28 June 2009

Milk thistle meta-analysis

I have often seen milk thistle (silymarin) touted as a shining star among natural remedies for hepatoprotective benefits. And although still controversial, it is intriguing to learn of its antiperoxidative effects in achieving small increases in glutathione levels (1).

No doubt that a 2008 meta-analysis from Switzerland on silymarin will pique your interest further. After reviewing the only 19 available "double-blind" and "single-blind" studies, no evidence was found to help with viral hepatitis, but in liver cirrhosis sylimarin was able to reduce aspartate aminotransferase, although not alkaline phosphatase (2)--this means it may help protect hepatocytes (liver cells).

The meta-analysis concluded that not enough clinical evidence existed for proper recommendation (2). But risk/benefit analysis would suggest it's reasonable to use sylimarin as a therapy for poisoning and may have minor benefit in liver cirrhosis (2).


1. Lucena MI, Andrade RJ, de la Cruz JP, Rodriguez-Mendizabal M, Blanco E, Sánchez de la Cuesta F. Effects of silymarin MZ-80 on oxidative stress in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis. Results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2002 Jan;40(1):2-8.
2. Saller R, Brignoli R, Melzer J, Meier R..An updated systematic review with meta-analysis for the clinical evidence of silymarin. Forsch Komplementmed. 2008 Feb;15(1):9-20.

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