A review of Silybum marianum (milk thistle) as a treatment for alcoholic liver disease

J Clin Gastroenterol. 2005 Jul;39(6):520-8. doi: 10.1097/01.mcg.0000165668.79530.a0.


Silybum marianum (milk thistle) and its derivatives have been used for centuries for the treatment of liver disease. This review focuses exclusively on published literature pertaining to the potential use of Silybum marianum or its derivatives for the treatment of alcoholic liver disease. Clinical studies have varied greatly in quality, with the majority limited by inadequate sample size, lack of uniformity in the population treated, lack of standardization of preparations studied, variability in dosing regimens, inconsistent outcome measures, and lack of information on concurrent use of alcohol during the treatment period. While Silybum marianum and its derivatives appear to be safe and the available evidence on the mechanisms of action appears promising, there are currently insufficient data from well-conducted clinical trials to recommend their use in patients with alcoholic liver disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / drug therapy*
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / physiopathology
  • Milk Thistle*
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*


  • Plant Extracts