Milk Thistle is a flower often used as an herbal, popularly taken in pill form. The pills are made from the active ingredient silymarin, extracted from milk thistle flower. There are studies showing milk thistle’s effectiveness in improving the conditions of chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis, but some experts criticize these studies as poorly designed. Unlike chronic hepatitis, there is a complete lack of evidence for acute viral hepatitis. Expert at the renowned Mayo Clinic strongly opposes the use of milk thistle for acute viral hepatitis, a potentially life-threatening disease.
Other conditions that milk thistle is traditionally used for, but lacking scientific support, include – acute liver injury, amiodarone toxicity reactions, antibacterial, asthma, bad breath, bleeding, bronchitis, constipation, diabetic nerve pain, dyspepsia, eczema, fatty liver, gallbladder disease, gallstones, hangover, hemorrhoids, hyperthyroidism, immunomodulator, immunostimulant, inflammation, ischemic injury, liver protection, loss of appetite, malaria, menstrual problems, nutrition (dietary supplement), physical work capacity, plague, psoriasis, radiation toxicity, snakebites, spleen disorders, sunscreen, tumors, ulcers, varicose veins. Generally, I do not recommend the use of milk thistle for these conditions because of lack of evidence.
In some cases of chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis, it may be worth the risk in taking milk thistle. However, you must speak to your doctor to make such a decision. Note also that there may be unknown interactions between milk thistle and medications you may be taking. Speak to your doctor and/or pharmacist before taking milk thistle.
The range of milk thistle dosage as used in studies and traditionally are as follows:
Silymarin: 230 – 600 milligrams per day divided into two to three doses has been studied
Silipide: 160 – 480 milligrams per day in silybin equivalents has also been studied
Keep in mind that the dosage, potency, and quality of milk thistle product vary from brand to brand. As is true with most CAM (Complementary Alternative Medicine), it is not regulated by the FDA. If you do decide to use milk thistle, it is best to go with a well-known brand.
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