Milk thistle can help treat liver inflammation in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, a new study has suggested.
Drugs used in chemotherapy often cause inflammation in the liver but the study has found that the herb could prevent chemo from harming the patients' liver.
Kara Kelly of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center's Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center in New York City and her team carried out a randomized, controlled, double blind study in children suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) to come up with their findings.
The test saw 50 children being randomly administered milk thistle or placebo for 28 days. When the tests began all children had inflammation in the liver, measured by high blood levels of the liver enzymes - aspartate amino transferase (AST) and amino alanine transferase (ALT).
Twenty-eight days after receiving the herb or placebo, children who had been given milk thistle showed significantly lower levels of AST and a trend towards considerably lower levels of ALT.
Not only was milk thistle found to be safe for consumption, but also the chemotherapy doses of only 61percent of those receiving it had to be reduced compared to 72 percent of the placebo group.
Researchers also found that milk thistle does not interrupt the cancer-fighting properties of chemo drugs.
"Milk thistle needs to be studied further, to see how effective it is for a longer course of treatment, and whether it works well in reducing liver inflammation in other types of cancers and with other types of chemotherapy...However, our results are promising as there are no substitute medications for treating liver toxicity," Science Daily quoted Kelly as saying.
The study appeared online in Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society.