Milk Thistle and Hepatitis C

The Hepatitis C virus is a life threatening infection, and though it can take forty years before the progression of the disease reaches the life threatening stage a person with this disease wants to do everything they can to improve their health. Although not a standard treatment currently used in the United States, Europeans have had some good success using milk thistle as a complimentary treatment to the drug therapy used to treat Hepatitis C.

This drug therapy, lasting from three to twelve months, prescribes a weekly shot of Interferon or a combination use of Interferon and Ribavirin. Although the milk thistle is not believed to affect the hepatitis virus, it has shown that it improves the way the liver is able to function in patients who are already experiencing signs of cirrhosis. It will not cure the liver disease but it may make it easier to live with.


The part of the milk thistle plant that is the useful is called silymarin. Studies have shown that this seems to help the growth of some good cells in the already damaged liver. It might actually fight against the bodys free radicals, the toxins that damage other cells.

So far evidence points to the silymarin blocking toxins from getting into the liver and making it worse. It also seems to have properties to it that prevent swelling of the liver; it is acting as an anti-inflammatory. This does not mean it can reverse the affects of Hepatitis C or prevent the liver damage that it causes. But it can diminish the damage that is done by the Hepatitis C virus.

Study Results

There have been many studies using milk thistle that have shown excellent results in animals. The studies done on humans have not been as clear on their results. The first study, complete in 1989, showed that patients who already had serious cirrhosis of the liver lived longer when they used the silymarin.

This was especially true of the study group members whose liver issues were caused by an alcohol addiction. As well, none of the patients had any side effects from this treatment. Results claim at least thirty percent of patients lived longer

Another study, completed in 1998, did not have findings as good as the first. They found no difference in the patients given silymarin. Yet a small study completed in 1993 found similar results to the results of the 1989 study. This study showed that the group using the silymarin did considerably better than the others. It seems that dosage use may be reflected in the results of the three studies.

If this drug therapy proves that silymarin is useful it will have a significant impact on the treatment of Hepatitis C. Its inexpensive and has no side effects. These two are very important to the average patient. It is available in the United States as a dietary supplement in capsule form. A few more studies will clarify dosage so that this can become a more commonly used combination medication.