Milk thistle seeds contain three components, collectively known as silymarin, that have a remarkable ability to protect and heal the liver. European studies have shown that the herb aids the treatment of alcoholic cirrhosis, extends the survival rates of alcoholics, and speeds recovery from hepatitis. Anyone who drinks alcohol and takes medication regularly might benefit from milk thistle. The typical recommended dose is 140 milligrams of silymarin three times a day during periods when the liver is stressed from the use of drugs or alcohol or when liver enzymes are elevated. Side effects are rare, but headache, stomach distress, nausea, hives, itching, and joint pain are possible.