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Hep C News: Milk Thistle Research Confirms Liver Benefit

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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.
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Last Reviewed November 11, 2019

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.


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.

Adams, C. (2014, February 10). The Most Dangerous Mushroom Is Spreading. Here's How to Treat Poisoning. Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://slate.com/technology/2014/02/most-dangerous-mushroom-death-cap-is-spreading-but-poisoning-can-be-treated.html

Devitt, E., BA, DVM. (n.d.). Science Notes 2013: Defying Death Caps. Retrieved November 11, 2019, from http://sciencenotes.ucsc.edu/2013/pages/mushrooms/mushrooms.html

How hepatitis C damages the liver. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2019, from http://www.hepctrust.org.uk/information/impact-hepatitis-c-liver/hepatitis-c-and-liver-damage


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