The Herb That Attacks Liver Disease

The Herb That Attacks Liver Disease: milk thistle that is a purple flower with glossy marble leaves. Aside from its beauty, the small hard seed-like fruits (called achenes) have been used for thousands of years as a liver protection remedy. Nowadays, it is seen as extremely effective for wide-range of liver diseases.

A recent study,  “Silymarin/Silybin and Chronic Liver Disease: A Marriage of Man Years,” which reviewed many  academic papers, said bluntly: “It has been demonstrated that silymarin has an effect that allows its use in all of the most frequent causes of liver damage.”

Silymarin is an extract of silybum marianum, which has been long known to protect the liver from toxins, including certain drugs such as acetaminophen. Chronic liver disease is among one of the most important health problems occur in about 10 percent of the world’s population.

Silymarin has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and pro-apoptotic actions that offsets progression of various ailments, such as hepatitis, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, a malignancy of the liver, (HCC), according to the study. Its high tolerability was demonstrated by toxicity studies on animals treated with silymarin for a long time. Growing silybum marianum as a plant with potentially healthy effects dates back to Ancient Egypt, the study said.

A Broad Impact

“The ‘marriage of many years’ that links silymarin/silybin to liver diseases, derives from the progressive evidence that, with the passing of time, has led to investigation of, firstly empirically and then scientifically, the mechanisms through which they act in carrying out the therapeutic effect,” the study said.  “Through the analysis of literature, it has been demonstrated that silymarin has an effect that allows its use in all of the most frequent causes of liver damage.”

The study said researchers have long studied the biological effects that natural products such as silymarin have on viral hepatitis, alcoholic liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, metabolic hepatitis, as well as the common end stages of cirrhosis and HCC. Liver cirrhosis, which is caused by many forms of liver diseases and conditions, such as hepatitis and chronic alcoholism, is a risk factor for HCC development. In chronic liver diseases, silymarin acts through different mechanisms and complex biological interactions to produce benefits in various pathological processes.

Liver Malignancy Incidents

The incidence of HCC has increased in the last years, becoming the second cause of death due to neoplastic diseases, or those involving tumors, worldwide, since it is responsible for about 750,000 deaths per year, the study said. The study said silymarin could have an impact on blocking the mechanisms that cause HCC, adding it could “also interfere with tumural promotion by blocking most of the signaling pathways activated in HCC.” As a result, it can improve the quality of life of patients who had undergone conventional treatment with Sorafenib, chemotherapy, in advanced forms of HCC, the study said.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) causes fat accumulation in hepatocytes, cells that make up most of a liver mass. NAFLD represents the second most frequent cause of HCC development and the second most frequent indicator for liver transplants. The study showed that silymarin/silybin use has been determined to have important biological impacts in NAFLD and may reduce cell damage.

In a multicenter, phase III, double-blind clinical trial silybin and a Vitamin E complex were given to patients with histological diagnosis of NAFLD/non alcoholic steatohepatitis for three months. The result showed that this therapeutic regimen was able to reduce liver fibrosis, the thickening and scarring of tissue, in patients who underwent liver biopsy at the end of the treatment.

Despite that, application of silymarin/silybin for the treatment of NAFLD in routine clinical practice is limited since it is necessary to obtain more scientific data “to achieve evaluating therapeutic efficacy especially in NAFLD context,” according to the study.

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