In clinical terms, chronic liver disease is a disease process of the liver that manifests progressive damage and liver cell regeneration resulting to cirrhosis and fibrosis. Liver fibrosis is a process of scarring that shows the liver’s response to damage or injury, similar to the skin during wound healing. On the other hand, cirrhosis of the liver is the degenerative condition where hepatic cells are replaced with connective tissue. As such, it changes the original liver structure as well as the blood vessels that supply it. Unfortunately, chronic liver disease has no cure. Currently, more and more people are relying on alternative forms of treatment to alleviate signs and symptoms. One is by taking milk thistle for chronic liver disease. Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a very popular herbal remedy that promotes liver health. Although its mechanism isn’t scientifically understood, there are hundreds of clinical studies and trials that could support its effectiveness in treating patients with such disease.
Liver disease symptoms and signs usually vary and depend on the severity of the condition. Mild cirrhosis may even be asymptomatic. However, there are common symptoms for chronic liver disease including ascites, breast enlargement for men, vomiting blood, abnormal nerve function, gallstones, hair loss, kidney failure, jaundice, weight loss, poor portal hypertension. However, keep in mind that these symptoms are similar to those of medical problems so always consult your health care provider for proper diagnosis.
The use of milk thistle for chronic liver disease has been proven effective, evidenced by its potent ingredients. Silymarin, the active component in milk thistle, is a compound with great hepatoprotective properties as shown by the numerous research, clinical studies and trials. Silymarin is considered a potent antioxidant, and can inhibit the formation of lipid peroxide in the hepatic cells. It can also inhibit the inflammation by altering liver Kupffer cell action. It also demonstrates immunomodulatory effect by reducing the activity and number of Cytotoxic T cells (CD8 lymphocytes). On top of that, it also has an antifibrotic property with its effect of transforming matrix gene expression and growth factor – ß by the liver stellate cells.
With all these effects of liver protection, silymarin has become an important drug in evaluating different patients suffering from various liver diseases. It is also a reputed alternative therapy for people diagnosed with chronic liver disease. For people suffering from alcohol liver cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis, it is revealed that silymarin can also improve liver function biochemistries, which covers parameters including albumin, bilirubin and liver transaminases (ALT/AST/ALP).
The use of herbal medicines like milk thistle for chronic liver disease can be back to long years in our past. Today, more and more people and health care providers are using and recommending this herb as a single treatment or in combination with other Western drugs. Although milk thistle is generally safe and rarely causes side effects, like any other herb, there is still the risk of toxicity. As such, it is best to consult your doctor before taking milk thistle products to know the right dosage, adverse effects, and allergic reactions and determine any drug-herb interactions.