What is Milk Thistle?
Milk thistle is an herb that is often utilized for treating liver problems naturally, including gallbladder disorders, hepatitis, jaundice and cirrhosis of the liver. Other fans of milk thistle also claim that the herb lowers levels of cholesterol in the body, which in turn provides serious heart benefits. This herb has been detoxifying and protecting livers for more than 2,000 years. It can also be called by numerous other names, such as Lady’s Thistle, Holy Thistle and the St. Mary Thistle. It's proper name is Silybum marianum. Milk thistle is an annual and a member of the Asteraceae family. It can grow as high as ten feet tall and bear beautiful purple and red flowers. When its leaves are crushed, a fluid that is milky white comes out, hence the name milk thistle.
Milk Thistle Benefits
Intensive clinical, pharmacological and chemical research over the past four decades has shown that milk thistle possesses numerous therapeutic qualities when treating a broad spectrum of conditions related to the liver, as well as others that are non-related to the liver. And, just as many more recent research studies have also showed milk thistle’s ability for protecting, not just the liver, but also the whole body against all manner of serious damage. In fact, in European countries it is often prescribed by physicians for treating acute viral hepatitis, chronic hepatitis, mushroom poisoning, alcoholic cirrhosis, and liver damage that is alcohol and drug induced.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the United States National Library of Medicine, scientific studies have shown that milk thistle numbers among the most beneficial of all herbal treatments worldwide.
The conditions related to the liver that indicate using milk thistle include:
- Environmental toxins and sensitivity
- Steroid use hepatic toxicity
- Medical conditions necessitating hepatotoxic medications
- Regular alcohol use that is either moderate or heavy
- Hepatitis, both chronic and active viral strains
- Alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver
- Liver damage that is induced by drugs or alcohol
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
- Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)
Benefits That Are Not Liver-Related
Clinical studies are suggesting that many other significant benefits can be experienced from regular use of milk thistle, including:
- Reduction in cancer cell growth in the lungs, colon, prostate and breasts
- Reduction in renal and cervical cancers
- Improvement in blood sugar levels
- Reduction in chemotherapy and radiation treatment cell damage
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Anti-aging properties
- Supplementation of sunscreen protection
- Free radical scavenging properties
- Power antioxidant properties
- Reduction of hot flashes
- Reduction of other symptoms of menopause
- Aiding in indigestion and other intestinal issues
- Reduction in the effects of mushroom poisoning
How Milk Thistle Works
The main component is silymarin, which is a bioflavonoid complex made up of silychristin, silydianinand silybin. This amazing complex is milk thistle’s active ingredient. In double blind studies, the conclusion that experts arrived at showed that milk thistle is a very useful medicinal herb for stabilizing cell membranes and stimulating protein synthesis. In addition, it accelerates the regeneration process in liver tissue that is damaged.
Additional studies show that milk thistle could also be protecting liver cells by stopping harmful toxins from entering the liver, as well as removing them. In addition, it works as a potent antioxidant for maintaining energy and overall health via the protection of the body from lipid peroxidation and free radical damage. Both can cause injury to tissues and cells if left in the body. In fact, milk thistle has been found to offer the same antioxidant benefits as red wine and grapes, much like Glutathione.
No Adverse Effects Found
The gentle nature of milk thistle is one of its best attributes. In comparison to numerous other herbal remedies and supplements that can cause adverse effects like headaches, there have never been any reports of toxicity when using any portion of the milk thistle plant. The non-existence of any adverse effects whatsoever in laboratory and clinical studies indicate that a broad range of individuals can take it effectively and safely. This includes nursing and pregnant women. The only side effect that has been reported is a laxative effect in certain individuals, but it is generally mild and short in duration.