Facts About Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is a purple flower that is in the sunflower family. It gets anywhere from 2 to 6 feet tall in Oklahoma. Easy to spot, it reseeds easily and is considered a weed in some pastures. Also known as Silybum Marianum, it is pronounced “silly bum mary ann uhm”. It has been used for hundreds of years in treating a lot of ailments. Picture a snake bite during Cleopatra’s days. It was all they had and sometimes it worked. But the delivery system was not always the same. Today, not much has changed regarding herbs to treat liver disease.

My experience and talking to my doctor

I’ll confess, after reading about milk thistle, it made sense to me that it could help my poor liver feel better. I was waiting to see if the FDA would approve new drugs for treatment and wasn’t sure that my liver would hold out. The virus was gnawing on my liver and I was tired, shaky, and often more than a little scared.

Of course, I ran it by my doctor. At first he told me to stay away from milk thistle and any other herbs. A few months later, after I got my swelling and bleeding under control, I got the courage to ask again. This time, he said that he only approved one brand. He gave me some free samples with specific instructions of how many to take and when. I advise you to do the same when considering any supplement to your routine. Tell your doctor you looked it up first.

What the research shows

Here are a few facts about milk thistle as it relates to the hepatitis C virus and cirrhosis.

  • There have been a lot of studies about how well it works on the hepatitis C virus.
  • Most of the studies were small and did not have clear statistics.
  • It may have improved some of the liver enzymes, but it did not stand up to a placebo test for getting rid of the hepatitis C virus.
  • It has not been proven to be a cure for HCV.
  • It is an herb, not an anti-viral. Hepatitis C is a virus.
  • It has been used as a poultice on wounds to draw out poison.
  • In ancient times, it has been taken in an oral dose that is ground up and mixed in a drink or tea for people who couldn’t digest food well.
  • Some of the farms that manufacture milk thistle may not use good quality control.
  • Milk thistle can be found growing in many fields out in the country. There is no way to know if it is pure and safe for you.
  • It can interact with medication.
  • It can change the absorption rate of other drugs if taken at the same time.
  • Only your doctor can tell you if it is safe to use with your meds.
  • It can be well tolerated with people who have liver disease, meaning it doesn’t usually create more damage.
  • Very little of the actual parts of the plant that helps your body are easily absorbed into your bloodstream. So it can end up being expensive without any benefit.

Learn more!

Now that you know the basics about milk thistle, it’s always good to research brands. I took it for almost a year under my doctors supervision. He took me completely off of it when I started treatment for the hepatitis C virus. If you decide to talk to your medical provider, you will be loaded with information. It’s always good to do your homework first. Kudos to you for looking it up!

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