Revisiting Silymarin and Rediscovering its Health Benefits

Liveraide Comic Strip

Poking fun with the Comic Book App

In the span of one month, I had three consecutive cases of confirmed Hepatitis A patients occuring in three different geographical regions of Zambales. All of the patients were in the High School level. Two of them never even noted the yellowing of their eyes. Their parents gasped as I pointed the obvious. One parent kept asking if her son got it from cigarettes.

I got the same disease when I was a kid when I dipped a street food in a jar of infected vinegar. I remembered eating loads of candies and bland food but I missed school for two months which was cool because it was all excused. Now I find myself in the other side of the equation. I now became the doctor that treated patients with the same disease.

And the first of the meds that came to mind was Silymarin, a milk thistle extract. Up to a decade ago, I was oblivious to  its existence. Then everytime a resident pulls up a chart of a patient with a possible liver disease, I noted that they never omit this drug. Back then during my formative medical years, I resisted drugs like these and categorized them as “herbal” snake-oil medicine. It turns out I was wrong.

I find myself endorsing the very drug I never thought I would be prescribing. The data is sufficient. It has hepatoprotective effects. Patients with hepatitis  given Silymarin got out of the acute stage of illness quicker than without them. This is a personal account of the patients I’ve handled, of course. For more info and if you need all that evidence-based stuff, click here. You’ll see the same effects in the  literature.

And there are two pros that I never expected after reading a lot from it these past few days after the encounter with the 3 patients. One, there are other effects of Silymarin:
Due to in vitro (i.e. in a test tube) research,  Silymarin has anti-cancer properties. It has effects not only on the liver but also on the pancreas which could also aid in diabetes patients. In toxicology, it has been suggested to aid in curing Amanita mushroom poisoning. It has effects on dyspepsia, high cholesterol levels, and menopausal symptoms. It also appears to offer a neuroprotective effect.

Note: I agree with the Mayo Clinic level of evidence regarding the suggested effects of Silymarin. There are not enough studies for a recommendation to  be approved by any ruling body. So it is not yet a standard and the use of Silymarin in the aforementioned diseases is solely under the discretion of your doctor.

Second, it has a wide safety margin. It takes a lot to produce toxic side effects.

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The problem with Silymarin is that it IS STILL CONSIDERED HERBAL. The  active ingredient silibinin is often mixed with other flavonoids or plant products inside a commercial capsule. Newer companies offer a more bioavailable silymarin. The direction of the research with this drug looks promising. The recommendation is already approved for its hepatoprotective effects.

If the neuroprotective, anti-dyslipedimic, anti-cancer, anti-ulcer, and anti-diabetic effects can also be proven, Silymarin might just be a staple supplement for everybody. Why not try it today? Share your thoughts or experiences with Silymarin.

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