Learn More About Milk Thistle

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milk thistle

What is milk thistle?

Many farmers and ranchers consider this tall, prickly, sap-containing plant to be nothing more than a weed, and so treat it as an infestation. Ironically, however, herbalists on several continents have for centuries employed milk thistle seeds, which contain a powerful compound called silymarin, for liver health, gallstones, detoxification, and even as a protective agent against certain kinds of mushroom poisoning.

And thanks to exciting medical research that has been ongoing in America and Europe over the last forty years, milk thistle has increasingly begun to be viewed as a cash crop by some.

What is milk thistle used for?

 

Keep in mind that the liver is the body’s primary organ of detoxification. And while the liver can take a great deal of punishment, even to the point that as little as twenty percent of this durable organ can regenerate if the rest is lost in a mishap, much like the way a lizard can grow back a tail that has been severed, it is not totally invulnerable to harm. Far from it, in fact. Environmental toxins, the side effects of some medications such as cholesterol drugs and acetaminophen,excess alcohol, hepatitis B and C, even a certain fungus called aflatoxin that can grow on otherwise harmless peanuts—all can seriously damage the usually dependable liver.

Let’s start with a look at how milk thistle might help with one of today’s major health worries, the chronic viral disease known as Hepatitis C, an illness that can lead to total loss of liver function. As many as three million Americans may have Hepatitis C, and most of them will never know it until they go on to develop symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, and vomiting.

Fortunately, naturopathic physicians such as Michael Murray have helped raise public awareness that while daily use of milk thistle extract might not cure Hepatitis C, this herb can quite possibly benefit sufferers of this disease. And a number of small clinical trails tantalizingly suggest that milk thistle can serve as a powerful, non-toxic modality to help lessen the harmful effects of Hepatis C through its anti-inflammatory effects and its powerful antioxidant properties. So milk thistle should be regarded as a means of supporting the patient’s own natural powers of healing as well as a complementary modality to some forms of conventional therapy.

Most people understand that too much alcohol can impair the liver, but they may not know that commonly used over-the-counter medicines, including acetaminophen (the best know brand of which is Tylenol), can also be very problematic for liver health. The liver produces a protective antioxidant substance called glutathione that can be depleted by too much alcohol or acetaminophen--or worse,, by mixing these two substances together. If glutathione levels drop too low, serious, even permanent, harm to the liver can result. But research data indicate that supplements of milk thistle extract can maintain or even increase levels of glutathione, and thereby shield the liver from a great deal of damage. Please note that this does not mean that one should cavalierly overuse alcohol and/or acetaminophen and then just gulp some milk thistle pills in the mistaken belief that it will miraculously protect the liver from any and all abuse, no matter how extreme. Be sensible.

Less serious but still quite painful and debilitating for millions of suffers are those small drops of hardened digestive fluid called gallstones. Light-complexioned women over the age of forty who are above optimum body weight particularly seem to be at risk, although anyone call develop gallstones. But the good news is that evidence suggests that the regular use of milk thistle can promote the body’s own natural production of bile acids, and so help to prevent gallstone formation, perhaps even dissolve the smaller stones, at low cost and with little chance of side effects. Some nutritionally minded physicians believe that milk thistle might serve to help thousands of people each year keep their gall bladders rather than lose them due to damange brought about by stone formation.

Type 2 diabetes is another serious contemporary health issue, of course, but an intriguing recent study in Iran indicates that milk thistle might play a role in the fight against this disorder of glucose metabolism. Out of a group of 51 diabetic patients, half were given milk thistle extract, the rest a placebo. After four months the patients who got the milk thistle showed significantly reduced fasting blood sugar levels. The doctors who conducted the study professed ignorance as to how the milk thistle worked, but still seemed very excited about the possibilities that use of this herb opens up. This is easy to understand, considering that diabetes is one of the industrialized world’s most widespread and serious diseases. It is tempting to speculate that one day milk thistle might be better known for its use against diabetes than for liver health.

How much milk thistle is usually taken?

The active components in milk thistle are not water soluble, so teas made from this herb likely are ineffective. While some people use alcohol-based extracts, this might not be a good idea for people who have liver disease. A better choice seems to be an eighty percent standardized extract in tablet or capsule form. A commonly used dose is one hundred to two hundred milligrams of milk thistle taken two or three times per day with meals. The form known as milk thistle phytosome may be especially well absorbed. More research will be required to determine the optimum dose of milk thistle.

Is milk thistle safe?

As of this writing milk thistle appears to be very safe. Some people report a mild laxative effect from its use, but this side effect is rare. Of course, if you take any prescription medications or have a pre-existing health condition, then always seek guidance from yourphysician before taking milk thistle.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


And remember—you can get the best milk thistle supplements at the best prices from A1Supplements.com!

References:

http://www.ahrq.gov/CLINIC/epcsums/milktsum.htm
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/silymarin/NS_patient-milkthistle
http://www.liverdisease.com/milkthistle_hepatitis.html
http://nccam.nih.gov/health/milkthistle/
http://diabetes.webmd.com/news/20061031/milk-thistle-help-treat-diabetes
http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/gallbladder-disease-000066.htm

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