Q.I have seen artichoke extract and milk thistle extract being promoted as liver remedies. Which one is better?
A. Both plants are members of the thistle family, and their active compounds, cynarin and silymarin, respectively, are also quite similar. As far as which is better, it really depends on the person. For patients with more serious liver diseases, such as viral hepatitis (acute or chronic), I think milk thistle extract is a better choice, as it has greater documentation showing effectiveness in this application than does artichoke extract. Milk thistle extract has been shown to be effective in both acute and chronic viral hepatitis in double-blind studies.
I think artichoke extract is a better choice as a general tonic to improve liver function and detoxification. Artichoke extract is also a better choice as a digestive aid in patients with digestive disturbance, such excessive flatulence, bloating after eating, and constipation (or diarrhea). In this latter application, artichoke extract has shown good results in clinical trials.Michael Murray, ND, is one of the world’s leading authorities on natural medicine and a contributor to the Healthnotes, Inc. team of experts. Dr. Murray is the author of A Textbook of Natural Medicine, Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, and The Healing Power of Herbs. He also authors Dr. Murray’s Electronic Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, an exclusive Healthnotes product.