Silymarin is a collection of complex flavonoids found in milk thistle (Silybum marianum) that has been shown to elevate liver glutathione levels in rats.1 Acetaminophen can cause liver damage, which is believed to involve glutathione depletion.2 In one study involving rats, silymarin protected against acetaminophen-induced glutathione depletion.3 While studies to confirm this action in humans have not been conducted, some doctors recommend silymarin supplementation with 200 mg milk thistle extract, containing 70–80% silymarin, three times per day for people taking acetaminophen in large amounts for more than one year and/or with other risk factors for liver problems.
Food, especially foods high in pectin (including jellies), carbohydrates, and many types of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and others) can interfere with acetaminophen absorption.4 It is unclear how much effect this interaction has on acetaminophen activity.
One small study found that hibiscus could decrease levels of acetaminophen if the drug was taken after the tea was consumed though it was not entirely clear if the decreases were clinically significant.5
Food, especially foods high in pectin (including jellies), carbohydrates, and many types of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and others) can interfere with acetaminophen absorption.6 It is unclear how much effect this interaction has on acetaminophen activity.
Hospitals use oral and intravenous NAC to treat liver damage induced by acetaminophen overdose poisoning.8 NAC is often administered intravenously by emergency room doctors. Oral NAC appears to be effective for acetaminophen toxicity.
An uncontrolled trial compared intravenous NAC with oral NAC in children with acetaminophen poisoning and found that both methods were equally effective in reversing acetaminophen-induced liver toxicity.9 However, acetaminophen toxicity is a potential medical emergency, and should only be managed by qualified healthcare professionals.
Gomisin A is a constituent found in the Chinese herb schisandra (Schisandra chinensis). In a study of rats given liver-damaging amounts of acetaminophen, gomisin A appeared to protect against some liver damage but did not prevent glutathione depletion10 (unlike milk thistle, as reported above). Studies have not yet confirmed this action in humans.
Taking 3 grams vitamin C with acetaminophen has been shown to prolong the amount of time acetaminophen stays in the body.11 This theoretically might allow people to use less acetaminophen, thereby reducing the risk of side effects. Consult with a doctor about this potential before reducing the amount of acetaminophen. However, increasing the time acetaminophen is in the body might also theoretically increase its toxicity. Consult with a doctor before taking vitamin C along with acetaminophen.12
1. Valenzuela A, Aspillaga M, Vial S, Guerra R. Selectivity of silymarin on the increase of the glutathione content in different tissues of the rat. Planta Med 1989;55:420–2.
2. Threlkeld DS, ed. Central Nervous System Drugs, Acetaminophen. In Facts and Comparisons Drug Information. St. Louis, MO: Facts and Comparisons, Mar 1997, 247–f.
3. Campos R, Garrido A, Guerra R, Valenzuela A. Silybin dihemisuccinate protects against glutathione depletion and lipid peroxidation induced by acetaminophen on rat liver. Planta Med 1989;55:417–9.
4. Holt GA. Food & Drug Interactions. Chicago: Precept Press, 1998, 2.
5. Kolawole JA, Maduenyi A. Effect of zobo drink (Hibiscus sabdariffa water extract) on the pharmacokinetics of acetaminophen in human volunteers. Eur J Drug Metab Pharmacokinet 2004;29:25–9.
6. Holt GA. Food & Drug Interactions. Chicago: Precept Press, 1998, 2.
7. Holt GA. Food & Drug Interactions. Chicago: Precept Press, 1998, 2.
8. Vale JA, Proudfoot AT. Paracetamol (acetaminophen) poisoning. Lancet 1995;346:547–52.
9. Perry HE, Shannon MW. J Pediatr 1998;132:149–52.
10. Yamada S, Murawaki Y, Kawasaki H. Preventive effect of gomisin A, a lignan component of schizandra fruits, on acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity in rats. Biochem Pharmacol 1993;46:1081–5.
11. Houston JB, Levy G. Drug biotransformation interactions in man. VI: Acetaminophen and ascorbic acid. J Pharm Sci 1976;65:1218–21.
12. FDA Information on Acetaminophen, Jan 13, 2011. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/ucm165107.htm
Last Review: 05-01-2013
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