The health benefits of milk thistle, an herbal remedy employed in the treatment of liver disease has been questioned with a recent study highlighting the lack of evidence for its safety and efficacy . There has been a good market for thistle milk, with over 1 million people suffering from liver disease (Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or alcoholic liver disease) worldwide.
The research team analyzed the results of 13 different clinical trials involving the use of milk thistle in patients with liver disease due to alcoholism or hepatitis B or C. According to the predefined criteria, data pertaining to 6 different placebo-controlled, double blind studies were taken into consideration.
Following analysis, no beneficial effects of thistle milk could be found with respect to rate of mortality or complications associated with liver disease. Infact, it was nothing more than a placebo.
When the adverse effect factor was analyzed, no significant increase in the adverse effect was evident. However, this alone cannot mean that milk thistle is a harmless remedy for liver disease.
As there is an increased tendency of people to switch over to alternative treatment forms in place of conventional medicine, the more is the necessity of data to support the claimed health benefits. Sellers of such herbal products should also take this into consideration.
"We can't see beneficial effects, we can't exclude harmful effects, and in order to know more we need to do more randomized trials to find out do they actually help. My advice to people is don't use them before you have seen valid, trustworthy, low bias clinical trials that these drugs may actually benefit you more than they may harm you," said Dr. Christian Gluud, the lead author of the study from Copenhagen University Hospital.
Reports of high heavy metal content in ayurvedic medicines, the associated risk of heavy metal poisoning and the lack of clinical evidence to support the anticipated health benefits have to a large extent restricted the fame of herbal remedies.