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Silymarin is a collection of complex flavonoids found in milk thistle (Silybum marianum) that has been shown to elevate liver glutathione levels in rats. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage, which is believed to involve glutathione depletion. In one study involving rats, silymarin protected against acetaminophen-induced glutathione depletion. 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. 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.
Hospitals use oral and intravenous NAC to treat liver damage induced by acetaminophen overdose poisoning. 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. However, acetaminophen toxicity is a potential medical emergency, and should only be managed by qualified healthcare professionals.
Antihistamines, including chlorpheniramine, can cause “anticholinergic” side effects such as dryness of mouth and heart palpitations. Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) also has anticholinergic activity and side effects. Therefore, use of henbane with chlorpheniramine could increase the risk of anticholinergic side effects, though apparently no interactions have yet been reported. Henbane should not be taken except by prescription from a physician trained in its use, as it is extremely toxic.
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 depletion (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. 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.
Last Review: 03-24-2015
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