Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a flowering plant in the Aster family. The name “Milk thistle” is from its leaves, which contain milky sap and thistle. The plant is native to the Mediterranean areas of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Milk thistle is one of very few traditionally used herbs that has been widely accepted by conventional science to have significant medicinal value. Milk thistle extract comes from the seeds of the plant, and from the extract consists of about 70-80% silymarin (milk thistle seed extract as a flavonoid compound), which is the main active ingredient that is both an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
The Effects of Silymarin
The active ingredient, silymarin, is itself a combination of several other active compounds. This ingredient has been extensively studied around the world and has been shown to be safe and effective in treating a variety of liver diseases and other conditions. It specifically protects the liver against toxins (including some molds such as aflatoxin, drugs, and heavy metals), activates protein synthesis, and stimulates the growth of new liver cells to replace those that are dead or damaged. Milk thistle also has strong antioxidant (destroys oxygen free radicals) and anti-inflammatory actions.
Silymarin reaches high levels in the bile and liver (as well as the lungs, pancreas, and skin). Bile is produced in the liver and is necessary for fat digestion. Milk thistle can be used in the treatment of hepatic lipidosis, chronic hepatitis, cholangitis (inflammation of the bile ducts), and pericholangitis (inflammation of the tissue around the bile ducts). It may be useful in preventing or treating gallstones by thinning the bile.
Milk thistle should be considered as an aid to healing after drug therapy, vaccinations, and infections such as feline distemper or canine parvovirus, as well as a potential supportive treatment for cancer. Researchers at Case Western University concluded from their work that “silymarin possesses exceptionally high protective effects against tumor promotion.” One human study even suggests a role for milk thistle in diabetes mellitus through its normalizing effects on red blood cells. It may also help prevent diabetic neuropathy, a common complication of the disease that causes degeneration of the nerves controlling the hind limbs, which consequently produces weakness and an abnormal gait.
Side Effects and Contraindications
The side effects are few, which include diarrhea, and very rarely gas, bloating, nausea and upset stomach. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid milk thistle. Also, people with a ragweed allergy should avoid milk thistle, and anyone who is taking medication should check with their doctors as to its potential interaction with certain medications. Milk thistle generally supports the immune system through its powerful antioxidant, free-radical scavenging action, its ability to preserve the supply of another important antioxidant, glutathione, as well as direct effects on immune cells. Glutathione, which is stored primarily in the liver, naturally declines over time, and depletion of this protein appears to accelerate the aging process.
While it is not exactly the fountain of youth, milk thistle clearly has wide-ranging positive effects throughout the body. Human research studies have shown that it is more effective to administer this herb in three or four small portions over the day than in one large daily dose. When it is not possible to split the daily dose and administer the fractional portions three or four times a day, give it at least twice a day.
BENEFITS OF MILK THISTLE
The benefits of milk thistle, especially to the liver as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which by its very nature should be able to provide an assist to the liver. Some other health areas that people cope with regarding the liver are alcohol-related liver diseases and as a natural treatment for other liver problems, such as hepatitis, jaundice and gall bladder disorders. One area that milk thistle seems to help based on conclusive evidence is people with diabetes. When used in conjunction with the traditional treatment of diabetes, this has been shown a decrease in blood sugar levels and improvement in cholesterol with people inflicted with type 2 diabetes.
Gallbladder and gallstones
The Silymarin in milk thistle has been found to help promote the flow of bile by increasing its solubility. This is beneficial in treating or preventing gall stones. Increasing the flow of bile decreases the chances of developing a gallstone. Studies have also shown that taking milk thistle has resulted in a pronounced reduction of cholesterol in the bile.
Most of the breast tumors are directly related to the hormone estrogen. According to studies, a properly functioning liver can filter bad forms of estrogen from the body. The silymarin of milk thistle controls the risk of estrogen-related diseases like breast tumors. The women’s estrogen and progesterone peaks and valleys are bringing different tumors in the women’s reproductive organs including the uterus and ovaries. The ability of milk thistle to regulate hormonal imbalance as to estrogen helps in preventing the said diseases.
Diabetes and its complications
Recent researches found out that silymarin has the ability to inhibit aldose reductase. The enzyme aldose reductase is responsible for the deposition of sugar in the eyes of diabetics. This will eventually progress to diabetic retinopathy. The ability of silymarin to scavenge free radicals is protective in nature against diabetic retinopathy caused by excess sugars in the eyes.
Psoriasis and skin itchiness
We already know that the liver filters the toxins present in our blood. We also know that the skin is the largest organ in the body and is a very important organ of detoxification. Psoriasis has been linked to certain toxic substances which circulate throughout the bloodstream. There is some evidence to suggest that abnormal liver function may play a role in the development of psoriasis. The itchiness, on the other hand, is also related to the blood toxins being removed through the skin.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
There are many possible pathologies to be considered in a person with chronic fatigue syndrome. Psychological factors like depression and anxiety play crucial but medical problems are equally important. Studies discovered that chronic fatigue syndrome can be due to a poorly functioning liver. If a liver is damaged, the immune system is compromised causing infections and toxins in our bloodstream. Scientific studies do not point unequivocally to milk thistle alone relieving liver issues such as alcohol-related cirrhosis. Nonetheless, its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are what we need to alleviate liver failure causes. Once you have your doctor’s approval, it should be considered for your liver.
MILK THISTLE BENEFITS AND WEIGHT LOSS
Few people understand the liver’s role in weight reduction. Boosting liver function is badly neglected in virtually all weight loss programs. The liver is the primary organ involved in purifying the blood of impurities and in metabolizing fat. With silymarin’s boosting action on the liver, metabolism of fat will be faster. Consequently, this will be of great help in losing weight. The bioflavonoids contained in milk thistle have a strong liver protective action.
Detox diets for weight loss work better. Those who chose to detox in order to lose pounds quickly notice that the detoxification benefits far exceed their expectations and reach beyond quickly losing some extra pounds. Since detox diets eradicate the core issue that is at the center of all disease, losing weight simply becomes a nice side benefit. It’s for that simple reason that milk thistle works best for losing weight through detoxification.
The most basic place to begin is with a 1-day detox diet. To get the most out of your experience, you will want to prepare for this several days in advance by weaning yourself off of caffeine, sugar, and other refined foods. By preparing in this way, your official 1-day detox day will go smoother and be more enjoyable. During the day of your official detox, try drinking nothing but fresh juices as you would during a juice fast. Or you can stick to whole fruits and vegetables. Many people chose to fast one day per week regularly. It doesn’t seem like much at the time, but it adds up. One day a week adds up to 52 days each year! Think of how much good that will do your body.
Next, if you’ve successfully completed a 1-day detox diet, you will want to go for a full week. Performing a 7-day detox diet will rejuvenate you more powerfully than a one-day detox diet. If changing your diet drastically is not a problem for you, you can still achieve excellent results by drinking a daily detox tea once or several times per day. Keep in mind that any detox tea you consume regularly should be free of laxatives even if they are herbal. All laxatives are habit-forming when taken regularly. Detox teas that include gentle herbs like Milk Thistle can be incredibly beneficial while being gentle at the same time. However, your efforts will increase a thousandfold if you do this in conjunction with making some simple changes in your diet. This involves mainly eliminating processed food.
Choose a convenient detox diet. What is most important is that you begin eliminating toxins from your system to release your natural energy and radiance. Those who have seen the benefits of detox diets first hand can attest to the abundant energy, glowing skin, peace of mind and clarity of purpose that accompany the program. Eventually, your weight loss goal is achieved. You can the capsule form in any health food store, even most pharmacies and groceries. The herb also comes in a liquid extract if you prefer a liquid preparation.