Ask Lafeber


July 20, 2022

Milk Thistle 2 – Liver Disease webinar Dr. Lamb

Is there good evidence that milk thistle, silymarin, dandelion root, etc. actually work? Studies in humans show they’re not particularly effective even though they’re widely prescribed.


Hi Amy,

Here is Dr. Lamb’s response:

Yes, there is evidence in the avian literature to support the use of milk thistle and silymarin but it is variable as to the effects that are seen. In a recent study in pigeons, birds were given acetaminophen to induce toxicity and then they either got silmyarin at 25 mg/kg of body weight or nothing. Those that got the silymarin had less inflammation in the liver. They also had no necrosis or vacuolation in the liver cells whereas the group that did not get the silymarin did have these changes. Also several in the group that did not get silymarin died while those that got the silymarin survived. There are a couple of other studies in chickens where they were given alfatoxin to induce liver damage and then they got silymarin or milk thistle and there were protective effects seen in the individuals that got the supplement compared to those that did not. There are some studies looking at different toxins and lower doses of silymarin or milk thistle that showed no effect on protecting the liver. So you can find information to support but also refute its use. However, based on interpreting the studies that we do have what I think it lets us know is that doses need to be correct to get an effect and also, maybe not all toxins will benefit from the protective effects of milk thistle.

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