Silymarin/Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)

In numerous clinical studies, silymarin has been shown to have positive effects in treating virtually every type of liver disease including cirrhosis, hepatitis, and chemical- or alcohol-induced fatty liver. Milk thistle facilitates liver cell regeneration and can protect the liver from toxic damage.

The standard dose of milk thistle is based on its silymarin content, 70 to 210mg three times daily. For this reason, standardized extracts, typically 80% silymarin content, are preferred. Silymarin preparations are widely used in Europe, where a considerable body of evidence points to very low toxicity even when used for long periods of time.


Silymarin/Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) can help with the following


Drug Side Effects  

Radiation, Side-Effects

Administration of silymarin as oral or IV doses caused significant protection against liver damage. Intravenous treatment showed the most pronounced protection. The protective effect of silymarin was attributed to its antioxidant and free radicals scavenging properties. [Radioprotective effect of silymarin against radiation induced hepatotoxicity. Pharmacol Res. 2002 Jun;45(6):447.]

There is a product called Defience PhytoTherapy, formulated by oncologist Mitch Gaynor, M.D., of the Strang Cancer Prevention Center in New York City, specifically for patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. It contains milk thistle, grapefruit seed extract, N-acetyl-cysteine and other agents that aid in detoxification, as well as soy isoflavones, other immune enhancers, and plant extracts. Patients state that it gives them more energy. It is available from Healthy Directions at (800) 722-8008.




Organ Health  




Silymarin, the flavonoid extracted from milk thistle, has been studied for treating all types of liver disease. For acute hepatitis, double-blind studies have shown mixed results.[1] [2] A preparation of silymarin complexed with phosphatidylcholine was reported to help sufferers of chronic viral hepatitis. One small pilot study found that at least 420mg of silymarin was necessary each day.[3] A controlled investigation found that silymarin decreased liver damage.[4] One study has suggested that silymarin may be more effective for hepatitis B as opposed to hepatitis C.[5]

Recent findings have shown that silymarin has the ability to block fibrosis, a process that contributes to the eventual development of cirrhosis in persons with inflammatory liver conditions secondary to alcohol abuse or hepatitis.[6] While there are no published clinical trials to date, this action makes milk thistle extract potentially attractive to persons with chronic hepatitis C – particularly those that have not responded to standard drug therapy.

Silybum Marianum (80% extract), 200 to 300mg three times per day, protects the liver. It may also be used as phosphatidylcholine-bound silymarin (100 to 150mg three times per day). In clinical trials, the silymarin-phosphatidylcholine complex has worked better than silymarin by itself for treating liver disorders. A key element in cell membranes, phosphatidylcholine helps the silymarin attach easily to the cell membranes.

[1] Magliulo E, Gagliardi B, Fiori GP. Results of a double blind study on the effect of silymarin in the treatment of acute viral hepatitis carried out at two medical centers. Med Klin 1978;73: pp.1060-5 [in German] [2] Bode JC, Schmidt U, Durr HK. Silymarin for the treatment of acute viral hepatitis? Report of a controlled trial. Med Klin 1977;72: pp.513-8 [in German] [3] Vailati A, Aristia L, Sozze E, et al. Fitoterapia 1993;64:219-27
[4] Buzzelli G, Moscarella S, Giusti A, et al. A pilot study on the liver protective effect of silybinphosphatidylcholine complex (IdB 1016) in chronic active hepatitis. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther Toxicol 1993;31: pp.456-60
[5] Lirussi F, Okolicsanyi L. Cytoprotection in the nineties: experience with ursodeoxycholic acid and silymarin in chronic liver disease. Acta Physiol Hung 1992;80: pp.363-7
[6] Schuppan D, Strösser W, Burkard G, Walosek G. Legalon® lessens fibrosing activity in patients with chronic liver diseases. Zeits Allgemeinmed 1998;74: pp.577-84




May do some good
Likely to help
Highly recommended



A long-term disease in which the liver becomes covered with fiber-like tissue. This causes the liver tissue to break down and become filled with fat. All functions of the liver then decrease, including the production of glucose, processing drugs and alcohol, and vitamin absorption. Stomach and bowel function, and the making of hormones are also affected.


Inflammation of the liver usually resulting in jaundice (yellowing of the skin), loss of appetite, stomach discomfort, abnormal liver function, clay-colored stools, and dark urine. May be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, parasitic infestation, alcohol, drugs, toxins or transfusion of incompatible blood. Can be life-threatening. Severe hepatitis may lead to cirrhosis and chronic liver dysfunction.

Fatty Liver

Accumulation of triglycerides in the liver.


(mg): 1/1,000 of a gram by weight.

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