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Hep C News: Milk Thistle Research Confirms Liver Benefit

Nicole Cutler L.Ac. February 21, 2014

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California research favors silibin for saving the liver from a hazardous mushroom toxin. Besides treating death cap mushroom consumption, silibin’s liver-protective strengths also make it valuable for other liver-damaging problems – especially the Hepatitis C virus.
milk thistle research confirms liver benefit

New research from Santa Cruz, California gives those with liver concerns another reason to take a high quality silibin supplement. Although not published yet, Dr. Todd Mitchell is in the process of writing a journal article describing his trial results from treating 61 patients with silibinin. This milk thistle derivative was studied by Mitchell for preventing liver failure in Aminita phalloides poisoning; however, its liver-saving capability can also be applied to infection with the Hepatitis C virus.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is an infectious virus of the liver that frequently becomes a chronic disease.

  • The viral particles gain entrance into liver cells and multiply – a process that incites inflammation.
  • Although Hepatitis C infection typically progresses very slowly, repeated, unimpeded liver inflammation leads to an accumulation of liver scar tissue.
  • As the scarring builds up, liver function becomes hindered.
  • While pharmaceutical therapy may help some people rid the Hepatitis C virus from their liver, others are not as lucky.
  • Instead, many infected individuals are left to quell liver inflammation on their own so that additional scar tissue does not accrue.

Aminita Phalloides

A modest looking and delicious tasting mushroom that often grows alongside other culinary fungus, Aminita phalloides has been nicknamed the ‘death cap.’ A few mouthfuls of the death cap mushroom can be fatal. Believed responsible for killing and poisoning more people every year than any other mushroom, Aminita phalloides consumption usually prompts symptoms six to 24 hours after being eaten. The symptoms generally include:

  • abdominal cramps
  • vomiting
  • severely dehydrating diarrhea

Death cap’s poison, amatoxin, causes rapid liver cell destruction. Amatoxin binds to and disables an enzyme responsible for making new proteins, prohibiting liver cells from functioning properly. Victims of amatoxin ingestion can experience rapid organ failure, coma and death.

Silibinin

A tall weed with spiky leaves and lavender flowers, milk thistle has been revered as a liver health remedy since ancient Roman times. The seeds of milk thistle contain silymarin, the plant’s active ingredient. However, further distillation has demonstrated that just one component of silymarin, silibinin (also called silibin) is the constituent most responsible for milk thistle’s reputed liver protective qualities.

Decades of research have demonstrated silibinin to be capable of protecting liver cells from damage and strengthening the outer walls of liver cells to shield them from inflammation and/or toxicity. Nonetheless, silibin supplementation has not yet earned its place in mainstream detox medicine. Mitchell’s Santa Cruz study might be the one to change that.

Mitchell’s Study

After discovering that European physicians had been treating poisoned patients with an intravenous extract of silibin, Mitchell successfully obtained and administered silbin to a family poisoned by the death cap in the U.S. Saving all but one poisoned family member, Mitchell proceeded to conduct a U.S. clinical trial evaluating silibin to counteract Aminita phalloides toxicity. His study of over 60 patients demonstrated that early intervention with silibin saved the liver from the mushroom’s poison.

In his study, silibin appeared to bind to a transfer protein that amatoxin would have used for its entrance into liver cells. By binding to and occupying all of the liver’s transfer proteins, silibin prohibited the toxins from getting into liver cells and causing damage. In addition, silibin extract also prevented poisonous effects inside liver cells by:

  • blocking the toxin from triggering cell-killing signals
  • promoting liver cell regeneration

Mitchell’s research hasn’t been published yet, as 60 patients aren’t enough to confirm that silibin is highly effective. However, based on the virtual absence of side effects and its track record of saving lives, the researchers are confident they will eventually obtain FDA approval.

Even though Mitchell’s research was focused on death cap mushroom poisoning, the results can be extrapolated to help those with Hepatitis C. Similarly, prevention of the Hepatitis C virus from hitching a ride into liver cells, blocking the inflammatory cascade and promoting cell regeneration makes silibin an ideal supplement to fight Hepatitis C.

We are a great distance from FDA approval on intravenous administration of silibin for people with Hepatitis C. However, there is a highly absorbable form of silibin available (silibin phytosome) that enhances silibin’s bioavailability.

As we wait for Mitchell’s study to be published and pray for FDA approval to help save lives from accidental Aminita phalloides poisoning, those hoping to protect their liver from harm are wise to consider taking silibin phytosome. Those with Hepatitis C seem have a lot to gain from shielding their liver from this virus.

http://sciencenotes.ucsc.edu/2013/pages/mushrooms/mushrooms.html, Defying Death Caps, Elizabeth Devitt, Retrieved February 12, 2014, University of California Santa Cruz, 2014.

http://www.bettertoknowc.com/pages/how-hepatitis-c-attacks-and-progresses, How Hepatitis C Attacks and Progresses, Retrieved February 16, 2014, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 2014.

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2014/02/most_dangerous_mushroom_death_cap_is_spreading_but_poisoning_can_be_treated.html, The Most Dangerous Mushroom, Cat Adams, Retrieved February 12, 2014, The SlateGroup LLC, 2014.

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HepatitisCentral.com provides information regarding hepatitis and liver disease. Comments are available to the community in order to discuss these topics and obtain answers to questions through community members. The Editors at HepatitisCentral.com will not be responding to questions or comments posed in article comments.

  • marion

    My boyfriend of 33yrs has been diagnosed with hep c and it has left 3 ispots on his liver , he is experiencing fatigue and is sleeping alot due to the lack of energy. Is there any other methods out there that can be helpful to gain some more energy to his system . thank you so much .

  • thestoneangel

    Beware of milk thistle, not FDA approved. It made me very sick and my symptoms got worse. There is no cure all. Do your homework, become your own advocate. Your pain is nothing compared to your loved ones! The Stone Angel

    • libby

      Milk Thistle has been around a long time. Too much milk thistle will cause diarrhea and can make symptoms seem worse as your body rids itself of toxins. I would trust milk thistle (and the amino acid NAC) everytime to help the liver detox over FDA approved drugs.

  • rex

    People detox when they start taking milk thistle and other things. It’s not surprising when our bodies are filled with poisons galore that when they are removing themselves we can get sick.
    The FDA has its own agenda in mind, and certainly not primarily ours.