In the final part of the series on milk thistle, I hone in on its potential for helping with alcoholic hepatitis. Can a simple herb act in a way inside our body to thwart this extremely dangerous health condition?
The term hepatitis means inflammation of the liver leading to cell damage and eventual destruction. Hepatitis comes in two forms: acute and chronic. Acute is usually the result of viral infection (e.g. hepatitis A, B, C, D). The chronic type, however, can result from long-term liver cell damage due to a virus, alcohol, an autoimmune disease, drugs, or a metabolic disease.
The evidence so far suggests that milk thistle has a positive effect on hepatitis. One good-quality study of 177 patients found that milk thistle improved symptoms of patients with chronic hepatitis C. While the herb improved their well-being over the course of a year, it didn’t change alanine transaminase (ALT) levels. In 1993, a week-long study found that milk thistle reduced ALT, aspartate transaminase (AST), gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT), and bilirubin levels in patients with chronic active hepatitis. And many years before that, in 1978, a study of 57 patients with acute viral hepatitis found that the herb helped people achieve normal ALT, AST, and bilirubin levels.
Finally, this year, researchers analyzed all the available evidence about milk thistle’s ability to prevent or treat alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C liver diseases. In total, they looked at 13 trials involving 915 patients. They basically concluded that, although there are some hopeful results, overall there needs to be better-quality studies to support using milk thistle in this way.
In adults, the recommended dose is 12 to 15 grams of dried herb a day. This should deliver between 200 and 400 milligrams (mg) of silymarin. For protecting your liver, the typical dose is 120 mg silymarin twice a day. To actually treat liver disease from hepatitis, alcohol or toxins, take that dose three times a day. Some evidence shows that silymarin bound to phosphatidylcholine is better absorbed; find this in a combo supplement and take 100 to 200 mg twice a day.
Milk thistle rarely causes side effects. That said, occasionally it can trigger the following: stomach pain; diarrhea; nausea; vomiting; headache; rash; joint pain; and allergic reactions. One great point: milk thistle has no evidence that it interacts with any drugs.
Read the previous parts of this article here: