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UltraThistle vs. Maximum Milk Thistle

People living with chronic liver disease can take charge of their health by choosing the milk thistle that benefits them most. Though Maximum Milk Thistle and UltraThistle are the strongest liver support supplements available, they have slightly different indications.

While some leave the task of managing chronic liver disease to their personal physician, an increasing number of those living with this diagnosis are taking control of their own health. Although Western medicine is limited in its ability to successfully manage chronic liver disease, countless clinical trials and case studies have demonstrated an advantage to those who support and protect their liver naturally. To stay healthy while living with a hepatic ailment, many choose to strengthen their liver by supplementing daily with milk thistle.

Regarded as the best milk thistle preparations available today, Maximum Milk Thistle and UltraThistle both contain silybin phytosome®. The difference between the two is their dosages. While Maximum Milk Thistle consists of a standard dosage of 240 mg, UltraThistle packs a much higher, 360 mg per capsule.

The following four facts can help guide someone toward optimal milk thistle supplementation:

  1. Milk thistle is the number one herb used for improving liver health. – Over the past few decades, significant substantiation for milk thistle’s role in liver health has emerged. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, several scientific studies suggest that active substances in milk thistle (particularly silymarin) protect the liver from damage caused by viruses, toxins, alcohol and certain drugs such as acetaminophen. Milk thistle protects the liver by acting as a direct antioxidant and free radical scavenger, increasing the intracellular content of antioxidant compounds and stimulating the formation of new liver cells to replace those that are damaged.
  2. Silybin is the most potent constituent of the milk thistle plant for protecting the liver. – Milk thistle’s standardized extract, silymarin, contains three flavonoids: silybin, silydianin and silychristin. Medical researchers agree that silybin, which comprises 50 percent of silymarin, is responsible for the majority of milk thistle’s liver-protective qualities.
  3. Silybin is best absorbed when taken in the phytosome® form. – To overcome the poor bioavailability of silybin, phytosome® technology has been used to maximize its absorption. By converting silybin to a lipid-compatible molecule, the silybin phytosome complex can be absorbed directly by the body’s cells. Studies demonstrate that the silybin phytosome complex is absorbed up to ten times more readily than standardized milk thistle extract. This means silybin phytosome delivers ten times more liver protection and support than milk thistle in its bare form.
  4. In general, higher dosages of silybin phytosome® yield better results. – As more clinical trials focus on silybin phytosome®, the research shows that higher dosages provide greater liver support. Even though the standard dose of silymarin is 240 mg per day, higher dosages of silybin demonstrate correspondingly higher levels of liver protection.

UltraThistle and Maximum Milk Thistle
Dosage studies on silybin have determined that 240 mg of silybin per day (the amount contained in Maximum Milk Thistle), benefited the liver. However, these studies claimed even further liver benefits when the dosage was increased to 360 mg of silybin per day (the amount contained in UltraThistle).

Although originally formulated for health professionals, UltraThistle is now available directly to the public.

To help choose between UltraThistle and Maximum Milk Thistle, you and your physician may consider the following comparison:

For acute or uncontrolled liver problems, UltraThistle delivers the highest potency liver protection available. An acute or uncontrolled liver problem would be indicated by medical tests, such as a biopsy showing severe scarring or cirrhosis, liver enzyme levels far beyond the normal range, and/or a very high viral load. This will be subjective since there is plenty of grey area between what is normal, slightly elevated and high. Further, a person could have normal range lab results but have “liver” symptoms (digestive problems, jaundice, fatigue, for example), and these people may also be considered to have an uncontrolled liver problem.

For those who have achieved hepatic stability and wish to maintain it, Maximum Milk Thistle is a powerful way to augment liver health. Those who have achieved hepatic stability are those without signs of an active problem; they are asymptomatic and have relatively normalized lab test results. However, they could still harbor a threat to their liver which would benefit from liver protection. For example, many people have chronic Hepatitis C, yet they are asymptomatic, their liver enzymes are in normal range, a biopsy shows no fibrosis and their viral load just barely exists. Such a person would be considered to have achieved hepatic stability.

As a powerful herb, there are some cautions that should be heeded. Milk thistle’s side effects are rare, but can occur. The most commonly reported problems from taking a milk thistle supplement, especially at the higher dosages, are mild stomach upset and loose stools. A lack of conclusive evidence precludes pregnant or lactating women from milk thistle’s safety parameters. Additionally, any person with a chronic disease or on medications should always discuss their herbal supplementation plans with a physician.

People living with chronic liver disease put themselves at a clear advantage when adding silybin phytosome® to their repertoire. Whether working to maintain liver health with Maximum Milk Thistle or striving to protect your liver from assault with UltraThistle, choosing one of these supplements puts you in charge of your well-being.

Di Sario, A., et al., Hepatoprotective and antifibrotic effect of a new silybin–phosphatidylcholine–Vitamin E complex in rats, Digestive and Liver Diseases, November 2005., Milk Thistle, National Institutes of Health, 2008.

Rambaldi A, Jacobs BP, Iaquinto G, Gluud C. Milk thistle for alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C virus liver diseases. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2005 Issue 2., How Phytosome® Technology Benefits Hepatitis C, Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., Natural Wellness, 2007., Milk Thistle, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2008., Powerful Support for Healthy Liver Function, Dr. Michael T. Murray,, 2008., Milk Thistle, University of Maryland Medical Center, 2008.

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About the Author

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)®

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM is a long time advocate of integrating perspectives on health. With a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester and a Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches Institute, Nicole has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2000. She has gathered acupuncture licenses in the states of California and New York, is a certified specialist with the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has earned diplomat status with the National Commission of Chinese and Oriental Medicine in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology and is a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology. In addition to her acupuncture practice that focuses on stress and pain relief, digestion, immunity and oncology, Nicole contributes to the integration of healthcare by writing articles for professional massage therapists and people living with liver disease.

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