T Nation

Liver Protectants - Fact or Fiction


I asked the question on a different thread, but I think it deserves a thread of its own.

Milk thistle, NAC, red yeast rice, CoQ10 - all herbal supplements marketed as protectants for your liver during use of oral anabolics. The question is, do they work?

All the data I've seen says that they "may" help protect the liver. Does anyone here have any info on the subject? Any personal experiences, say, cycling with and clean blookwork vs. cycling without and bad bloodwork?

There are lots of knowledgable people on this forum. I'd love to hear your thoughts.


sorry, a quick search turns up absolutely no evidence to support the claims of the naturalpaths. Once again, when you try to depend on a herbal supplement as an ancillary, you are saddly mislead.

It's much like me giving you some poison to drink, but then offering you a herbal capsule, with the promise that it'll protect you! Not gonna happen.


P22, I've seen a lot of your posts and while you do come off as a little too hard on those with lesser knowledge, I certainly value your advice, experience, and wisdom.

Now, inadvertent ass kissing aside, I have a question for you - You were bashing the newer 'legal' hormones on the market. So I assume you see absolutely no benefit whatsoever to using any of these compounds, even if proper pct is used and blood work is checked religiously?


Ive known of someone who had hepatitus and was told to stop taking milk thistle prior to blood work. It does lower LFT (liver function test) results. It has not however been provrn to prevent anything more serious.
Red Yeast rice - this is not a liver protectant but used as an ancillary for cholesterol - as is the coq10.


Wang J, Lu Z, Chi J, et al. Multicenter clinical trial of the serum lipid-lowering effects of a Monascus purpureus (red yeast) rice preparation from traditional Chinese medicine. Curr Ther Res 1997;58:964?77.

Heber D, Yip I, Ashley JM, et al. Cholesterol-lowering effects of a proprietary Chinese red-yeast-rice dietary supplement. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:231?6.

more on RYR



Must have been a quick search indeed.

Milk thistle has been used for many years to treat liver problems. A few studies:

Canini, F., et al., "Use of Silymarin in the Treatment of Alcoholic Hepatic Steatosis," Clin Ter 114.4 (1985) : 307-14.

Ferenci, P., et al., "Randomized Controlled Trial of Silymarin Treatment in Patients with Cirrhosis of the Liver," J Hepatol 9.1 (1989) : 105-13.

Flora, K., et al., "Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) for the Therapy of Liver Disease," Am J Gastroenterol 93.2 (1998) : 139-43.

Lang, I., et al., "Hepatoprotective and Immunological Effects of Antioxidant Drugs," Tokai J Exp Clin Med 15.2-3 (1990) : 123-7.

Muzes, G., et al., "Effect of the Bioflavonoid Silymarin on the In Vitro Activity and Expression of Superoxide Dismutases (SOD) Enzyme," Acta Physiol Hung 78.1 (1991) : 3-9.

Skottova, N., and Krecman, V., "Silymarin as a Potential Hypocholesterolaemic Drug," Physiol Res 47.1 (1998) : 1-7.

NAC also has a good track record:

Sen, C.K., et al., "Oxidative Stress After Human Exercise: Effect of N-Acetylcysteine Supplementation," J Appl Physiol 76.6 (1994) : 2570-7.

Unfortunately, I cannot find more studies on this at the moment.

R-ALA is also very good at getting liver values back to normal levels as well. Again, I can't find the studies at the moment unfortunately.


Before a drug is brought to market it goes through years of rigorous testing. Only then it is approved by the FDA, and simmilar national governing bodies in other countries. The 'conventional anabolic, androgenic steroids being used to day have pretty much all been through these hurdles, and for the most part the mechanisms of action and the side effects are known.

Now I feel comfortable using these compounds. The compounds we are discussing however have not been down this path, and therfore I can't say whether they are safe or not, Nobody can at this point in time, yet they are being sold and used. I for one am not going to promote the use of these compounds that clearly have been developed for one purpose only: not because they are better drugs than the illegal steroids, but rather to circumvent legalites, in order to make money.

Now to put my health in possible jeopardy in order to line the pckets of someone else is not a gamble I am willing to take, or advise others to either.


Yes, you can find lots of studies, but did you even bother to read the abstracts? I didn't find any indication of deffinitive proof that these compounds work. Yes there are sometimes positive correlations, e.t.c., but there is absolutely no definitive proof that these compounds work. No reversal of mortality, or disease process e.t.c.

And when compared against placebo there is often very little difference noted. If it did work as well as indicated it would have been medicine years ago, like red yeast - where the statin lovastatin was developed from I believe.


Red yeast rice is a statin, and not a liver protectant. You're probably confused since orals raise cholesterol and this is why it is used in this context. statins can actually be hard on the liver.

You can look up info on the NAC and milk thistle here:


There is a whole monograph on NAC and the thorne website.

NAC is used in the treatment of tylenol overdose which destroys your liver:

"N-acetylcysteine (Mucomyst) -- DOC for prevention and treatment of acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity. Approved by the FDA for both PO and IV administration. For maximum hepatoprotective effect, administer within 8 h of acetaminophen ingestion."


EDIT: NAC is useful e.g. in tylenol overdose, and in hep c patients. but I have no knowledge of the mechanism of liver toxicity of orals to know if NAC would counteract that.

"NAC's efficacy in the treatment of acetaminophen overdose is due mainly to its ability to regenerate liver stores of glutathione. NAC is a delivery form of L-cysteine, which serves as a major precursor to the antioxidant glutathione." [peroxidase]"


ScottL: You are right, I didn't do a search on NAC. From the info you have presented it looks to be a drug used to blunt the adverse effects on the liver of an acute attack. Basically allows the liver to stay alive, and give it a fighting chance at recovery. The liver is of course the mose resilient organ in the body. I can't say it would do much for chronic abuse, as cirrhosis, is associated with chronic inflamation, and permament scarring, cysts, and fatty tissue within the organ. So for use as a protectant for long term oral use - it may not be as usefull, but who knows. I still debate the level of toxicty that actually occurs in the liver for several of the 17-AA orals. Obviously some are more toxic than others.

As for the comment of statins and their use, bear in mind that it is the liver that produces cholesterol in the first place, and it is the 17-AA orals that tend to have the most negative effect on blood lipids, so therefore it is the 17-AA's assault on the liver that is causing this. So you can see the red yeast comment was pertainent.

By and large however my quick little search was on milk thistle, and the revelations were pretty inconclusive, either way.

Definitely in my opinion it doesn't support the argument of many juicers on these boards for taking these 'untested' internet marketed compounds such as 'superdrol' or 'methylmasterdrol' where toxicity isn't even known, but the excuse is: just take 'milk thistle' or some other compound we have listed and you'll be fine. Here in lies the issue. - These compounds are not proven for the use they are being used for, and they are being leaned heavily on, possibly very inappropriately.



It sounds like I misuderstood you.

  1. I have no commercial interest, but know a fair amount about SD/methylmasteron because I did some research on it right before the ban (I've never actually taken anything).

  2. No question the stuff works and methylmasteron has been around previously in other countries.

  3. There was only time for like one test run by the folks who developed it before the ban, so the sides were underestimated because no one had the experience to know (at least initially).

4.I haven't keep on on sides of SD to know how bad the lipid effects are. Does it really make sense to take SD vs test or whatever (I gather your point) no idea, not my area of expertise.

SD and the others were legal which was a big selling point for many. I read someting that the gov't is cracking down and SD is now illegal (not sure if that applies to all like stuff).

  1. NAC actually is useful long term and I take it every day--just as a general antioxidant (though I would not if I were not already taking a wide varity of other antioxidants).

  2. Do NAC, milk thistle do anything to help ameliorate the effects of various orals? If you have not gotten satisfactory answers here I know where you might find some ansers, but don't personally know.


Thanks for correcting me. The link was helpful.