Clinical applications of Silybum marianum in oncology

Integr Cancer Ther. 2007 Jun;6(2):158-65. doi: 10.1177/1534735407301727.


Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is an herb that is increasingly used in oncology research and treatment settings. Historically, it has been used to treat liver and biliary disorders and has been used in detoxification and cleansing protocols. However, milk thistle is increasingly being investigated for its use in adult and pediatric populations for oncology indications. Possible indications during cancer treatment include cleansing and detoxification after chemotherapy, preventing hepatotoxicity during chemotherapy, treating hepatotoxicity after chemotherapy, and potentiating chemotherapy and radiation therapy as an adjunctive treatment. Milk thistle may also have applications in ameliorating long-term hepatic and cardiovascular effects of cancer treatment. Preliminary studies are investigating its use as a chemopreventive agent and possibly to treat cancer directly. Much of milk thistle's current clinical use grows out of historical uses but is informed by an increasing number of clinical trials and animal studies. This article provides an overview of the current clinical applications of milk thistle in the oncology setting, including guidelines on commonly used forms and doses.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Cytoprotection / drug effects
  • Diabetes Mellitus / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / prevention & control
  • Heart Diseases / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Inactivation, Metabolic
  • Kidney Diseases / prevention & control
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver Diseases / prevention & control
  • Medical Oncology / methods*
  • Milk Thistle* / adverse effects
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Phytotherapy / methods*
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Protective Agents / therapeutic use


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Plant Extracts
  • Protective Agents