Liver cirrhosis is the scarring of the liver that results from fibrous tissue formation related to the damage to liver structure. It is commonly caused by excessive alcohol intake but there are other important causes. Liver cirrhosis is a fatal condition and treatment won’t reverse the liver scarring but it may slow down or reduce the progression of the disease and complications. Nowadays, more and more people are taking milk thistle for cirrhosis as an alternative treatment. The efficacy of milk thistle in supporting liver health and alleviating liver diseases has been proven by different human clinical trials and studies.
The most common causes of liver inflammation that leads to cirrhosis include chronic viral hepatitis, drugs and chemicals, metabolic and genetic diseases, primary biliary cirrhosis, alcohol excess and autoimmune chronic active hepatitis. Cirrhosis symptoms depend on the extent of damage present in the liver. During the early stages, cirrhosis can be asymptomatic and it can be discovered later on when examining for another illness. Common signs and symptoms of liver cirrhosis include jaundice, skin changes, nail changes, breast enlargement in men, fluid retention, easy bruising and abnormal blood vessels (spider naevus).
Milk thistle seed contains silymarin, a bioflavonoid complex that is composed of three parts; silidianin, silicristin and silibinin. Silibinin is the most active component in silymarin and is mainly given credit for the health benefits of silymarin. Based on other studies, taking milk thistle for cirrhosis may guard the liver cells by blocking the entry of toxins and helping the liver cells in removing these toxins. Just like other plant bioflavonoids, silymarin is a potent antioxidant. Milk thistle has the ability to regenerate damaged liver cells by increasing the synthesis of RNA by stimulation nucleolar polymerase 1. This supports protein synthesis and speed up the process of cell regeneration. As such, it isn’t only effective in cirrhosis, but also in toxic fatty deposits and chronic hepatitis.
In one double-blind trial, it was seen that silymarin can greatly reduce the mortality rate of patients with liver cirrhosis. The result of the study is more pronounced on those diagnosed with alcoholic cirrhosis. The main action of silymarin is thought to be due to the reduction of the toxic or metabolic effects of alcohol in the liver. Another benefit of milk thistle for cirrhosis is its function in reducing hepatocellular necrosis, which may delay or even prevent hepatic failure. To add to this, it lessens deposition of collagen in the liver, thus preventing any changes in circulation, primarily in the hepatic portal system.
There are numerous studies using milk thistle for cirrhosis but because of how these studies are designed, it is still hard to find out its true effectiveness and if milk thistle must be included as an integral part in the treatment plan for patients with cirrhosis. Liver cirrhosis has no cure yet, although herbal remedies such as milk thistle and medical treatment can help reduce liver damage. Indeed, cirrhosis and liver damage are fatal and dangerous conditions, but it is best not to self-treat and consult your healthcare provider before taking any herbal supplements, including milk thistle.