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Am J Gastroenterol. 2005 Nov;100(11):2583-91.

Milk thistle for alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C liver diseases--a systematic cochrane hepato-biliary group review with meta-analyses of randomized clinical trials.

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Copenhagen Trial Unit, Center for Clinical Intervention Research, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark.



Our objectives were to assess the beneficial and harmful effects of milk thistle (MT) or MT constituents versus placebo or no intervention in patients with alcoholic liver disease and/or hepatitis B and/or C liver diseases.


Randomized clinical trials studying patients with alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C liver diseases were included (December 2003). The randomized clinical trials were evaluated by components of methodological quality.


Thirteen randomized clinical trials assessed MT in 915 patients with alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C liver diseases. The methodological quality was low: only 23% of the trials reported adequate allocation concealment and only 46% were considered double blind. MT versus placebo or no intervention for a median duration of 6 months had no significant effects on all-cause mortality (relative risk (RR) 0.78, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.53-1.15), complications of liver disease, or liver histology. Liver-related mortality was significantly reduced by MT in all trials (RR 0.50, 95% CI 0.29-0.88), but not in high-quality trials (RR 0.57, 95% CI 0.28-1.19). MT was not associated with a significantly increased risk of adverse events.


Based on high-quality trials, MT does not seem to significantly influence the course of patients with alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C liver diseases. MT could potentially affect liver injury. Adequately conducted randomized clinical trials on MT versus placebo may be needed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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