The milk thistle plant grows from 4-10 feet in height and produces thick thistle, reddish-purple flowers, large prickly leaves, and tube-like pointed flowers. Milk thistle grows around the world and is typically found along roadsides and upon cultivated ground. Milk thistle is an edible plant, and its leaves can be eaten like artichokes. The seeds can be roasted and brewed like coffee. Silybum marianum, a constituent of milk thistle, has been used for over 2,000 years as a traditional medicine specifically for liver ailments. Milk thistle protects liver tissue; aids in the regeneration of damaged liver tissue; decreases liver and bile cholesterol; alleviates inflammation; and limits liver damage resulting from a disrupted oxygen supply.
Scientifically, researchers have found that silymarin, as well as an isolated form of flavonolignan called silybin, can prevent or counteract damage to the liver caused by toxins such as alcohol, acetaminophen (Tylenol) and other drugs, as well as environmental (heavy metals) and bacterial toxins, and even poisons such as those found in the lethal Deathcap mushroom. Silymarin combats lipid peroxidation in the liver of rats; may hasten the restoration of liver cells in damaged liver tissue. The mechanism of liver damage may be depletion of glutathione and silymarin and silybin actually elevated glutathione levels in rats given alcohol. Human subjects with liver damage caused by chronic alcoholism, cirrhosis, hepatitis, or other toxicities were significantly benefited by treatment with silymarin.
Research on milk thistle as a liver cholesterol-lowering agent shows that rats given silybin had significantly lower cholesterol levels in their bile relative to rats given placebo. Even topical silymarin, applied to the ears of mice with dermatitis, caused a decrease in inflammation. Silymarin has also decreases histamine release from cells. And, giving silybin to rats following oxygen supply depletion to the liver decreased the severity of cell death.
Dosage: Milk thistle, standardized extract of the milk thistle seed contains 80% silymarin flavonoids (silybin, silydianin, and silychristin). Typical dosage recommendations are for 175 mg of 80% silymarin extract, taken 1-3 times per day.
Side Effects: Milk thistle is quite safe as a supplement. Neither toxicity nor drug interactions have been reported following high doses of milk thistle or its components.
Milk Thistle research shows the following:
1. Has hepaprotective qualities
2. May be used safely in chronic liver disease
3. Acts as a powerful antioxidant in liver tissues
4. In synergy with vitamin E, act as liver free radical scavenger
5. Is valuable in post-operative liver repair
6. Is an effective treatment in alcoholic cirrhosis
7. Inhibits prostate tumor growth
8. Regenerates liver cells
9. Is a cancer preventative
10. Is anti-carcinogenic
11. Inhibits colon cancer cell proliferation
12. Inhibits tongue cancer cell proliferation
13. Has immunostimulating properties
14. May be of benefit to the nervous system
15. May protect against skin cancer
16. May protect against atherosclerosis
17. May protect pancreas against alcohol damage
18. Improves milk metabolism in cows
19. Prevents LDL oxidation
20. Inhibits Nitric Oxide production
21. Has antiinflammatory properties
22. May protect against UVB rays
Milk Thistle Abstracts (111)