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Divisions Faculty Grants and Awards Pharmacotherapy and Experimental Therapeutics Research,
Grayson Mendenhall
July 24, 2009

Mary Paine, PhD, has received an NIH grant of nearly $350,000 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the Economic Stimulus Package.

Milk thistle extracts, made from the seeds of the plant, have been used traditionally as a treatment for liver diseases such as hepatitis and cirrhosis. A flavonoid complex called silymarin  is thought to be the biologically active component. Modern studies into the plant’s effectiveness have been mixed in both their quality of design and their results.

Paine is an assistant professor in the Division of Pharmacotherapy and Experimental Therapeutics.

“We know a great deal about drug-drug interactions but comparatively little about how foods and other natural products interact with drugs,” Paine says. “Typically, the only thing patients are told about food and their medicine is whether or not they should take their pills with a meal.”

To date, most of Paine’s research has centered on cranberry juice, one of her personal favorites and a food that has received attention in recent years for a potential interaction with the anticoagulant warfarin.

More information about NIH’s ARRA grant funding opportunities can be found at To track the progress of HHS activities funded through the ARRA, visit

  • oral contraceptives
  • lower blood sugar levels
  • estrogen-like effect

Don’t take milk thistle without speaking to your doctor if you take allergy pills, cholesterol controlling drugs, anti-anxiety medications, blood thinners and certain cancer treatment drugs. This is due to the fact that these drugs and milk thistle are often broken down by the same liver enzymes. Anti-psychotic drugs, seizure medicines and anesthetics should also not be taken at the same time as milk thistle extract.

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