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In The News: Experimental Drug Made From Milk Thistle Saves Two Lives

9/28/2011 3:49:03 PM

Tags: In The News, Justine Patton, Milk Thistle, Experimental Drug, Medicine Cabinet, Spring Tonic

J.PattonTwo men who recently consumed poisonous mushrooms owe their lives to a new experimental drug, called silibinin. Why are we so excited about it here in the herb world, you ask? Because this new drug is made from milk thistle.

On September 12, Frank Constantinopla, a Springfield, Virginia resident, harvested a few mushrooms from his yard and threw them into a stir-fry that evening. Within a few hours, he and his wife were suffering of stomachaches and vomiting. When their symptoms didn’t subside, Constantinopla visited an emergency room near his home and was sent to Georgetown Unviersity Hospital for a possible liver transplant. When he arrived, the doctors delivered some grave news: the mushrooms Constantinopla had consumed were a highly poisonous mushroom commonly known as death cap.

The doctors moved quickly and convinced Constantinopla to try silibinin, an experimental drug made from milk thistle. He recovered within a few days, no liver transplant needed.

A similar incident occurred less than one week later when a local farmer munched on a poisonous mushroom, commonly known as destroying angel, from his yard. Luckily, Lantz also ended up at Georgetown University Hospital, where he was given the same drug, and a full recovery ensued for him as well.

A new drug made from milk thistle, called silibinin, saved two men's
lives when they consumed poisonous mushrooms.
Photo by Eran Finkle/Courtesy

The fact that milk thistle contains many health benefits is not news. The plant, which has been used medicinally for thousands of years, was traditionally used as a spring tonic. The flower heads were often boiled and eaten, much like an artichoke. Milk thistle was also useful in treating jaundice.

Today, many researchers are studying this stout thistle to figure out what it really has to offer us. Many studies suggest that milk thistle may be useful in protecting against and treating liver conditions caused by environmental toxins and drugs that can harm the liver, like acetaminophen. New research is even suggesting milk thistle may be able to treat hepatitis and cirrhosis as well.

Milk thistle may have a few more years before it is widely accepted in the world of medicine, but this much is true: It has the potential to save many more lives. It’s my guess that we’ll be hearing much more about this herb, and all the good that it’s doing, in the near future.  

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