Milk Thistle is an herbal supplement that detoxifies and protects vital liver functions and more. Milk thistle extract is used to maintain liver health and to protect the liver from the effects of toxins such as alcohol, a polluted environment or workplace, and a host of liver related diseases.
How Does Milk Thistle Work?
Milk thistle seeds contain a bioflavonoid complex known as silymarin. Silymarin, which is the active ingredient in Milk Thistle, is simply the purified extract of the fruits (seeds) of the milk thistle plant. It is responsible for the main medical benefits of the milk thistle plant, and it is made up of three main flavonoids:
- silybin – also know as silibinin
- silydianin – also known as silidianin
- silychristin – also know as silicristin
Silybin makes up 50% – 70% of silymarin and has been shown in clinical studies to be the most biologically active and beneficial constituent of the milk thistle extract, silymarin.
Double blind studies on the effect of milk thistle on toxic liver damage (mostly alcohol-related), chronic liver disease and disease caused by certain drugs have been reviewed by medical experts. The experts all concluded that milk thistle is an extremely therapeutically useful medicinal plant product that stabilizes the cell membrane and stimulates protein synthesis while accelerating the process of regeneration in damaged liver tissue. These effects are important in the therapeutic efficacy of milk thistle.
According to other studies, milk thistle may protect the cells of the liver by blocking the entrance of harmful toxins and helping remove these toxins from liver cells. As with other flavonoids, milk thistle is a powerful antioxidant which works to maintain health and energy by protecting the body from damage caused by free radicals and lipid peroxidation, which can injure healthy cells and tissues. Just as grapes and red wine, for example, are touted as excellent sources of antioxidants, milk thistle also contains the properties needed to offer the body the same antioxidant benefits.
Liver related conditions indicating the use of milk thistle are varied, including, but not limited to:
- Alcoholic cirrhosis
- Chronic active hepatitis
- Drug and alcohol induced liver damage
- Acute viral hepatitis
- Fatty liver, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)
- Fibrosis and Cirrhosis
- Hepatic toxicity caused by steroid usage
- Environmental sensitivities and toxins
- A medical condition that necessitates the use of hepatotoxic medications
- Regular moderate-to-heavy alcohol use
Additionally, experimental and clinical studies suggest that milk thistle extracts also have the following non-liver related benefits:
- Lowers cholesterol levels, which benefits the heart
- Reduces the growth of cancer cells in breast, lung, colon, prostate, cervical and renal cancers
- Functions as a therapeutic agent for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease
- Improves blood sugar levels
- Contains numerous anti-aging properties
- Reduces cell damage caused by radiation and chemotherapy treatments
- Supplements sunscreen protection and may be useful against multiple types of skin disease
- Works as a free radical scavenger and powerful antioxidant
- Reduces hot flashes and other related menopausal symptoms
- Helps with intestinal / indigestion issues
- Reduces the effects of deathcap mushroom (Amanita phalloides) poisoning