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Phytomedicine 16 (2009) 391–400
A randomized controlled trial to assess the safety and efficacy of
silymarin on symptoms, signs and biomarkers of acute hepatitis
Samer S. El-Kamarya,?, Michelle D. Shardella, Mohamed Abdel-Hamidb,f,
Soheir Ismailb, Mohamed El-Ateekc, Mohamed Metwallyb,d, Nabiel Mikhailb,g,
Mohamed Hashema,b, Amr Mousab, Amr Aboul-Fotouhe, Mohamed El-Kassasb,
Gamal Esmatb,e, G. Thomas Stricklanda
aDepartment of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, 660 West Redwood Street,
Howard Hall, Rm 103C, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA
bNational Hepatology and Tropical Medicine Research Institute, Kasr Al-Aini St, Cairo, Egypt
cTanta Fever Hospital, Tanta, Gharbeya Governorate, Egypt
dBanha Fever Hospital and Banha University Faculty of Medicine, Banha, Kaloubeya Governorate, Egypt
eTropical Medicine Department, Cairo University Faculty of Medicine, Cairo, Egypt
fMinia University Faculty of Medicine, Minia, Egypt
gAssiut University, South Egypt Cancer Institute, Assiut, Egypt
Purpose: Milk thistle or its purified extract, silymarin (Silybum marianum), is widely used in treating acute or
chronic hepatitis. Although silymarin is hepatoprotective in animal experiments and some human hepatotoxic
exposures, its efficacy in ameliorating the symptoms of acute clinical hepatitis remains inconclusive. In this study, our
purpose was to determine whether silymarin improves symptoms, signs and laboratory test results in patients with
acute clinical hepatitis, regardless of etiology.
Methods: This is a randomized, placebo-controlled trial in which participants, treating physicians and data
management staff were blinded to treatment group. The study was conducted at two fever hospitals in Tanta and
Banha, Egypt where patients with symptoms compatible with acute clinical hepatitis and serum alanine
aminotransferase (ALT) levels 42.5 times the upper limit of normal were enrolled. The intervention consisted of
three times daily ingestion of either a standard recommended dose of 140mg of silymarin (Legalons, MADAUS
GmbH, Cologne, Germany), or a vitamin placebo for four weeks with an additional four-week follow-up. The primary
outcomes were symptoms and signs of acute hepatitis and results of liver function tests on days 2, 4 and 7 and weeks 2,
4, and 8. Side-effects and adverse events were ascertained by self-report.
Results: From July 2003 through October 2005, 105 eligible patients were enrolled after providing informed consent.
No adverse events were noted and both silymarin and placebo were well tolerated. Patients randomized to the
silymarin group had quicker resolution of symptoms related to biliary retention: dark urine (p ¼ 0.013), jaundice
(p ¼ 0.02) and scleral icterus (p ¼ 0.043). There was a reduction in indirect bilirubin among those assigned to silymarin
(p ¼ 0.012), but other variables including direct bilirubin, ALT and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) were not
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0944-7113/$-see front matter r 2009 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.
?Corresponding author. Tel.: +14107062228; fax: +14107068013.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (S.S. El-Kamary).
Author's personal copy
Conclusions: Patients receiving silymarin had earlier improvement in subjective and clinical markers of biliary
excretion. Despite a modest sample size and multiple etiologies for acute clinical hepatitis, our results suggest that standard
recommended doses of silymarin are safe and may be potentially effective in improving symptoms of acute clinical
hepatitis despite lack of a detectable effect on biomarkers of the underlying hepatocellular inflammatory process.
r 2009 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Hepatitis; Milk thistle; Silybum marianum; Silymarin; Randomized controlled trial; Egypt
Acute hepatitis is a clinical syndrome with a
presentation that can range from mild flu-like symptoms
to severe fulminant hepatitis and is characterized by a
triad of impaired biliary excretion, hepatocellular liver
damage and systemic effects of liver inflammation. Acute
viral hepatitis (AVH) is the commonest cause of acute
hepatitis and infection with hepatitis viruses ranges from
20–40% in developed countries and 80–100% in
developing countries (Corwin et al. 1996; Meky et al.
2006; Shepard et al. 2005).
No significant advances in managing acute sympto-
matic viral hepatitis have been developed since 1955
(Chalmers et al. 1955) where it was concluded that the
best therapy was rest and a high-protein diet. Given that
symptoms can last from a few weeks to several months,
an effective intervention would permit early recovery
and fewer days of work lost. In the absence of allopathic
medications, homeopathic remedies such as milk thistle
or its purified extract, silymarin, are used extensively
(Jacobs et al. 2002; Luper 1998, 1999).
The botanical name for milk thistle is Silybum
marianum. It is also referred to as holy thistle, Marian
thistle, Mary thistle, Our Lady’s thistle, St. Mary thistle,
wild artichoke, Mariendistel (German), and Chardon-
Marie (French). The seeds of milk thistle are the
medicinal parts of the plant. The primary active
constituent of milk thistle is silymarin, which is
composed of four isomers: silybin, isosilybin, silychris-
tin, and silydianin. In turn, silybin and isosilybin are
both mixtures of two diastereomers, silybins A and B
and isosilybins A and B, respectively (Lee and Liu 2003;
Saller et al. 2001). Special formulations of silybin have
been developed to enhance the bioavailability of the
herbal product; these forms are sold under the names
Legalons, Silipide and Siliphos. Because of milk
thistle’s lipophilic nature, it is usually administered in
capsule or tablet form rather than as an herbal tea.
Milk Thistle is widely used in Europe, United States,
Egypt, and elsewhere for ‘‘liver support’’ (Luper 1998;
Luper 1999; Mulrow et al. 2000; Saller et al. 2001). The
German Commission E endorses its use as a supportive
treatment for chronic inflammatory liver conditions and
cirrhosis. Milk thistle/silymarin is thought to work via:
(1) preventing entry of various toxins, e.g., alcohol,
carbon tetrachloride and heavy metals, into hepatocytes;
(2) stimulating protein synthesis with hepatocyte regen-
eration; (3) acting as a free-radical scavenger and
antioxidant; and (4) modulating the immune response
(Boigk et al. 1997; Deak et al. 1990; Muriel and
Mourelle 1990; Pietrangelo et al. 1995). The hepatopro-
tective action of silymarin in fatal fulminant hepatic
failure following Amanita phalloides mushroom poison-
ing is documented in experimental animals and humans
even when given after exposure (Hruby et al. 1983;
Vogel et al. 1984). Inconclusive results have been
reported in a few randomized controlled trials (RCT),
mostly on alcoholic liver disease, chronic hepatitis B
(HBV) or hepatitis C (HCV) infections (Ball and
Kowdley 2005; Jacobs et al. 2002; Mayer et al. 2005;
Rambaldi et al. 2005; Strickland et al. 2005; Tanamly
et al. 2004).
Since the therapeutic endpoint for acute hepatitis
occurs in days or a few weeks as opposed to years in
chronic hepatitis, we speculated that it would be an
excellent model to evaluate safety and efficacy of
Materials and methods
We used a double blind, randomized, placebo-
controlled trial to compare the effect of a standard
recommended dose of silymarin with a placebo. This
study was conducted in compliance with the principles
of the Declaration of Helsinki and approved by the
Institutional Review Boards at both the University of
Maryland Baltimore and the Egyptian Ministry of
Health & Population. All study participants provided
Setting and participants
Symptomatic patients, thirteen years or older, were
enrolled from Tanta and Banha Fever Hospitals in the
Nile Delta where the incidence of acute viral hepatitis is
high (Meky et al. 2006). Eligibility criteria included an
alanine aminotransferase (ALT) level more than 2.5
times the upper limit of normal (4100IU/l), with
jaundice and/or scleral icterus and three or more of
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S.S. El-Kamary et al. / Phytomedicine 16 (2009) 391–400392
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the following symptoms: dark-colored urine; light-
colored stools; fever; nausea; vomiting; anorexia; aver-
sion to smoking; pruritus; right upper abdominal
discomfort, pain or feeling of pressure; and pruritic
red hives of less than four weeks. Exclusion criteria
included being pregnant or breastfeeding; having
advanced liver disease, another severe illness, or having
taken a known hepatotoxic drug.
Randomization and interventions
At baseline, a detailed history was recorded, each
subject was examined, and a blood sample drawn. Liver
biopsies were not performed in this study. Subjects were
randomized to receive silymarin or vitamin placebo
capsules thrice daily for four weeks and then a follow-up
visit at eight weeks. The capsules were similar in
appearance to conceal content. A central coordinator
in Cairo not involved in patient enrollment, product
distribution, or data collection, kept the code for group
allocation. Patients were stratified by site and rando-
mized using pre-assigned numbers provided in pre-
Outcomes and follow-up
Primary outcomes were normalization of bilirubin
and hepatic enzymes within eight weeks, defined as:
ALTp40IU/l, aspartate aminotransferase (AST)p42IU/l,
total bilirubinp1.0mg/dl and direct bilirubinp0.3mg/
dl. Standardized data collection forms were used as
described previously (Strickland et al. 2005; Tanamly et
al. 2004) to record demographic data, symptoms,
clinical history, physical exams, adverse events and
laboratory test results at baseline and on days 2, 4 and 7
in the hospital, and in the outpatient clinic at weeks 2, 4,
Serum samples were tested for ALT, AST, and direct
and total bilirubin using standard methods. Hepatitis A
IgM antibodies (anti-HAV IgM) were tested with
HAVAB-M kits; hepatitis B core antigen IgM anti-
bodies (anti-HBc IgM) with COREM kits; and hepatitis
C antibodies (anti-HCV) with Ortho HCV 3.0 enzyme
immunoassay (EIA) test system (Ortho Diagnostic
System, Raritan, NJ). Hepatitis E IgM and IgG
antibodies (anti-HEV IgM and anti-HEV IgG) were
evaluated by an in-house National Institutes of Health
EIA using a truncated (55-KD) recombinant HEV
capsid protein antigen expressed from baculovirus in
SF-9 insect cells.(Tsarev et al. 1993) Samples from
patients negative for hepatitis A-E viruses were tested
for cytomegalovirus (CMV) IgM antibodies with CMV-
IgM IMX kits (Abbott Laboratories, Abbott Park, IL)
and for Epstein-Barr virus IgM antibodies (anti-EBV
IgM) with ETI-EBV-M reverse P001605 kits (DiaSorin,
Saluggia, Italy). Tests for HBV surface antigen (HBsAg)
were conducted with the Auszyme monoclonal third-
generation EIA. HCV-RNA was extracted using the
QIAamp Viral RNA extraction kit (Qiagen, Santa
Clara, CA), and testing for HCV-RNA was performed
using a direct nested reverse transcriptase-polymerase
chain reaction (RT-PCR), as described elsewhere.
(Abdel-Hamid et al. 1997) HEV-RNA was sought in
the eluted RNA by nested RT-PCR with primers from
the genome ORF2 region (Wang et al. 1999).
Subjects were considered to have HAV-, HBV- or
HEV- AVH, if they had anti-HAV IgM; anti-HBc IgM
with/without HBsAg; or anti-HEV IgM and/or HEV-
RNA in their serum samples, respectively. Subjects were
considered acute incident HCV if they were initially
HCV-RNA positive and anti-HCV negative and subse-
quently became positive for anti-HCV. Subjects with
both anti-HCV and HCV RNA and no other viral
etiology were considered chronic HCV infection with
manifestations of acute hepatitis. Those with HBsAg in
the absence of anti-HBc IgM, were considered chronic
HBV infection with manifestations of acute hepatitis.
AVH due to CMV or EBV was diagnosed if anti-CMV
IgM or anti-EBV IgM antibodies were positive,
respectively. Subjects not meeting the criteria for
infection with hepatitis A-E viruses, EBV or CMV were
considered acute hepatitis with no known viral etiology.
Active compound, placebo and dosage
Silymarin was provided in bulk by Madaus GmbH
(Cologne, Germany) with the same quality and purity
(using 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine method [DNPH]) as
in their commercial product, Legalons(Wagner et al.
1974). A low-dose multivitamin and mineral compound
marketed in Egypt was used as a placebo. Both
silymarin and placebo were placed in identical capsules
by the Chemical Industries Development Pharmaceu-
tical Co. (CID; Cairo, Egypt), which markets Legalons
in Egypt. Each capsule of silymarin contained 140mg
silymarin as active ingredient. The placebo was mixed
with inactive diluent so that three capsules contained no
more multivitamin than the recommended daily allow-
ance. The Egyptian National Organization for Drug
Control and Research (NODCAR) assisted in quality
All analyses used the intention-to-treat paradigm.
Generalized estimating equations (GEE) with a bino-
mial working model were fit to compare trajectories of
symptoms and signs between the two groups. The
models were refit controlling for baseline factors: age,
gender, dark urine, AST, ALT, indirect bilirubin, direct
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bilirubin, scleral icterus, and type of hepatitis (acute,
chronic, undiagnosed source). Additional analyses using
GEE with a normal working model were performed
comparing treatment and placebo group with respect to
changes in mean number of symptoms representing the
three pathophysiologic processes: impaired biliary excre-
tion, i.e., dark urine, jaundice, scleral icterus, clay-colored
stool, and elevated direct bilirubin; hepatocellular liver
damage, i.e., abdominal pain and swelling; enlarged or
tender liver; and elevated ALT, AST, and indirect
bilirubin; and systemic effects of liver inflammation, i.e.,
fever, fatigue, malaise, anorexia, nausea, and vomiting.
For each outcome, a chi-square test was used to
compare trajectories between groups. An analysis of
covariance (ANCOVA) model was fit for each GEE and
for interactions. When binary symptoms were sparse
(o5 individuals), time (days from baseline) was fit using
natural cubic splines. GEE was used instead of survival
analysis because symptom status can fluctuate over time.
The ANCOVA models implicitly adjust for baseline
imbalances of the analysis outcome, and GEE yields
unbiased estimates even if outcomes are not normally
distributed. Lastly, a sensitivity analysis using weighted
estimating equations (WEE) was performed to assess the
impact of missing data (Robins et al. 1995). Side effects
were compared by median-unbiased estimated rate
ratios of complaints and 95% confidence interval (CI).
All data were entered into a Microsoft Access (Red-
mond, WA) database (Arabic version 2000), and the
statistical analysis was done using R statistical software
(version 2.2). Duplicate data entry helped ensure quality
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Patients with clinical jaundice
and/or scleral icterus (n=127)
- Refused to participate (n=2)
- No baseline data collected (n=1)
- ALT levels < 2.5 times the upper
limit of normal (n=19)
Eligible participants who gave
informed consent to participate
Day 1 [baseline]
Silymarin (n=55) Placebo (n=50)
Day 2 [range 2-4]
Day 4 [range 3-7]
Day 7 [range 6-11]
Day 14 [11-54]a
Day 28 [21-56]b
Day 56 [33-59]c
a If a patient with 54 days at follow-up is excluded, the range is 11-21 days.
b If a patient with 56 days at follow-up is excluded, the range is 21-28 days.
c If a patient with 33 days at follow-up is excluded, the range is 42-69 days.
Fig. 1. Study flow chart.
S.S. El-Kamary et al. / Phytomedicine 16 (2009) 391–400 394
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From July 2003 through October 2005, 105 subjects
met our inclusion criteria and provided informed
consent to be enrolled (Fig. 1). Their mean age was
29.8 (standard deviation (SD)712.0) years and 81.9%
were males. Fifty-five and 50 participants were ran-
domly assigned to receive silymarin or vitamin placebo,
respectively (Table 1). There were sixteen (15.2%) acute
HAV patients; 35 (33.3%) acute HBV; three acute
incident HCV; three acute HEV; two acute EBV; and
one acute CMV. In addition, one patient had chronic
HBV with acute manifestations and 18 (17.1%) had
chronic HCV infection with acute manifestations, 14 of
whom had ALT levels 4200IU/l; while 26 (24.8%) had
no detectable viral etiology.
Among those assigned to silymarin there was a
significantly faster resolution of the mean number of
markers of impaired biliary excretion compared to the
placebo group (p ¼ 0.042; Fig. 2A), with significant
subjective indicators including dark urine (p ¼ 0.013),
jaundice (p ¼ 0.02), and scleral icterus (p ¼ 0.043), while
other indicators were not significant (Table 2). Among
indicators of hepatocellular damage, there was no
difference in trajectories of the mean number of markers
between the two groups (p ¼ 0.22; Fig. 2 B), except for
indirect bilirubin at day 56 (p ¼ 0.012), while declines in
mean levels of ALT and AST did not differ between the
groups. Overall changes in the mean number of
symptoms of systemic effects of liver inflammation did
not differ between the two groups (p ¼ 0.51; Fig. 2 C),
although subjective indicators showed that those as-
signed to silymarin had faster resolution in fatigue
(p ¼ 0.06),
(p ¼ 0.061) at eight weeks post-randomization.
Missing data did not differ between GEE and WEE
analyses, and of the possible seven patient contacts, the
average attendance was 6.1 (SD ¼ 1.5) [silymarin
group ¼ 6.2 (1.4), placebo ¼ 6.1 (1.6)]. Although atten-
dance was less (74 of 105) for the 8-week follow-up, 88%
of the total possible visits were attended. No serious
adverse events were recorded and side-effects were
similar in frequency and uncommon in either group
(Table 3). Diarrhea, previously reported as a side-effect
of silymarin therapy, was rare, and not more frequent in
the silymarin group.
malaise(p ¼ 0.045), andanorexia
This RCT compared the safety and effect of a
standard dose of silymarin three times daily to a placebo
in patients with acute hepatitis. No adverse events or
side-effects were detected thereby supporting silymarin’s
safety and tolerability. The study was not designed to
evaluate the effect of silymarin on individual viral causes
of acute hepatitis, thus making our findings general-
izable to other clinically diagnosed cases of acute clinical
Although reports from Europe in the late-1970s
suggested that silymarin was beneficial to patients with
acute clinical hepatitis, they were not subsequently
replicated (Bode et al. 1977; Magliulo et al. 1978; Patera
1978). Since then, studies focused on chronic viral
infections or alcoholic hepatitis showed inconsistent
results (Deak et al. 1990; Strickland et al. 2005; Tanamly
et al. 2004). Although silymarin is known to have non-
specific hepatoprotective effects, yet most studies on
chronic hepatitis focused on specific outcomes that are
known to be unaffected by silymarin, e.g., viral
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Table 1. Baseline characteristics of treatment groups.
n ¼ 55
n ¼ 50
Mean age, years (SD)
Male gender, count (%)
Viral etiology of AVH, count (%)
Acute incident HCV
Acute hepatitis in chronic HCV
Acute hepatitis in chronic HBV
No detectable viral cause
Symptoms and signs, count (%)
Laboratory values, median (IQR)
Total bilirubin, mg/dl
Direct bilirubin, mg/dl
7.0 (3.5, 13.8) 4.0 (2.1, 9.1)
4.3 (1.9, 8.8)
319 (224, 925) 484 (255, 753)
268 (134, 478) 214 (120, 394)
2.4 (0.9, 5.3)
All binary data presented as count (%), age presented as mean (SD),
all laboratory test (continuous) values presented as median (inter-
quartile range, IQR).
HAV, hepatitis A virus; HBV, hepatitis B virus; HCV, hepatitis C
virus; HEV, hepatitis E virus; EBV, Epstein-Barr virus; CMV,
cytomegalovirus; ALT, alanine aminotransferase; AST, aspartate
aminotransferase; SD, standard deviation.
S.S. El-Kamary et al. / Phytomedicine 16 (2009) 391–400 395
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clearance, liver cirrhosis, and liver-related mortality.
This culminated in the conclusion of recent meta-
analyses of the literature (almost exclusively studies on
chronic hepatitis) that there is insufficient evidence to
support or refute the use of silymarin in treatment of
chronic viral hepatitis (Jacobs et al. 2002; Mayer et al.
2005; Rambaldi et al. 2005).
However, a recent publication by Ferenci et al.
demonstrated that high doses of intravenous silibinin
had a potent antiviral effect in chronically infected HCV
patients (Ferenci et al. 2008). Furthermore, patients
treated with high doses of silymarin (or its most active
component, silybin) shortly after ingesting the deadly
toadstool, Amanita phalloides, survive; and multiple
studies of silymarin in experimental animal models show
it has a broad spectrum of hepatoprotective and
antioxidant effects, protecting them against injury from
several toxins, including Amanita phalloides, carbon
tetrachloride, ethanol, and galactosamine, even when
given after exposure (Vogel et al. 1984).
Our definition for acute clinical hepatitis was the
presence of an ALT level 42.5 times normal and
compatible clinical symptoms and signs of less than one
month duration in the absence of a history of toxic
exposures. Sixty (57.1%) of our patients were diagnosed
with AVH. Another 19 (18.1%) were diagnosed as
‘‘flare-ups’’ of chronic viral infections, with all but one
of these having chronic HCV. We previously reported
that ‘‘flare-ups’’ of chronic HCV are a very common
cause of a milder form of acute hepatitis in Egypt (Meky
et al. 2006). Also, since testing for anti-HCV IgM is an
inadequate indicator of acute HCV infection, some of
our patients having both anti-HCV and HCV-RNA
could have been acute incident cases that presented to
the hospital after developing detectable anti-HCV.
The trend for greater improvement in symptoms and
signs related to biliary retention in subjects receiving
silymarin is biologically plausible given that silymarin is
known to act by membrane stabilization, and neutrali-
zation and scavenging of free radicals, thereby possibly
protecting neighboring healthy hepatocytes from lyso-
zymes and free radicals released by damaged cells. This
would reduce inflammation thereby relieving mechanical
compression of bile canaliculi and allowing better
excretion of bile and bile salts. Our modest sample size
and multiple etiologies for acute hepatitis may have
attenuated a true finding.
Other than indirect bilirubin (p ¼ 0.012), many of the
significant improvements in this clinical trial were either
clinical (dark urine, jaundice and scleral icterus) or
subjectively reported (fatigue, malaise and anorexia).
These ‘‘soft’’ findings are not unique to our study. A
recent report by Seeff et al examining reported self-use
and potential effects of silymarin was conducted in the
Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment Against
Cirrhosis (HALT-C) Trial on its 1145 study partici-
pants. Silymarin use was self-motivated and uncon-
trolled and constituted 72% of 60 herbals used at
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Fig. 2. Mean number of symptoms, signs and laboratory values (with 95% confidence intervals) for pathophysiological grouping by
(A) impaired biliary excretion; (B) hepatocellular damage; and (C) systemic effects of liver inflammation, comparing silymarin (solid
line) and placebo (dashed line) at each visit (see text for which variables were included in the pathophysiological groupings).
S.S. El-Kamary et al. / Phytomedicine 16 (2009) 391–400 396
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effects of liver inflammation at each visit, and mean (SD) of laboratory values at each visit.
Number and percentage (%) of patients with indicators of impaired biliary excretion, hepatocellular damage and systemic
Symptom, sign or test resultVisit number
Impaired biliary excretion
Dark urinea, count (%)
Jaundicea, count (%)
Scleral icterus, count (%)
Clay-colored stoola, count (%)
Direct bilirubin 40.3mg/dla, count (%)
Abdominal paina, count (%)
Abdominal swellinga, count (%)
Enlarged livera, count (%)
Tender livera, count (%)
ALT440IU/La, count (%)
AST442IU/La, count (%)
Indirect bilirubin 40.7mg/dla, count (%)
55(100) 51(93) 44(86)43(84) 33(73)25(58)14(37)
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Table 2. (continued)
Symptom, sign or test result Visit number
Placebo42(86)35(81) 32(76)29(67) 27(61)23(52)12(34)
Systemic effects of liver inflammation
Fevera, count (%)
Fatiguea, count (%)
Malaisea, count (%)
Anorexiaa, count (%)
Nauseaa, count (%)
Vomitinga, count (%)
p-Values estimated using generalized estimating equations based on a model of group, time from baseline, and their interaction with a binomial
working model and robust standard errors.
ALT, alanine aminotransferase; AST, aspartate aminotransferase; SD, standard deviation.
aTime fit using natural cubic spline terms of continuous days from baseline due to o5 participants with or without symptom in at least one group
during at least one visit. Otherwise, time fit using indicators for each visit.
Table 3.The side-effect rate ratios (silymarin compared to placebo) with 95% confidence intervals.
Rate ratio (95% CI)Silymarin
Methods: rate ratios calculated by median-unbiased estimation and confidence intervals calculated using exact methods.
CI, confidence interval; NA, not applicable.
aNo participants reported skin rash during follow-up.
S.S. El-Kamary et al. / Phytomedicine 16 (2009) 391–400 398
Author's personal copy
enrollment. There was no significant improvement in
ALT. After adjusting for covariates of age, race,
education, alcohol consumption, exercise, body mass
index, and smoking, silymarin users were found to have
significantly fewer liver-related symptoms such as
fatigue(p ¼ 0.01),
(p ¼ 0.02), anorexia (p ¼ 0.01), muscle and joint pain
(p ¼ 0.003), and they had higher quality of life scores
(all po0.03) (Seeff et al. 2008).
Many patients in Egypt and elsewhere are empirically
given silymarin for symptomatic management of acute
hepatitis, particularly AVH. (Strickland 2006) Although
our study showed that the standard 420mg daily dose of
silymarin is safe and well-tolerated by patients with
acute clinical hepatitis, it showed a trend towards
improvement that was mostly subjective and clinical
without a corresponding decline in biomarkers of
inflammation. The dose of silymarin currently recom-
mended is a fraction of that given in successful
experimental animal studies, (Vogel et al. 1984) and
this report and others show the standard 420mg dose
per day of silymarin to be safe and well tolerated. The
fact that effects of silymarin were noted mainly on
subjective symptoms suggests that there may be a
potential beneficial effect of silymarin that is not being
captured by traditional laboratory biomarkers, and
future studies should incorporate novel biomarkers that
can correlate with reported symptoms improvement.
Alternatively, larger studies and higher doses of
silymarin in both acute and chronic hepatitis may be
warranted to detect measurable differences in traditional
biomarkers of viral hepatitis such as liver enzymes and
nausea(p ¼ 0.02),liver pain
We thank the staff of Tanta and Banha Fever
Farouk, Rabea, and the Data Management Team and
Viral Hepatitis Research Laboratory at the National
Hepatology & Tropical Medicine Research Institute.
We also thank Meaghan E. Donovan, MS, doctoral
student at the University of Maryland School of
Pharmacy for her help in data management. Financial
Support for this project was provided in part by the
Wellcome Trust-Burroughs Wellcome Fund grants
059113/z/99/a and 059113/z/99/z; and the NIH Interna-
tional Collaborations in Infectious Disease Research
(U01AI058372). The silymarin and placebo capsules
were donated by Madaus GmbH.
Manuscript preparation: The funding agencies and
Madaus GmbH, either directly or through a third party,
had no role in the study design, gathering, preparation,
or analyzing the data, or in the writing of the
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hepatitis C virus. J. Hum. Virol. 1, 58–65.
Ball, K.R., Kowdley, K.V., 2005. A review of Silybum
marianum (milk thistle) as a treatment for alcoholic liver
disease. J. Clin. Gastroenterol. 39, 520–528.
Bode, J.C., Schmidt, U., Durr, H.K., 1977. Silymarin for the
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