If you follow Jancis Robinson at all, you may have come across her thoughts on the healing wonders of Milk Thistle. On Twitter, it’s come up quite a few times as a topic of discussion so I thought I would do some more research. What could it hurt? Milk Thistle is an herbal supplement that purportedly protects and cleans your liver. Those in the wine trade should have their liver tested every year (so far so good), but I do get concerned, especially after many long wine dinners. I thought maybe I should start becoming more proactive about my liver health.
Let’s start with the facts, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (http://www.ahrq.gov/CLINIC/epcsums/milktsum.htm): “Clinical efficacy of milk thistle is not clearly established. Interpretation of the evidence is hampered by poor study methods and/or poor quality of reporting in publications.” Basically, they are saying the results are inconslusive. But, that said, I found an article where doctors from UCSF treated 3 patients who were poisoned from wild mushroom with a form of Milk Thistle. All the patients survived and did not need a liver transplant. “A German drug, silibinin, is a derivative of milk thistle given intravenously and used for mushroom poisoning, according to Olson. The drug is not available in the U.S., but UCSF doctors ordered an emergency supply for the three patients last week. Conclusive testing proving the drug's efficacy has not been done, Olson said.” For the full story read:
Still concerned after doing some Internet research, I phoned a few doctors and pharmacists They all concurred that the evidence is inconclusive, but one said that the side effects seem minimal. So I went down to Vitamin Express (voted Best in the Bay by SF Guardian) and spoke to Michael Le Vesque, President. He not only extolled the wonders of Milk Thistle, but also mentioned an amino acid that should also be taken with it called N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (N-A-C). Think of it as the superhero saving your liver by fighting against all things toxic. Many AIDS patients are on a regime of N-A-C since it not only keeps their liver healthy, but also enhances your immune system.
LeVesque recommended, in pill form, 350mg of Milk Thistle and 500mg of N-A-C every day with food. I figure, what can it hurt? As LeVesque said, “In the very least, it will extend your life by two years”. I’ll happily take those extra two years. But a word of caution: Don’t think you can keep drinking into the night EVERY night, and not have to pay the piper. And of course, as with any supplement, check with your doctor for drug interactions.
To order either of these, go to VitaminExpress.com. I purchased, at LeVesque’s recommendation, their private label brand Vitamin Express Milk Thistle $6.50 for 50 175mg capsules and Jarrow Formulas N-A-C, 100 500mg capsules at $15—a small price to pay for a little insurance and peace of mind.
Oh, and one other thing, one study suggested that a possible side effect is that it could reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives. Maybe single women should not be on a regime of Milk Thistle AND birth control pills. Could spell trouble! For everyone else… drink up and have your milk Thistle and N-A-C.
Angela Camacho, a certified sommelier and author of a best selling wine tool, The Wine Wheel®, shares her obsession with wine and food.