According to new research, milk thistle extract may help reduce liver damage caused by certain cancer drugs.
Although the plant has been used for more than 2,000 years to treat disorders of the liver and gall bladder, the study, to be published online in the journal Cancer, is the first to test the herb’s toxicity-resistant properties among cancer patients in a placebo-controlled trial, according to MedPageToday.com.
In a study of 50 children undergoing chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, researchers found that milk thistle appeared to reduce treatment-related liver inflammation.
Researchers concluded that the study "provides preliminary evidence that milk thistle may be a safe, effective, supportive-care agent," quoted by ABCNews.com.
"[It] 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," said lead researcher Kara Kelly. "However, our results are promising as there are no substitute medications for treating liver toxicity."
Although milk thistle is available over the counter, Kelly cautioned chemotherapy patients against using it on their own. She said that patients should absolutely consult their doctor before taking any supplements.