Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)is an herbal supplement used to treat liver and biliary disorders. Silymarin, a mixture of flavanoid complexes, is the active component that protects liver and kidney cells from toxic effects of drugs, including chemotherapy. Although milk thistle has not significantly altered the course of chronic liver disease, it has reduced liver enzyme levels and demonstrated anti-inflammatoryand T cell–modulating effects. There is strong preclinical evi- dence for silymarin’s hepatoprotective and anticarcinogenic effects, including inhibition of cancer cell growth in human prostate, skin, breast, and cervical cells. Milk thistle is con- sidered safe and well-tolerated, with gastrointestinal upset, a mild laxative effect, and rare allergic reaction being the only adverse events reported when taken within the recom- mended dose range. More clinical trials of rigorous method- ology, using standardized and well-defined products and dosages, are needed to evaluate the potential of silymarin against liver toxicity, chronic liver disease, and human cancers. herbal tea.
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