Milk thistle is studied by numerous of researchers and medical authorities. For more than 2000 years, it has been used as a trustful herbal remedy for plenty of health problems relating to liver, kidney and gallbladder.
Scientists prove that milk thistle contains Silymarin that is an important flavonoid protecting the liver from toxins. Moreover, that substance has several others helpful uses such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties. It also supports the liver to grow new cells to repair itself.
However, there are controversial results regarding the actual benefits of milk thistle found out by many scientific investigations. If anyone is considering to take this supplement, it is recommended to consult the doctors before using milk thistle.
What is milk thistle?
Originally, this plant belongs to Asteraceae family and grows mostly in Mediterranean countries such as southern Europe, North Africa and some regions in the United States. In the favorable environment, the plant can flourish to reach from 47 to 115 inches in height.
Historically, back in 40 A.D, Dioscorides – a Greek physician and botanist was the first one who discovered the healing features of milk thistle. Nowadays, it is most commonly used in Europe and America as a supplementary medication. Other areas like Asia, Africa also start paying attention to this valuable plant.
Scientifically, Milk thistle is a helpful herb, also known as Silybum marianum. This substance that is the main component of milk thistle is a rare flavonoid complex comprising of silydianin, silybin and silychrisin. It is proven to effectively treat alcohol-related liver issues and is considered as a potent antioxidant and an anti-cancer agent. Consequently, milk thistle has significant health benefits.
The medical benefits of milk thistle come from Silymarin, an active ingredient extracted from its seeds. Due to its many helpful treatments, its seeds are used to make standardized products containing 70 percent to 80 percent of Silymarin.
Scientists have been actively experimenting on human and animal to confirm the actual benefits of this unique plant’s extract. Although the results are mixed, there are some indisputable advantages which have been proved by the majority of researchers.
With the reference to sufficiently well-conducted studies, the following is six values of milk thistle.
#1. Detoxify the liver
The primary benefit of milk thistle is to be an effective liver detoxifier, especially with problems related to alcohol. Studies have shown the obvious uses of Silymarin as a powerful aid for the liver. More notably, milk thistle has been used as a therapeutic therapy for diverse liver-related issues such as fatty liver syndrome, jaundice, psoriasis, and so on.
The valuable substance of the plant will support the liver to regenerate the cells at the same time eliminate toxins which are processed by the body. Moreover, Silymarin can naturally protect the liver against any harms from alcohol, pesticide, heavy metals and even pollution coming from human consumption, food load, water supply, and air inhale, respectively.
#2. Fights against diabetes (type 2) and diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease)
This is one of the most obvious values of Silymarin found out by several researchers and institutions. A study by the U.S National Library of Medicine, the world’s largest medical library, demonstrates that milk thistle can help control the blood sugar in people with diabetes.
Furthermore, researchers also propose that Silymarin support people with diabetic nephropathy by enhancing blood and urine markers.
#3. Protect the liver against several cancers
Another considerable value of milk thistle is to reduce the development of cancer. Silymarin can enhance the immune system and protect the DNA from being destroyed, while reverse cancerous tumor growth.
The Cancer Research UK has done several experiments on both human and animal and has concluded that:
- For human: Silymarin can serve as an agent to support chemotherapy drugs cisplatin and doxorubicin in fighting against ovarian and breast cancer. Additionally, it can independently defeat prostate, breast and cervical cancer cells. This substance also effectively hinders the growing speed of prostate cancer cells.
- For animal: Silybin, which is contained in milk thistle, is proved to lessen the side effects of chemotherapy on the animal. Moreover, it works as an agent to corporate and improve the effectiveness of other drugs. While it blocks and slows the development of the tumors, milk thistle repairs the liver tissue.
It is also confirmed by massive investigation of the U.S National Library of Medicine that components in milk thistle can cure some cancer types.
#4. Treat viral hepatitis (especially with C type)
This is quite impressive since hepatitis C is a quite dangerous disease that in the long term can cause liver cancer, cirrhosis, or even death. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention, currently, there isn’t any vaccine available for this hepatitis.
Remarkably, milk thistle is broadly employed as a therapy for this viral hepatitis although there is no completed evidence showing its perfect effectiveness. This means in some studies, scientists found that Silymarin can enhance the function of the liver. In 2008, a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), called hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment Against Cirrhosis (HALT-C) revealed that Silymarin can improve the life’s quality and lessen the symptoms of liver disease in hepatitis C patients. On the other hand, there also other experiments saying milk thistle extract could not do any improvements for curing hepatitis C in some certain circumstances.
#5. Reduce high cholesterol
Milk thistle has the precious anti-inflammatory property; it accordingly benefits the heart’s health by lessening the level of high cholesterol, purifying the blood and preventing oxidative stress.
#6. Anti-age effects.
Another potential value of Silymarin is to boost the skin’s health. Researches indicate that phytochemicals, which are contained in milk thistle, protects the skin from harmful UV arrays. That, therefore; prevent our skins from possible cancers and related problems.
Furthermore, the antioxidants property from this herbal secures the skin from most of the radical damage and slows down the aging effect.
Usually, there is no serious side problem if you take milk thistle extract up to 41 months. There are, if any, only some non-dangerous problems such as diarrhea, nausea, bloating, gas, and stomach-related issues. However, here are some contraindications:
- Women who are breastfeeding or pregnant
- People who are allergic to ragweed, marigolds, chamomile, yarrow, chrysanthemums, and daisies.
- Women with either fibroid tumors or endometriosis
More notably, it is recommended to consult a doctor before using the milk thistle if you are having any health problem.
If you are using those following drugs or drugs containing those listed substances, you must ask your doctor before taking Silymarin:
- Allergy drugs
- High cholesterol treatments
- Anti-anxiety drugs
- Antiplatelet and anticoagulant drugs (blood thinners)
- Certain cancer drugs
- Drugs broken down by the liver
How to use milk thistle?
Milk thistle is considered as a supplement not a drug, consequently, it is not written in the FDA’s guidelines about how much one should consume. Normally, people use 20-300 milligrams every day, depending on different preparation methods. For the standardized preparation products, people usually take 150 milligrams per day.
Regarding milk thistle extract, the standardized preparation method is known as the most trustworthy and official procedure. Therefore, if you plan to buy milk thistle, make sure that you are looking for the standardized products.
There are many milk thistle extract brands which are popular globally such as Maximum Milk Thistle and Ultra Thistle.
Although studies show mixed results about the practical benefits of milk thistle, there are many scientifically proven advantages of using Silymarin. It can not be considered as a drugs, but it has many medical effects which actually help prevent several serious diseases such as cancer, diabetes.
The most remarkable values of this herbal is to support and detoxify the liver. Therefore, it is recommended to use to enhance your health, particularly the liver. However, due to the safe factor, anyone who wants to take milk thistle should considerately read the instructions and consult the doctor.