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Table of Contents
Vol. 15, No. 1, 2008
Issue release date: February 2008
Forsch Komplementärmed 2008;15:9–20
(DOI:10.1159/000113648)

An Updated Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis for the Clinical Evidence of Silymarin

Saller R. · Brignoli R. · Melzer J. · Meier R.
aInstitute of Complementary Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland bClinical Pharmacology – Tradyser GmbH, Rueschlikon ZH, Switzerland cDepartment of Gastroenterology, University of Basel, Liestal, Switzerland

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Abstract

Background: The potential benefit of silymarin (special extract from the fruits of Silybum marianum) in the treatment of liver diseases remains a controversial issue. Methods: For this systematic review electronic databases identified 65 papers for the search terms silymarin, silibinin, silicristin or milk thistle and clinical trial. Only 19 complied with the criteria ‘double-’ or ‘single-blind’. These publications were analysed from a clinical point of view and meta-analytic calculations were performed. Results: The clinical evidence of a therapeutic effect of silymarin in toxic liver diseases is scarce. There is no evidence of a favourable influence on the evolution of viral hepatitis, particularly hepatitis C. In alcoholic liver disease, comparing with placebo, aspartate aminotransferase was reduced in the silymarin-treated groups (p = 0.01) while alkaline phosphatase was not. In liver cirrhosis, mostly alcoholic, total mortality was 16.1% with silymarin vs. 20.5% with placebo (n.s.); liver-related mortality was 10.0% with silymarin vs. 17.3% with placebo (p = 0.01). Conclusions: Based on the available clinical evidence it can be concluded - concerning possible risks / probable benefits - that it is reasonable to employ silymarin as a supportive element in the therapy of Amanita phalloides poisoning but also (alcoholic and grade Child ‘A’) liver cirrhosis. A consistent research programme, consolidating existing evidence and exploring new potential uses, would be very welcome.



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