Silymarin Shows Treatment Potential for Hepatitis C

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Hepatitis C is a viral infection affecting 4 million Americans. The course of the disease varies from person to person. Some people never experience any problems from it while others can develop liver failure and even liver cancer.

Conventional treatments don’t work very well, or if they do work, they come with so many dangerous side effects that people can’t finish them. And if you can’t finish the treatment, no matter how well it works, it’s as if it doesn’t work at all.

So, naturally, we’ve been looking at what nature has to offer for Hepatitis C patients. What we’ve discovered is that one of our old friends, milk thistle, is showing a lot of promise.

Specifically, milk thistle contains a compound called silymarin which shows some pretty powerful effects against the virus and toward keeping liver inflammation in check.

Silymarin’s Beneficial Properties

As we said, silymarin is an extract of milk thistle, formally called Silybum marianum. It’s a member of the daisy family. Silymarin is considered a flavonolignan mixture which is a unique type of bioflavonoid and an antioxidant that scavenges damaging free radicals.

Scientific studies show that oral supplementation with silymarin can help support liver function. Silymarin has been shown to combat the oxidation of fats in the liver. It has also been demonstrated that silymarin may help promote healthy liver cell growth.

But it’s not just about the liver. Silymarin has also been shown to help lower elevated blood sugar and lipid levels in diabetics, according to some recent findings.1

The Treatment Potential of Silymarin in Hepatitis C

A study published in 2010 in Gastroenterology was designed to determine whether silymarin has in vitro effects on immune function that might have implications for preventing and even reversing hepatitis C virus-induced liver disease.

An “in vitro” study is actually a test tube study. Researchers collected and isolated immune cells from people infected with hepatitis C. They measured the immune response of the collected cells to certain antigens (immune stimulators) in the presence and absence of silymarin.

What they discovered was that silymarin inhibited the immune cells from producing powerful inflammatory proteins or cytokines, like TNF-alpha, which are implicated in the destruction of liver cells during acute infections with hepatitis C.

The authors concluded, “Silymarin's ability to inhibit the proliferation and pro-inflammatory cytokine secretion of T cells, combined with its previously described antiviral effect, suggests a possible mechanism of action that could lead to clinical benefit during HCV infection.”

Life Extension’s Suggestions for Hepatitis C

The value of antioxidant therapy in hepatitis C is supported by an extensive body of medical literature, yet antioxidant therapy is still not part of the standard care for people with chronic hepatitis C.

It's imperative that people with chronic hepatitis C infection learn about nutrients that support a healthy liver and enhance the effectiveness of prescription drugs used to treat the disease.

Here are our top antioxidant suggestions for hepatitis C:

And don’t forget we have awesome health advisors who will be happy to help you build a liver support regimen. Give them a ring at 1-800-226-2370!

References:

  1. Phytother Res. 2006 Dec;20(12):1036-9.
  2. Gastroenterology. 2010 Feb;138(2):671-81

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