If you have been suffering from liver problems, you have probably been advised to use milk thistle (also known as milk thistle) to supplement your treatment. For the uninitiated, milk thistle ( Silybum marianum ) is a tall herb with large purple flowers and small seed-like hard fruits – called achenes – to which milk thistle owes its medicinal properties. Having been used as an herbal remedy for more than 2000 years, milk thistle is now making its comeback as a popular health aid, and for good reason. In addition to promoting liver function, milk thistle is also used to treat a number of other health problems. Here is a list of the benefits of milk thistle.
1. Treat Liver Diseases:
As we mentioned, the fame of milk thistle is its benefit to the liver. According to studies, milk thistle seeds contain a powerful antioxidant called silymarin, which is believed to have the potential to improve mild liver diseases. However, the herb may not work as well if you have a serious liver disease such as alcoholic hepatitis or alcoholic cirrhosis.
2. It Helps Your Liver Cells Grow Back After an Injury:
If you have had a liver injury or partial hepatectomy (surgical removal of a part of the liver), you will know that your liver has to grow and recover its loss mass to match its size prior to surgery to work well. Studies have found that the antioxidant silymarin can help in the regeneration of your liver by stimulating protein synthesis – a nutrient that is essential for cell growth.
“Therefore, milk thistle can accelerate the growth of liver cells and help you recover lost liver mass”.
3. Fight Viral Hepatitis:
If you have hepatitis C or inflammation of the liver due to a viral infection, milk thistle may be helpful. Research indicates that silymarin in milk thistle can fight the virus and improve the condition of the liver. One study noted that regular silymarin consumption significantly reduced viral load in participants who did not respond to conventional therapy. To add to this, in a few participants, the viral load decreased to undetectable levels within 14 days after administration of silymarin supplements. However, several other studies contradict these results. In fact, some claim that milk thistle does not work as an antiviral agent and only reduces any inflammation caused by viruses.
4. Treat Type 2 Diabetes:
Patients with type 2 diabetes may benefit from consuming milk thistle regularly. A study in patients with diabetes and alcoholic liver cirrhosis showed that a daily dose of 600 g of milk thistle seed extract (silymarin) over a period of 6 months significantly reduced fasting blood glucose, the average daily glucose levels and also insulin resistance. Participants also reported a 100 percent satisfaction rate with the treatment. In one study, diabetic patients who received treatment with silymarin over a period of 4 months also observed a reduction in their cholesterol levels. In addition to this,
5. Increase Immunity:
If you have been getting too sick lately, you may want to try milky thistle. Your immune system may not be able to cope with the onslaught of substances harmful to cells called free radicals. Free radicals not only damage white blood cells (immune agents), but also impair communication between them, thus affecting their functioning. Studies claim that the antioxidant properties of milk thistle increase immunity by fighting damage caused by free radicals. In addition to this, it is believed that milk thistle also improves your immune function by increasing the production of white blood cells, which are the cells of your immune system.
6. Aid for Digestion:
For centuries, milk thistle has been used to treat diseases of the upper gastrointestinal tract, as well as mild digestive problems. Although the exact mechanism behind this has not been found, it is believed that the herb promotes the formation of digestive enzymes, reduces any inflammation (such as occurs during inflammatory bowel disease) and relieves mucous membranes throughout the body. So if you have a slow digestive system, you could try to consume milk thistle.
7. Treat Gallstones:
The gallbladder plays an important role in the digestive process by storing bile produced in the liver until it is necessary for the digestion of fatty foods. And since milk thistle promotes healthy functioning of the liver and digestive system in general, historically, it was believed that it also helped in the prevention and treatment of gallstones. Today, homeopathic doctors use herb seed preparations to treat gallstones.
8. Prevents Nervous and Brain Disorders:
If you have a history of age-related brain disorders in your family, it may be wise to consume milk thistle on a regular basis.
Alzheimer’s disease: Silymarin in milk thistle prevents the deposition of proteins (amyloid peptides), which are commonly found in Alzheimer’s patients. One study showed that administration of 70 and 140 mg / kg of silymarin extract once a day for 4 weeks in rats reduced plaque deposition.
Parkinson’s disease: Glutathione levels in Parkinson’s patients indicate the severity of the condition. And it is believed that milk thistle increases glutathione levels and therefore reduces the severity of Parkinson’s.
Multiple sclerosis (MS): Patients undergoing treatment for multiple sclerosis are advised to consume 80 and 160 mg of silymarin extract about 2 or 3 times a day to supplement the treatment.
9. Prevents and Treats Cancer:
Silymarin is essentially a mixture of antioxidants called flavonolignans that have antitumor properties. They prevent cancer cells from dividing, reproducing and spreading. Silymarin can also restrict the blood supply to cancer cells and reduce their lifespan. In addition to silymarin, milk thistle has a large number of other antioxidants such as quercetin and caempferol, which make it a potent anticancer agent.
- Cervical and breast cancer: One study found that milk thistle can suppress the migration of cervical and breast cancer cells by killing them.
- Prostate and colorectal cancer: Milky thistle can also fight prostate and colorectal cancer cells by reducing the blood supply to them.
- Skin cancer: Silibinin, the active component of silymarin, is believed to fight skin cancer. In addition to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, silymarin can also protect the skin against cancer by acting as a sunscreen when applied topically.
- Brain tumor: Silibinin in milk thistle is also believed to slow the progression of Cushing’s disease, a rare form of brain tumor.
Although milk thistle has not yet been considered as a standard cancer treatment, some experts believe that chemotherapy may be more efficient when supplemented with it. There is evidence that milk thistle helps reduce liver toxicity caused by chemotherapy.
10. Protects Against Sun Damage:
When applied topically, milk thistle is believed to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress caused by harmful UV rays. This, in turn, could prevent photocarcinogenesis, a complex biochemical process that ultimately leads to skin cancer. But this does not mean that you should skimp on your sunscreen. Rather, use milk thistle as a supplement to sunscreen.
11. Treat Acne:
A study in the Journal of Clinical & Experimental Dermatology Research found that silymarin antioxidant activity can relieve acne breakouts. Study participants noted that their acne decreased by 54 percent after 8 weeks of oral supplementation. This could be the result of the ability of silymarin to stabilize certain immune cells that deal with inflammation. Therefore, if you are struggling with sprouts, you could try tea or milk thistle capsules.
12. Relieves Allergies:
Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is caused by oxidative stress and inflammation. Common symptoms include sneezing, nasal congestion and itching. Needless to say, it is not fun. However, according to the research, milk thistle can help control those symptoms. The researchers found that taking 140 mg of silymarin three times a day for four weeks can make allergies less severe. So, the next time your allergies act, consider taking milk thistle with your antihistamines.
13. Treats Amanita Phalloides Poisoning:
Traditionally, milk thistle was used as an emergency antidote for lethal fungus poisoning Amanita phalloides. Animal studies found that the herb extract completely counteracts any toxic effects of the fungus within 10 minutes of ingestion. And, if administered within 24 hours, it can significantly reduce any risk of liver damage and even death. There is little chance that you will find the fungus Amanita phalloides on your plate, but if you like to find your fungus in nature, have a milky thistle tea on hand.
14. May Increase Breast Milk Production:
Milk thistle is believed to increase the supply of breast milk by functioning as a galactagogue. However, studies show mixed results. In fact, according to one study, 50 percent of mothers who consumed silymarin extracts did not notice a substantial increase in milk supply and some even reported side effects. Therefore, if you are a nursing mother, consult your doctor before consuming milk thistle.
Milk Thistle is Available in Several Forms:
Milk thistle is available in the form of standardized dried herb capsules. However, keep in mind that phosphatidylcholine silymarin complex capsules can be absorbed by your body better than the standardized form. But if you don’t want to consume silymarin in the form of pills, you can also make your own milk thistle tea.
Milk Thistle Tea:
- Fill a tea bag with 1 tablespoon of milk thistle powder seeds.
- Add hot water to a cup of tea.
- Dip the sachet in the cup and let it sit for 3 minutes.
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of honey to mask the bitter taste.
If you use milk thistle extract, add 20 drops of the extract to a cup of water and drink it on an empty stomach. You can also choose to add organic or artificial sweeteners to tea.
A Word of Caution:
Because milk thistle acts on the liver, the site of drug metabolism could interact with certain medications. You should consult your doctor before taking this herb if you are taking any of the following medications.
- Birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy
- Medications for high cholesterol
- Anxiolytic medications
- Antiplatelet and anticoagulant medications
- Halothane (used during general anesthesia)
- Phenytoin (an anticonvulsant medication)
- Antipsychotics (used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder)
- Cancer medications (such as raloxifene)
If you are allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, chamomile, yarrow and daisies, do not take milk thistle. It is from the same family as these plants, so it can cause an allergic reaction.