Hepatitis C Alternative Medicine Treatment Options


2004 All rights reserved.

The following is an excerpt from the above HCV E-book.


Milk thistle (Silymarin) is probably the most widely used and popular "liver herb." Milk Thistle is a must have for anyone with any form of hepatitis, including HCV, or any liver disease. Milk Thistle contains some of the most potent liver protecting substances known.

AKA: St. Mary's Thistle

Latin Name: Silybum marianum, Carduus marianus; Compositae

Herbal Properties: antioxidant, hepatoprotective,
bitter tonic, demulcent, antidepressant

Chemical and Nutrient Contents: The active component is "silymarin", a flavonoid with antioxidant ability.

Parts used: Fruits, leaves seeds.

Uses: Prevents free-radical damage by acting as an anti-oxidant, protecting the liver, stimulates the production of new liver cells and prevents formation of damaging leukotrienes. Good for weakened immune system, hepatitis, jaundice, all liver disorders. (3)

Suggested Dosage of Milk Thistle for those Hepatitis C (HCV): 200-400 milligrams 3 times daily. Some people take up to 900 mgs a day. Personally, I take 600 milligrams.

You have probably seen and never appreciated milk thistles before. I always thought of them as a weed with thorny leaves and pretty purple floweres. Milk thistles are thistles of the genus Silybum Adans and are flowering plants of the daisy family. The name "milk thistle" is apparently derived from the milky sap that runs out if you break the stalk or a leaf off.

Milk thistle inhibits hepatic damage by increasing the intracellular levels of glutathione and superoxide dismutase, inhibiting the formation of leukotrienes, and stimulating hepatocyte regeneration.(1) It is also a direct antioxidant and free radical scavenger. (2)

In a study done on chronic viral hepatitis, silymarin was shown to result in significant improvement. Used at a dose of 420 mg of silymarin per day, for periods of three to twelve months, silymarin resulted in a reversal of liver cell damage, an increase in protein level in the blood and lower enzyme levels. (1)

According to many sources silymarin is a very safe substance with no toxicity, even being used by pregnant women. According to Michael Murray N.D. in "The Enclyclopedia of Natural Medicine", "Because of silymarin's lack of toxicity, long term use is feasible if necessary."

Silymarin is also known to enhance detoxification processes in the liver. "One of the key ways in which silymarin enhances the detoxification reaction is by preventing the depletion of glutathione. The level of glutathione in the liver is critically linked to the liver's ability to detoxify. The higher the glutatione content, the greater the liver's capacity to detoxify. The reduction of glutathione makes the liver cell susceptible to damage. Silymarin not only prevents the depletion of glutathione induced by toxic chemicals, but has been shown to increase the level of glutathione of the liver by up to thirty-five percent." (1)

Milk Thistle is also considered to be a "natural interferon booster".

Matthew Dolan describes the benefits of milk thistle, "It contains some of the most potent liver-protective substances known as well as exerting a powerful antioxidant effect... It is also thought to help prevent glutathione deficiency in liver cells. It is known to positively influence the course of chronic hepatitis, even where patients already have cirrhosis... It also reduces fat deposits in the liver..." (5)

He continues by referencing The American Journal of Gastroenterology, as summarizing liver studies that have shown protection against genomic injury, increased protein synthesis, decrease of tumor promoters, stabilization of mast cells, and increased iron chelation.

In September 2009, a new study published in Gastroenterology states that, "Silymarin's ability to inhibit the proliferation and pro-inflammatory cytokine secretion of T cells [in vitro], combined with its previously described anti-viral effect suggests a possible mechanism of action that could lead to clinical benefit during HCV infection." PMID: 19782083

I personally think milk thistle/silymarin is one of the very most important things to have in ones wellness program for anyone with HCV. It has been my experience that fairly large doses of it can reduce symptoms very quickly and give you a "lift". It is gentle, cleansing and tends to boost my energy level, probably a side-benefit to improving liver function! I have used several different brands. I first started with the dry herb in a capsule. But through trial and error I have found that the "Super Milk Thistle" formula by Enzymatic Therapy (which happens to have an excellent reputation for quality and credibility) works best for me. It is binded with phosphatidlycholine (see choline) and uses the patented "phytosome" process. It is a soft gel, which is more agreeable to my degestion and seems to "go into" my system better. It is standardized to contain 80% silymarin. In my opinion this product lives up to its reputation, it is a little on the expensive side, but I feel it is worth it (Its about $40 per bottle for 120 soft gels.)

There is another product, which appears to be worth looking into, silibinin; it seems interesting from its being compared to the "drug" used in Europe. It is called "silbinin/silymarin extract" by Life Extension ( The claim for this product is as follows: "The most biologically active ingredient found in silymarin is silibinin, wheras the silymarin-concentrate drug used in Europe ccontains a minimum of 80% silibinin. Being able to obtain enough silibinin is of particular importance for those who need to ensure effective dosage for the treatment of various liver diseases, such as cirrhosis or hepatitis C... (Silibinin/Silymarin Extract) is imported the identical 80% silibinin extract that is sold in Europe as a drug... the new combination product contains primarily silibinin, with some silymarin to provide other natural flavoligans found in milk thistle. "According to an article published in Gastroenterology, 2008 Nov., "Silibinin is a potent antiviral agent in patients with chronic hepatitis C not responding to pegylated interferon/ribavirin therapy."

SUMMARY: Milk thistle is probably the most widely used, widely accepted and well-documented herb for the liver. It is a "safe" herb and can be used continuously. It is possible that one of the best forms to take it in is the silymarin phytosome. (5)

Milk this is also an important part of Dr. Berkson's triple antioxidant treatment for Hepatitis C.

DOSAGE: I personally take 600 milligrams/day. I first took about 200 milligrams, but didn't notice it that much, when I increased to 600 mgs, I literally noticed a big difference in my over all health. All the symptoms I was having; fatigue, "brain fog", depression, swollen tenderness of the liver, night sweats etc.; went away and have not returned since I began this larger dose.


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