'. I see now that it needs better testing for efficacy and drug interactions. Bali05 made a good point that it might make the medicines that I'm on right now, less effective. I think I'm best sticking with the medicine that I'm on.
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