a vintage botanical illustration style of the milk thistle plant

Can Milk Thistle Help Hepatitis C?

When I was diagnosed with hepatitis C, I researched natural supplements that could help my liver, and I discovered milk thistle. I discussed milk thistle with my hepatologist. He told me at that time (1994), there was no medical evidence showing any beneficial effects on the liver. I asked if milk thistle would harm my liver. Research shows some surprising results.

Can milk thistle help my liver?

The National Center for Biotechnology Information/U.S. National Library of Medicine stated there were a variety of clinical studies done on milk thistle, but many were inconclusive without sufficient or incomplete data. But their overall findings did state, “Evidence exists that milk thistle may be hepatoprotective through a number of mechanisms: antioxidant activity, toxin blockade at the membrane level, enhanced protein synthesis, antifibrotic activity, and possible anti-inflammatory or immunomodulating effects.”1

Are there side effects of milk thistle?

The Mayo Clinic reports that milk thistle may cause:2

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Itching
  • Headache
  • Allergic reactions

Caution for those with certain conditions

For patients with diabetes and those with certain cancers, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids, milk thistle can have adverse effects and should be avoided. Ask your doctor if milk thistle is safe for you.

Caution for drug interactions

Mayo Clinic reports the following possible drug interactions while taking milk thistle (beware of adverse reactions when taking these medications with milk thistle):2

  • Diazepam (Valium), Warfarin (Jantoven), and others similar with Cytochrome 9450 2C9 (CYP2C0) substrates
  • Diabetes Medications
  • Raloxifene (Evista)
  • Simeprevir (hepatitis C treatment medication)
  • Sirolimus (Rapamune)

My doctor’s advice

I was advised by my hepatologist prior to beginning treatment for hepatitis C to discontinue taking milk thistle due to possible drug interaction with my treatment medication.

Follow your doctor’s advice. Give your treatment the best possible chance to work without interference from any type of herbal supplements. Talk to your liver specialist before taking any herbal or alternative supplements.

Herbal and dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA and have not gone through strict clinical research trials necessary to validate their claims. Be aware, since herbal and dietary supplements are not regulated, their ingredients may not be accurate as stated on their product. It is important to note that no herbal or alternative supplement can cure hepatitis C or other liver disease conditions.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The HepatitisC.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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