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This fact sheet provides basic information about milk thistle—common names, what the science says, potential side effects and cautions, and resources for more information.
Milk thistle is a flowering herb native to the Mediterranean region. It has been used for thousands of years as a remedy for a variety of ailments, and historically was thought to have protective effects on the liver and improve its function. Today, its primary folk uses include liver disorders such as cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis, and gallbladder disorders. Other folk uses include lowering cholesterol levels, reducing insulin resistance in people who have both type 2 diabetes and cirrhosis, and reducing the growth of breast, cervical, and prostate cancer cells.
Silymarin, which can be extracted from the seeds (fruit) of the milk thistle plant, is believed to be the biologically active part of the herb. The seeds are used to prepare capsules, extracts, powders, and tinctures.
Latin Name--Silybum marianum
- information from NCCAM verbatim
- Milk thistle (Silybum marianus) is regarded as one of the most important herbal liver tonics and restoratives. As is the case with Feverfew, medical use of Milk thistle may be traced back more than 2,000 years. Like Feverfew, Milk thistle has been subject to many clinical trials which clearly demonstrate its effectiveness. It is frequently recommended to counteract the harmful effects of alcohol and other drugs on the liver and clinical studies have shown that it helps the liver to return to normal functioning once drinking has stopped. Scientific analysis of Milk thistle shows that it contains a flavonoid complex called silymarin, which is largely responsible for the medical benefits of this herb. Silymarin is a powerful anti-oxidant and can block the entrance of toxins into the liver and remove toxins at a cellular level, thereby resulting in regeneration of liver cells and improved liver functioning. This would have a direct impact on overall systemic health as the liver is one of the most important organs in the body.
What Milk thistle Is Used For
- Milk thistle is believed to have protective effects on the liver and improve its function. It is typically used as an herbal remedy to treat liver cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation), and gallbladder disorders.
- Treatment claims also include:
- Lowering cholesterol levels
- Reducing insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes who also have cirrhosis
- Reducing the growth of cancer cells in breast, cervical, and prostate cancers
Herbal Remedy Products with Milk thistle as part of the ingredients
How Milk thistle Is Used
Milk thistle is a flowering herb. Silymarin, which can be extracted from the seeds (fruit), is believed to be the biologically active part of the herb. The seeds are used to prepare capsules containing powdered herb or seed; extracts; and infusions (strong teas).
What the Science Says about Milk thistle
- There have been some studies of milk thistle on liver disease in humans, but these have been small. Some promising data have been reported, but study results at this time are mixed.
- Although some studies conducted outside the United States support claims of oral milk thistle to improve liver function, there have been flaws in study design and reporting. To date, there is no conclusive evidence to prove its claimed uses.
- NCCAM is supporting a phase II research study to better understand the use of milk thistle for chronic hepatitis C. With the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, NCCAM is planning further studies of milk thistle for chronic hepatitis C and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (liver disease that occurs in people who drink little or no alcohol).
- The National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Nursing Research are also studying milk thistle, for cancer prevention and to treat complications in HIV patients.
Previous laboratory studies suggested that milk thistle may benefit the liver by protecting and promoting the growth of liver cells, fighting oxidation (a chemical process that can damage cells), and inhibiting inflammation. However, results from small clinical trials of milk thistle for liver diseases have been mixed, and two rigorously designed studies found no benefit.
A 2012 clinical trial, cofunded by NCCAM and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, showed that two higher-than-usual doses of silymarin were no better than placebo for chronic hepatitis C in people who had not responded to standard antiviral treatment.
The 2008 Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment Against Cirrhosis (HALT-C) study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that hepatitis C patients who used silymarin had fewer and milder symptoms of liver disease and somewhat better quality of life but no change in virus activity or liver inflammation.
Side Effects and Cautions of Milk thistle
- In clinical trials, milk thistle generally has few side effects. Occasionally, people report a laxative effect, upset stomach, diarrhea, and bloating.
- Milk thistle can produce allergic reactions, which tend to be more common among people who are allergic to plants in the same family (for example, ragweed, chrysanthemum, marigold, and daisy).
- It is important to inform your health care providers about any herb or dietary supplement you are using, including milk thistle. This helps to ensure safe and coordinated care.
News About Milk Thistle
7 Amazing Benefits of Milk Thistle: For Strong Immunity & Better Digestion
- By Adharika Kapoor
Milk thistle, or more commonly known as “silymarin” is a herb native to the Mediterranean countries. It has been in use for the past 2000 years. The most common benefit that it provides is related liver disorders. It increases the production of bile and therefore, eases constipation in individuals who are vulnerable to it. Many studies have also shown that milk thistle helps to lower the levels of cholesterol in the body thus improving the functioning of the heart. Just like most herbs, the benefits of milk thistle can be witnessed only after a few months of consuming it regularly.
It is interesting to know that apart from providing many health benefits, milk thistle is also aesthetically pleasing to look at. Its an unusually tall plant, approximately 2 meters and is accompanied with purple colored flowers. This makes the herb easily identifiable too. The plant gets its name from a milky-white fluid that is found in its leaves when they are crushed. The seeds and leaves of milk thistle can be consumed in as an extract, tea or in powdered form. The seeds can be eaten raw too. We give you eight reasons to make milk thistle a part of your health regime.
1. An antioxidant: Ayurveda expert Dr. Vikram suggests that milk thistle acts like an antioxidant. It must be consumed orally and eating it helps to nourish and rejuvenate dead cells.
2. Prevents piles: Hemorrhoid is a problem that a lot of people are battling and this is where milk thistle comes to the rescue. Piles are swollen varicosities that usually emerge in the anal area. Consuming milk thistle provides relief to the swelling and thus gives comfort.
3. Eases hangovers: Studies also suggest that the cure to a full swinging hangover is to add milk thistle herbs to tea in order to hydrate yourself and flush out all the toxins.
4. Improves skin: As an antioxidant, milk thistle is wonderful for the skin. It provides a natural glow and makes the skin look fuller and healthier. It has the ability to replenish dead cells and therefore, adds radiance. By preventing free radicals in the body and improving digestion, it helps to clear the skin of all sorts of eruptions.
5. Strengthens immunity: The intake of milk thistle on a regular basis is known to improve your immunity and the body becomes better abled to fight off infections and diseases. With a strong immune system, the body can restore normalcy at a more rapid pace.
6. Facilitates digestion: Due to improper eating habits, stomach issues like gas, bloating and indigestion often arise. The seeds and leaves of this natural herb can be consumed on an empty stomach before your meals for best results. Milk thistle is known to draw out the toxins from your body.
7. Prevents premature ageing: Milk thistle hinders signs of premature ageing to a great extent. Regular consumption of milk thistle helps prevents the appearance of wrinkles, dark spots and discoloration.
- 5 Easy Anti Aging Tips: It's More than Just Wrinkles
While a number of scientists are still in the process of discovering areas where milk thistle has left its mark, the study is an ongoing process. All said and done, it is always better to rely on ancient herbs like these that are natural, easily available and less harmful to the human body.
Silybum Milk Thistle Info: Tips For Planting Milk Thistle In Gardens
- By Liz Baessler
Milk thistle (also called silybum milk thistle) is a tricky plant. Prized for its medicinal properties, it is also considered highly invasive and is being targeted for eradication in some areas. Keep reading for information about planting milk thistle in gardens, as well as combating milk thistle invasiveness.
- Silybum Milk Thistle Info
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) contains silymarin, a chemical component known to improve liver health, earning the plant its status as a “liver tonic.” If you want to produce your own silymarin, milk thistle growing conditions are very forgiving. Here are some tips for planting milk thistle in gardens:
You can grow milk thistle in gardens with most types of soil, even soil that is very poor. As milk thistle is often considered a weed itself, virtually no weed control is needed. Plant your seeds ¼ inch deep just after the last frost in a spot that receives full sun.
Harvest the flower heads just as the flowers start to dry and a white pappus tuft (like on a dandelion) begins to form in its place. Place the flower heads in a paper bag in a dry place for a week to continue the drying process.
Once the seeds are dried, hack at the bag to separate them from the flower head. The seeds can be stored in an air-tight container.
- Milk Thistle Invasiveness
While safe for humans to eat, milk thistle is considered toxic to livestock, which is bad, as it often grows in pastures and is hard to get rid of. It is also not native to North America and considered highly invasive.
A single plant can produce over 6,000 seeds that can remain viable for 9 years and germinate at any temperature between 32 F. and 86 F. (0 C. and 30 C.). Seeds can also be caught in the wind and carried easily on clothes and shoes, spreading it to neighboring land.
For this reason, you should really think twice before planting milk thistle in your garden, and check with your local government to see if it is even legal.
10 Health Benefits of Milk Thistle
- By Emily Cronkleton (Medically Reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT)
- What is milk thistle?
Milk thistle is a flowering plant. Different parts of the plant are traditionally used as natural herbal treatments for a variety of health disorders. This is in part because of the powerful antioxidants it contains. It’s best known for its positive effect on liver health, but studies are looking into other possible benefits too. But you should always talk to your doctor before taking any supplements. Keep reading to learn all the ways researchers think milk thistle may be able to help improve your health.
1. Treats the liver
Researchers think that milk thistle may be able to help treat liver conditions. An animal study from 2016 found that silymarin, an antioxidant that’s extracted from milk thistle, has potential in treating liver diseases and preventing liver damage. This could be because of its beneficial antioxidants and its ability to reduce inflammation.
2. Promotes weight loss
Early research shows that milk thistle can help support healthy weight loss. Mice that were fed a high-fat diet to induce obesity lost weight after taking silymarin that was extracted from milk thistle.
3. Reduces symptoms of allergic asthma
Milk thistle extract’s ability to inhibit inflammation may also be helpful in treating allergic asthma. A 2012 animal study demonstrated that another helpful component of milk thistle known as silibinin had a protective effect against airway inflammation. Silibinin is a flavonoid, a type of nutrient found in plants. Silibinin also reduced harmful substances from forming in the fluid of the lungs.
4. Helps diabetes
Insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes. A 2016 study on mice showed that silymarin extracted from milk thistle had a positive effect on insulin levels. This is thought to be because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
5. Lowers cholesterol
Milk thistle has a cholesterol-lowering effect. A study from 2006 found that cholesterol levels were lowered in people taking milk thistle to treat diabetes. Low cholesterol levels have a positive effect on the heart. It also lessens your chance of having a stroke, and you may have more energy.
6. Inhibits cancer
Milk thistle has preventive and therapeutic potential to fight types of cancer classified as epithelial cancer. Research has shown that silibinin can help inhibit the growth and proliferation of colorectal cancer cells. Silibinin has also been shown to inhibit the growth of tumors in mice.
7. Supports immunity
Milk thistle is thought to support immunity and stimulate your neurons. Research from 2002 found that milk thistle has a positive effect on the immune system. It has the potential to increase immunity to certain diseases. Another animal study from 2016 showed that milk thistle has a positive effect on immunity.
8. Benefits skin
Milk thistle has shown promise in its potential to benefit your skin. An animal study from 2015 found that milk thistle applied topically had a positive effect on inflammatory skin disorders. A 2013 laboratory test indicated that milk thistle has antioxidant activity that has anticancer and anti-aging potential. It’s suggested that the antioxidants in milk thistle can defend skin from free radical damage. Further tests are needed.
9. Prevents bone loss
Researchers think milk thistle can have a positive effect on bone health, even helping to prevent bone loss. A 2013 animal study found milk thistle to be beneficial in preventing estrogen deficiency-induced bone loss. More studies are needed to research milk thistle’s potential in preventing bone loss and healing fractures.
10. Improves cognitive function
Milk thistle has also been used to treat a variety of aging effects including cognitive decline. It may have a positive effect on the central nervous system. A 2015 animal study found that milk thistle improved resistance to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance in free radicals and antioxidants and can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.
Another animal study found that milk thistle helped learning and memory impairment. Further studies are warranted to research milk thistle’s potential in treating neurodegenerative diseases.
- Are there any side effects of milk thistle?
Carefully check the side effects and interactions of milk thistle before you start taking it. You should talk to your doctor for guidance. Milk thistle allergies are possible, especially in people who are allergic to other plants in its family. Always start with a small dose to see how your body reacts.
Herbs are not monitored by the Food and Drug Administration for quality or purity, so it’s important to purchase them from a reliable source.
Milk thistle can cause side effects. You should stop using it immediately if you experience any side effects after taking milk thistle. Talk to your doctor before taking milk thistle if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Do not take milk thistle if you have a hormone-sensitive condition.
Milk thistle may interact with the following:
- • medications processed by the liver
- • diabetes medications
- • agents that affect the blood or milk production
- • agents used for the skin
- • agents used for the heart, stomach, or intestines
- • alcohol
- • amiodarone
- • anti-anxiety agents
- • anti-inflammatories
- • anticancer agents
- • antiretrovirals
- • antivirals
- • cholesterol-lowering medications
- • estrogen
- • fertility agents
- • glucuronidated agents
- • hormonal agents
- • impotence agents
- • irinotecan (Camptosar)
- • losartan
- • penicillin
- • phenytoin (Dilantin, Phenytek)
- • p-glycoprotein modulators
- • rapamycin (Rapamune)
- • talinolol
- • other herbs and dietary supplements
- How to take milk thistle
Milk thistle is available as a capsule, powder, and liquid extract. The suggested dosage is a total of 420 mg per day. Each capsule should contain at least 70 percent silymarin. Carefully read any directions and dosages listed on the label of the specific brand that you buy. Dosages may vary. You can also drink up to six cups of milk thistle tea each day.
What Is Milk Thistle? It Has A Lot More Benefits Than You Might Think
- By Olivia Youngs
Whether you dub yourself a "crunchy mom" or not, natural remedies to treat everyday ailments has become more and more prevalent. From treating common colds, to preventing health problems down the road, many claim that nature provides us with more than enough to keep us happy and healthy. The milk thistle is one such plant that experts and crunchy mamas alike swear by. But exactly what is a milk thistle and what do people claim it can do? It actually has a lot more benefits than you probably guessed.
The plant, which is traditionally native to the Mediterranean, is a member of the same family as daisies and sunflowers, but it isn't known for it's pretty appearance or fragrant smell — according to the National Cancer Institute, it's known for much more than that. It gets its name from the milky white sap that it's leaves secrete when crushed. Although many parts of the world simply consider the plant to be a weed, it has lots of health benefits that are worth taking into consideration.
According to the Mayo Clinic, milk thistle has been used to treat a variety of ailments for more than 2,000 years. It's thought to be an herbal remedy for liver, kidney, and gall bladder healthy, in particular. The University of Maryland's health center noted that he "active ingredient" that makes the plant so potent is called Silymarin, a flavonoid thought to repair liver damage from alcohol and prevent further cell damage.
The benefits don't stop there either. According to Dr. Mercola's website, silymarin is anti-fibrotic, meaning it prevents tissue scarring, and prevents toxins from binding to the liver's cell membrane. It also reduces inflammation, helps prevent gallstones, boosts the health of your skin, protects against carcinogens, and has anti-aging benefits, according to Dr. Axe, one of the leading resources for holistic health.
The most common ways to take the herb supplementally is with capsules containing the dried leaves, or in a liquid concentrate, or even in tea form. Experts recommend getting the purest milk thistle you can find — around 50-150 milligrams pure milk thistle, and taking it as a daily supplement or using it temporarily to detox your liver.
As always, before beginning a new health regiment, it's best to check with your health care provider.
Benefits of Milk Thistle
- (Garden Guides)
Though thistles are often considered to be noxious and are rooted out as invaders by gardeners, milk thistle--Silybum marianum--is an exception. The reason is the plant's reputed benefits, specifically medicinal benefits, accrued from the seeds of the plant. Because it has beneficial qualities, milk thistle is featured in supplements featuring milk thistle are widely sold in the United States. Milk thistle grows up to 8 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Flowers are purple and bloom in spring and summer. Studies do show evidence that milk thistle is beneficial medicinally, but more studies must be completed.
- Improvement: Alcoholic Liver Disease
The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality evaluated several studies to analyze the effects of milk thistle, especially its potential benefits against liver disease. The agency reported that four out of six studies revealed those taking milk thistle who suffer from chronic alcoholic liver disease showed "significant improvement in at least one measurement of liver function."
- Improvement: Acute Viral Hepatitis
The Agency found that one study showed that milk thistle used to fight acute viral hepatitis did result in benefits. The placebo-controlled study found significant improvement in some liver function 28 days into taking milk thistle.
- Protection from Toxins
The University of Maryland Medical Center says that milk thistle, according to studies, can likely protect the liver from toxins, including common drugs such as acetaminophen, which can potentially cause liver damage. A flavonoid in milk thistle called silymarin seems especially helpful.
The deathcap mushroom damages the liver and can kill. Luckily, speedy administration of milk thistle can counteract the poison. After ingestion, there's a 10-minute window to give the antidote to avoid all damage. After the 10 minutes, risk of death or liver damage is greatly lessened if milk thistle is given within the first 24 hours.
- Potential Cancer Fighter
Milk thistle shows some promise in fighting cancer, stopping cancer cell division and shortening cell life. Milk thistle may also potentially reduce blood flow to tumors, starving them.
- Attracts Wildlife
Milk thistle, like all thistles, attract much bird and insect life. The goldfinch especially frequents thistle, using it for nesting materials and as a food source. Bees visit, along with butterflies and beetles.
Milk Thistle to Increase Breast Milk When You're Breastfeeding
- By Donna Murray, RN, BSN (Reviewed by a board-certified physician)
- What is Milk Thistle?
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a tall, purple flowering plant with prickly spines. Originally from the Mediterranean region, milk thistle has a long history of use in medicine and healing. For thousands of years, this plant has been used to treat health problems of the liver and gallbladder. It's also a well-known galactagogue that breastfeeding mothers take to help increase their supply of breast milk.
- Milk Thistle and Breastfeeding
Milk thistle has been linked to breastfeeding for a very long time. Also known as Saint Mary's Thistle and Our Lady's thistle, this herb is a plant of legend. Stories from long ago suggest that the leaves of the milk thistle plant came to have white veins running through them when the milk from the breast of Mary, The Virgin Mother splashed onto the plant. To some, these white veins symbolize breast milk, and it's believed that when a breastfeeding mother uses this herb, it will lead to an increase in her breast milk supply.
- Does Milk Thistle Work to Increase the Supply of Breast Milk?
Beyond the legends, milk thistle has been used with positive results by breastfeeding mothers in India and Europe for generations. And, although there is no true scientific evidence that milk thistle can help a nursing mother to make more breast milk, it has been shown to increase the milk production in dairy cows.
It is also believed that the plant estrogens found in milk thistle could be one of the reasons some women report making more breast milk when they take this herb.
- How Breastfeeding Women Can Use Milk Thistle to Make More Breast Milk
Milk Thistle Tea: You can make a tea from the seeds of the milk thistle plant and drink it two to three times a day.
Just place one teaspoon of crushed, ground, or chopped milk thistle seeds into 8 ounces (240 ml) of boiling water. Let it sit or steep for 10 to 20 minutes, and then enjoy.
Milk Thistle Supplements: Milk Thistle capsules, soft gels, powder, and a liquid extract is available online and in health food or vitamin stores. If you choose to use an herbal supplement, be sure to buy it from a reputable source and follow all the directions for that particular herbal product. You should also talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant for the correct dosing information.
Milk Thistle as Food: Once you remove the spines, you can eat every part of the milk thistle plant. The seeds can be roasted or used to make tea, the leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, and the buds can be enjoyed similar to tiny artichokes.
Breastfeeding Teas and Supplements: Milk thistle is a common ingredient found in some of the already prepared nursing teas or lactation supplements that are commercially available. It is often combined with other breastfeeding herbs such as fenugreek, fennel, goat's rue, marshmallow root, and verbena.
- The Health Benefits of Milk Thistle
- • Silymarin, an ingredient found in milk thistle, can help the body rebuild and repair the cells of the liver.
- • Milk thistle is also used to detoxify and cleanse the liver.
- • This herb may help to prevent liver damage if it is given right after certain types of poisons have been taken into the body.
- • It is believed to be helpful for people who have jaundice, cirrhosis or hepatitis since it can decrease the swelling of the liver.
- • Milk thistle may be useful in lowering blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes.
- • It is taken to lower high cholesterol levels.
- • It is believed to have antioxidant and anticancer properties that may help reduce the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and cervical cancer.
- • When cancer patients use milk thistle during cancer treatments, it may protect the liver and kidneys from some of the negative effects of chemotherapy.
- Warnings and Side Effects of Milk Thistle
- • Always consult your doctor, a lactation consultant, or an herbal specialist before taking any herbs especially if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. Many herbs are just like medicine, and they can be harmful if you do not take them as directed. Herbs can also interfere with other medications that you may be taking.
- • Milk thistle should not be confused with blessed thistle which is an entirely different plant.
- • Allergic reactions to milk thistle are rare. However, if you suffer from allergies to ragweed, daisies, marigolds, or chrysanthemums you should not use milk thistle. It is a member of the same plant family.
- • Milk thistle is generally considered to be a safe herb. The most common side effects are mild and stomach related. When it's taken in excessive amounts, loose bowel movements, stomach upset, nausea and vomiting are possible.
- • Milk thistle has been used to cleanse the liver and detoxify the body. During the process of cleansing, toxins from inside your body are released into your bloodstream so that they can be removed. When these toxins are in your blood, they can enter your breast milk and pass on to your baby. If you have toxins stored in your liver from heavy smoking, alcohol, or the use of drugs, you should not use milk thistle while you're breastfeeding.
- • Do not take milk thistle if you use the seizure medication Dilantin (phenytoin).
- • Milk thistle can interfere with birth control pills making them less effective. It can also cause problems if you're taking antipsychotic drugs, antianxiety drugs, certain cancer medications, or blood thinners. Make sure you talk to your doctor about any medications that you're taking before you use milk thistle.
- Other Ways to Increase Your Supply of Breast Milk
Milk thistle and other breastfeeding herbs tend to help some women increase a low milk supply. However, these treatments do not work for everyone. Other actions you can take to stimulate your body and help increase your breast milk supply include breastfeeding more often, breastfeeding for a longer period of time at each feeding, and using a breast pump after or between breastfeedings.
- When to Seek Help
If the natural and herbal treatments do not seem to be helping, it's time to seek help. See your doctor or a lactation consultant. The faster you can find out why you're not making enough breast milk, the faster you can fix the issue and get back on track to breastfeeding successfully.
7 Health Benefits and Uses for Milk Thistle
- By Michelle Schoffro Cook
If you’ve ever pulled weeds from your garden, you’re probably familiar with milk thistle. And attempts to remove it may not have gone so well because of its prickly stems and burrs that stick to clothing. Despite its outwardly pesky nature, milk thistle is one of the most powerful liver medicines available. While not a particularly attractive plant, and certainly not one you’d want to include in flower bouquets, milk thistle more than compensates for its less-than-appealing looks with therapeutic benefits.
- Liver Healer
Don’t be fooled by milk thistle’s modest history or unattractive appearance; this herb is potent medicine. The herb contains a compound called silymarin that protects the liver against cellular damage while also stimulating regeneration of liver cells. Milk thistle also prevents the depletion of the nutrient glutathione, which is essential for liver detoxification. And since the liver is involved in over five hundred bodily functions, these properties make milk thistle an important aid to overall health.
- Protector against Acetaminophen Damage
By now you may have heard that over-the-counter pain killers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) can cause liver damage. Research shows that the use of milk thistle can help protect the liver from damage by these drugs.
- Anticancer Agent
According to Xandria Williams, author of The Herbal Detox Plan, silymarin found in milk thistle seeds works on cancer in multiple ways: (1) it acts as an antioxidant to eliminate cancer-causing free radicals; (2) it stabilizes cellular membranes so that they are less vulnerable to damage; (3) it stimulates detoxification pathways in the liver to help the body eliminate cancer-causing toxins; (4) it promotes liver tissue regeneration; (5) it inhibits the growth of some cancer cell lines; (6) it acts directly on some cancer cell lines to destroy them; and (6) it may increase the efficacy of some chemotherapy drugs. Silybin is another compound found in milk thistle that is believed to protect the genetic material within the liver cells while reducing the occurrence of liver cancer.
- Fat Digestion Aid
Silymarin not only helps the liver recover from damage but also helps to alleviate indigestion, which can be a sign that the liver is struggling to digest excess fat in the diet.
- Liver Disease Remedy
According to James Duke, PhD, botanist and author of the best-selling book The Green Pharmacy, milk thistle is useful in the treatment of jaundice, cirrhosis, hepatitis and liver poisoning. Milk Secretion Booster
Dr. Duke also indicates that milk thistle can help women who are nursing to increase milk secretion.
- Diabetes Preventer
Research reported in the medical journal Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, and Obesity found that an extract of milk thistle improved numerous markers of the conditions for which the journal is named, including reducing triglycerides, LDL cholesterol (often considered the harmful one) and blood sugar levels. Interestingly, the herb worked even when statin drugs used for the purpose of lowering cholesterol did not.
Unlike other liver herbs, milk thistle is best taken as a capsule or as an alcohol extract. Because the substances silymarin and silybin are not particularly water soluble, a tea made from the plant won’t have sufficient healing properties. Instead, take one teaspoon of the alcohol extract three times daily (unless you have ever been an alcoholic) to reap the medicinal benefits of milk thistle.
5 Benefits Of Milk Thistle
- (CureJoy Editorial)
Milk thistle’s benefits come from its active compound silymarin. This substance can protect the liver and reverse the damage by regenerating cells and tissues. It’s also an antioxidant, so it can kill cancer cells and offer protection from oxidative stress. This anti-cancer effect extends to the skin, as silymarin prevents damage from UV rays. And thanks to silymarin’s anti-inflammatory properties, breakouts and hay fever can be relieved with milk thistle.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a powerful plant that’s native to the Mediterranean region. It has many active substances, but the most popular one is silymarin. This compound is a potent flavonoid that has amazing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also responsible for all of the milk thistle benefits on this list! Check out these five different ways that milk thistle can help you out.
- 5 Benefits Of Milk Thistle
1. Treats Liver Damage
Milk thistle is well-known for its liver benefits. It can treat liver damage from alcoholic or viral hepatitis, along with alcoholic cirrhosis. This is all thanks to the silymarin in it.
Specifically, silymarin can regenerate liver cells and tissue. This doubles as treatment and protection, safeguarding the liver from future damage. No wonder, it’s been used for more than 2,000 years!1
For a detoxifying liver cleanse, drink milk thistle tea. You can also add dandelion and turmeric for added liver benefits.Milk thistle is well-known for its liver benefits. It can treat liver damage from alcoholic or viral hepatitis, along with alcoholic cirrhosis. This is all thanks to the silymarin in it.
Specifically, silymarin can regenerate liver cells and tissue. This doubles as treatment and protection, safeguarding the liver from future damage. No wonder, it’s been used for more than 2,000 years!1
For a detoxifying liver cleanse, drink milk thistle tea. You can also add dandelion and turmeric for added liver benefits.
2. Prevents Cancer
The antioxidant abilities of silymarin can also combat cancer. It prevents cancer cells from dividing, reproducing, and spreading. At the same time, silymarin may also reduce the lifespan of existing cancer cells. For example, a study in Phytotherapy Research found that milk thistle can suppress the migration of cervical cancer cells by killing them.2
Silymarin has also been shown to protect healthy cells from toxins. It does this by stabilizing the membranes, making sure that toxins can’t come through. Even chemotherapy may be more efficient with silymarin.3
3. Protects From Sun
Milk thistle has many benefits when it comes to the skin. When applied topically, milk thistle reduces inflammation and oxidative stress from harmful UV rays. This ultimately wards off photocarcinogenesis, the process that causes skin cancer from sun exposure.
But this doesn’t mean, you should ditch the sunscreen. Instead, milk thistle serves as an ideal supplement to sunscreen. By using these two things together, you can enhance your skin’s protection from the sun.4
4. Treats Acne
This herb can help your skin in other ways. A study in the Journal of Clinical & Experimental Dermatology Research found that the antioxidant activity of silymarin can ease breakouts. It does this by decreasing oxidative stress and inflammation, two characteristics of pimples.
In fact, according to the study, the participants’ acne decreased by 54 percent after eight weeks of oral supplementation. This is likely from the silymarin’s ability to stabilize certain immune cells that deal with inflammation.5 So if you’re dealing with breakouts, milk thistle tea or capsules might be for you.
5. Controls Allergies
Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is caused by oxidative stress and inflammation. Common symptoms include sneezing, nasal congestion, and itchiness. Needless to say, it isn’t very fun!
However, according to research in Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, milk thistle can help manage those symptoms. Researchers found that taking 140 mg of silymarin three times a day for four weeks can make allergies less severe. So the next time your allergies act up, consider taking milk thistle with your antihistamines.6
- Milk Thistle And Dandelion
They might be considered weeds, but milk thistle and dandelion go hand-in-hand. They both have potent liver benefits, especially when taken together. There’s a reason why many liver detox teas and capsules have both!
So if you want better liver benefits, take dandelion with milk thistle.
- • A Word Of Caution
Are you pregnant or breastfeeding? Avoid milk thistle, because it may harm your baby.
You also shouldn’t take this herb if you’ve had hormone-related cancer, like breast or uterine cancer. Silymarin has shown estrogenic effects in animal studies. If this has the same impact on humans, it can be dangerous for your body.7
If you have an allergy to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, chamomile, yarrow, and daisies, don’t take milk thistle. It’s in the same family as these plants, so they may cause an allergic reaction.
Milk thistle can be found in tea, capsules, tinctures, and extracts. If you decide to take pills, be sure to drink a full glass of water.
How to Harvest Seeds From the Milk Thistle Plant
- (San Francisco Gate)
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum), also called lady's thistle, produces bright pink blossoms that attract butterflies and other wildlife. This biennial plant grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9. One milk thistle flower contains up to 190 seeds, and about 90 percent of those remain viable after harvest. If left untended, milk thistle seed heads will break on their own, making harvest impossible. If you plan to collect the seeds, do so before the plants fully mature.
1. Put on a pair of thick gardening gloves before touching milk thistle plants. Milk thistle leaves are very prickly and the spines can easily penetrate the skin.
2. Watch for milk thistle flowers to start drying out and producing silver-white seed heads, called pappus. Milk thistle plants tend to mature at different times, but seed production generally begins in the fall.
3. Cut dried milk thistle blossoms off the plant from the base of the flower head.
4. Put the flower heads into a paper bag, then place the the bag in a warm location. Allow the flower heads to finish drying, which normally takes five to seven days.
5. Drop the dried flower heads into a burlap sack. Shake the bag or press down on the flower heads with your hands to separate the seeds.
6. Place a bucket on the ground outdoors or hold it with one arm. Pour the milk thistle seeds from the sack into the bucket. As you pour the seeds into the bucket, the unwanted chaff will blow away. If any chaff lands in the bucket, remove it and discard.
7. Store the milk thistle seeds in an airtight container until ready to use.
Things You Will Need
- • Gardening gloves
- • Paper bags
- • Scissors or garden shears
- • Burlap sack
- • Bucket
- • Airtight container
According to Plants for a Future, the entire milk thistle plant is edible, and cooks use it in place of spinach or artichokes. When roasted, the thistle's seeds serve as a coffee substitute. Milk thistle has a mild flavor that turns bitter as the plant matures.
4 Herbs to Cleanse Your Liver
- By Michelle Schoffro Cook
The liver is arguably your body’s most important detoxification organ. It helps with the digestion and metabolism of fat, and detoxifies your body of harmful pollutants, food additives, and other toxins. Here are four herbs to help cleanse your liver:
- Milk Thistle (Silybum Marianum)
The primary medicinal ingredient in milk thistle is called silymarin. This compound protects the liver by inhibiting damaging substances in the liver that cause liver cell damage. Silymarin also stimulates liver cell regeneration to help the liver rebuild after it has been damaged. Silymarin also helps to prevent the depletion of the nutrient glutathione—one of the most critical nutrients for liver detoxification.
Silymarin in milk thistle seeds is not very water-soluble so does not extract well into tea. Instead, take a standardized extract containing about 140 mg of silymarin for liver cleansing and protection.
- Dandelion Root (Taraxacum Officinale)
Nature grows a liver-cleansing pharmacy every spring. It is the dreaded weed that most people curse as it pokes its yellow-flowered head through the green of their lawn. Dandelion is one of Mother Nature’s finest liver herbs.
The Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism cited two studies that showed the liver regenerative properties of dandelion in cases of jaundice, liver swelling, hepatitis, and indigestion. If you choose to incorporate dandelion root into your liver cleansing efforts, take 500 to 2000 mg daily in capsules. Alternatively, you can make a decoction by using two teaspoons of powdered dandelion root per cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for fifteen minutes. Drink one cup, three times daily.
- Globe Artichoke (Cynara Scolymus)
Globe Artichoke contains compounds called caffeylquinic acids which have demonstrated powerful liver regenerating effects similar to milk thistle. Globe artichoke is usually found in capsule form. Doses range from 300 to 500 mg daily.
- Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
A commonly-used spice in Indian curries, turmeric helps regenerate liver cells and cleanse it of toxins. Turmeric also increases the production of bile to help expel toxins and may help reduce liver inflammation. In studies turmeric has also been shown to increase levels of two liver-supporting enzymes that promote Phase 2 liver detoxification reactions. Turmeric comes in capsules and tablets, sometimes under the label, “curcumin,” which is the key ingredient in turmeric. Follow package instructions. You can also add ground turmeric to soups, stews, and curries.
Always consult your holistically-minded physician prior to taking any herbs. This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat illness.
Adapted with permission from The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan by Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD.
Milk thistle -- medicinal aid or prickly pain?
- By Pam Peirce
Q: This plant popped up as a volunteer at the side of my compost heap. It is low to the ground, with tough leaves with substantial spines/thorns on the serrated leaves of green and white. I would like to know if this is something to be immediately rooted out and destroyed, or if it is something desirable.
A: What you have is milk thistle (Silybum marianum). There are compelling reasons to dig it up and others to let it grow.
This native of the Mediterranean region was probably brought to this country as a garden plant. It has been considered a medicinal herb for centuries, has been eaten and is sometimes grown as an ornamental.
However, it is also a weed of California roadsides, and its sharp prickles can make it an unpleasant adversary.
Like many plants, milk thistle has been tried for a number of medical uses over the centuries, and is still being investigated to see if it can be used to improve liver function. (My conclusion, after reading a review by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of recent studies of its use, is that extracts of this plant may have some effect, but that I wouldn't want to depend on them to rescue me from liver damage.)
On the dinner table, the young leaves (prickles cut off) have turned up in salads or in mixed cooked greens. Rural peoples in cold-winter climates have included it in "spring tonics," which are wild greens eaten before spring's first garden greens are ready.
Milk thistle is described as rather bitter, but in mixed greens various flavors can balance into a pleasant whole. The young, peeled flower stalk and the flower heads (while still in bud) have also been served as cooked vegetables.
In ornamental gardens, this plant is sometimes grown for its dramatically marked leaves. In this case, the flower stems, which form in summer, are cut off, to prevent seeding.
The flower head, a typical purple thistle, is followed by a dramatic seed head with recurved spines. The plant is a biennial, so it blooms in the summer after it has been exposed to winter temperatures, then dies. There are no bulbs or persistent roots that will make it hard to get rid of, but if it seeds itself in your garden, you may have more seedlings than you like, as may neighboring areas.
Q: About three years ago I planted two feijoas (different types, for better pollination). They're now about 4 feet tall, and they bloom beautifully, but before the fruit gets to be, say, almond-size, it drops off. Any suggestions?
A: The most common reasons for premature fruit drop in pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana) are heat stress, lack of water or a combination of these.
Feijoas are native to the mountains of South America, and, like many upland plants, do not perform as well in very hot weather. They do best where summer highs are no warmer than 80 or 90 degrees. And, while they are drought-tolerant, for best harvests, they should be watered deeply and regularly, and mulched to protect their shallow roots from drying out.
A less likely possibility is lack of pollination. Birds play a role in some places, by spreading pollen as they nibble on the petals, but insect pollination is essential for good harvests. You might try to attract bees by planting borage, honeywort, bee balm or other bee attractants.
Q: Reading in your column about how to get rid of oxalis (Feb. 21 and March 14), I had a question: Is oxalis OK to eat? I tasted a leaf the other day and found it surprisingly refreshing. Before I start making this nibbling a regular practice, I wanted to check with someone and find out if this was safe.
A: Many a child has nibbled oxalis, which children seem universally to call "sour clover."
In my childhood, we nibbled creeping oxalis (Oxalis corniculata), a species as common here as in colder climates. Many California children have discovered the larger Cape oxalis (Oxalis pes-caprae). Our native redwood sorrel (Oxalis oregona) has also been nibbled by native peoples and European settlers.
Nibbling implies eating just a little at a time, a good idea since all species of oxalis get their sour flavor from oxalic acid. This chemical is toxic in large quantities, but our bodies safely eliminate small quantities of it. Though I wasn't able to ascertain the exact oxalic acid content of oxalis, the consensus seems to be that it is OK to eat sparingly, maybe using a few leaves or flowers to flavor a salad now and again.
There is oxalic acid in many perfectly good foods, including French sorrel, spinach, beet greens, Swiss chard, parsley, cashews, black pepper and chocolate. However, you should be aware that some people have conditions, such as kidney stones or gout, that require them to limit oxalates. If you have been told this is true for you, eating this plant isn't a good idea.
Q: I read your reader's suggestion about chickens eating oxalis. Once I let some chickens glut themselves on oxalis for a few weeks and one of them died. I found out that oxalis contains a nerve toxin that sometimes affects livestock if they eat too much of it.
A: Like humans, animals can be poisoned by eating a large amount of oxalic acid all at once. This can happen when livestock graze heavily on pasture that is mostly oxalis, though ruminants, such as cows and sheep, can adjust if the increase is gradual. After a few days, the bacteria in their rumen change to be able to handle more oxalic acid.
Since pet birds are also susceptible to oxalate poisoning, I imagine that chickens could be as well. Large quantities are hard on the stomach, kidneys and bladder. It can cause kidney failure in pet birds.
The reader whose chickens helped control oxalis might have had plenty of other food, so didn't overdose on it, but gorging on oxalis for several weeks was probably way too much for your poor chickens.
Milk Thistle Heals and Protects the Liver and Acts as Poison Antidote
- By Conan Milner (Epoch Times)
In many ancient cultures, spiky plants known as thistles are a symbol for protection and respect. But there is much more to these weeds than just prickly barbs.
Milk thistle in particular has been used by doctors for at least 2,000 years as a remedy for protecting, unblocking, and rejuvenating the liver.
Milk thistle gets its name from the white veins on its leaves. It has bright pink or purple blooms that turn to downy tufts in the late summer to carry its seeds aloft in the wind. The botanical name for milk thistle, Silybum marianum, comes from the Greek word “sillybon” meaning “tuft.”
In the 1960s, German scientists identified a group of flavonoids in milk thistle known as silymarin—which is regarded as the active ingredient for its liver healing abilities.
Silymarin is found in greatest concentration in the seeds, which are harvested in late summer to early fall, just before they mature.
- Liver Stagnation
Herbalists both ancient and modern recommend milk thistle for liver problems. Germany’s Commission E, the government agency that evaluates medicinal plants, approves standardized milk thistle seed extract for chronic inflammatory liver disease and cirrhosis of the liver.
But you don’t need extreme liver problems to benefit from milk thistle. Everyone’s liver can use a little help now and then.
The liver serves as our body’s filter, sifting out poisons, excess hormones, and other impurities from our blood. The liver also produces bile to help us digest fats and proteins. When this organ gets clogged, a variety of illnesses can result: such as headaches, menstrual problems, systemic inflammation, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and digestive issues. These are just some of the ailments people use milk thistle to treat.
To ancient doctors, indications for liver problems extend beyond the physical body into the realm of the mind and spirit. In traditional Chinese medicine, for example, the liver and gallbladder are responsible for the free flow of qi (energy) throughout the body. According to this system, stagnant liver qi often manifests as anger, frustration, and depression.
A similar idea was described in Europe the late 1500s, when London-based herbalist and botanist John Gerard declared that milk thistle was the “best remedy that grows against melancholy diseases.”
Milk thistle has several features that make it particularly liver friendly. This antioxidant rich herb has been shown to regenerate liver cells, strengthen cell walls in the liver, reduce inflammation in the liver and gallbladder, and dissolve gallstones so that bile can flow freely. Silymarin has also been shown to increase production of glutathione, an amino acid complex that helps the body with numerous processes and protects cells against toxins.
- Protection from Poison
Given milk thistle’s liver protecting prowess, some people take the herb daily as a way to guard against environmental toxins, such as pesticides, car exhaust, and cleaning chemicals.
Because alcohol abuse is notoriously hard on the liver, it’s easy to see why milk thistle is often recommended to those who drink too much. Studies on silymarin have shown significant improvement in liver function for those suffering from mild alcohol related liver disease, but it has proved less effective for advanced cases.
For those who only occasionally indulge, milk thistle extract can help avoid a hangover.
In ancient Europe, milk thistle was promoted as an antidote to snake venom and other poisons. Today, a growing number of doctors believe that silymarin may offer the best protection against the potentially lethal death cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides) and other highly toxic mushroom varieties.
In 2011, four cases of death cap mushroom poisoning were treated at Georgetown University Hospital using a milk thistle-based injectable drug known as silibinin. All patients demonstrated a full recovery.
Researchers believe that milk thistle works by blocking toxins from entering the liver cells or removing them from the cell before they cause damage.
Silymarin and other milk thistle-based phytochemicals have shown promise in preliminary studies to guard against certain types of cancers, such as those of the skin, tongue, bladder, prostate, colon, and small intestine.
According to the National Cancer Institute, research on milk thistle shows the herb has the potential to make chemotherapy less toxic and more effective, slow the growth of cancer cells, and help repair liver tissue.
- How To Use
For such a powerful herb, milk thistle has a rather mild taste—nutty and little bitter. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recognizes milk thistle as safe and non-toxic. However, there may be a reaction for those who are allergic to plants from the composite family (sunflower, daisy, aster, etc.)
In Germany, where most of the research has been performed, doctors recommend using milk thistle extracts that are standardized to 80 percent silymarin. Since silymarin is not water soluble, a milk thistle tea won’t supply any of this complex, but there are other valuable constituents in this herb that water can extract.
Contact a qualified herbalist to see how much and how best to use this herb for your particular condition. For everyday liver protection, however, just follow the dose on the bottle. You can take milk thistle alone, or combined in a formula with dandelion, fennel, bupleurum, turmeric, or other herbs with a reputation for liver cleansing.
Another way to take milk thistle is to eat it. This herb has been a source of food in parts of Europe for hundreds of years. Leaves trimmed of their prickles are a nutritious green vegetable. The root can be roasted or boiled. The seeds can be brewed to make a coffee-like beverage. The stem is reportedly superior to the finest cabbage, and the immature flower head, which looks just like a small artichoke, can be consumed in a similar fashion.
Health Benefits of Taking Milk Thistle & Aloe Vera
- By Tracey Roizman (DC)
Milk thistle, a plant in the daisy family, is native to the Mediterranean region, North Africa and the Middle East. The seeds of milk thistle contain an active compound called silymarin that has been widely studied for its purported health benefits. Aloe vera is a tropical succulent plant also native to North Africa, whose leaves produce a gel-like fluid with numerous practical and health uses. Milk Thistle and Liver Health
Milk thistle may help with a variety of liver ailments, including chronic hepatitis and alcohol damage, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. A laboratory animal study published in the October 2006 issue of the "Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics" found that milk thistle showed significant liver-protective benefits against alcohol-induced damage. Milk thistle extract substantially increased levels of the antioxidants superoxide dismutatse and glutathione. However, researchers noted that vitamin C was more effective than milk thistle extract. Milk thistle supplementation was also less effective than the preventive effects of avoiding excessive alcohol intake.
- Milk Thistle and Cancer
Anticancer benefits of milk thistle may include inhibiting cancer cells from reproducing, causing early cell death and inhibiting blood supply to growing tumors. A study published in the September 2012 issue of the "International Journal of Oncology" found that the milk thistle compound silibinin protected against colon cancer in laboratory animals. In the seven-week study, milk thistle shortened the life of cancer cells and decreased inflammation in the lining of the colon, resulting in half the number of cancerous cells. Researchers concluded that milk thistle may offer benefits as a natural method for colon cancer prevention. Aloe Vera and Wound Healing
Aloe vera helps speed wound healing from hemorrhoid surgery, according to New York University's Langone Medical Center. A study published in the 2012 issue of the "Australasian Medical Journal" found that aloe vera gel improved healing of leg ulcers caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Aloe was effective at inhibiting bacterial growth completely within 11 days in 93 percent of study participants. Aloe also shows promise for healing diabetic skin wounds, according to a laboratory animal study published in the June 2012 issue of the journal "Biomedical Materials." In the study, aloe gel reduced the size of skin wounds within seven days.
- Aloe Vera and Blood Sugar
Drinking aloe vera juice may help stabilize blood sugar levels and decrease your risk for developing diabetes, according to a study on laboratory animals published in the June 2012 issue of the journal "Immune Network." Supplementation with aloe juice for 54 days resulted in decreased body weight, lower fasting blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity. Further studies are warranted to confirm these preliminary results before aloe vera juice can be recommended for blood sugar management in humans.
Milk Thistle and the Immune System
- By Amy Myszko
Milk thistle is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant herb which can protect the liver from damage and may be useful in treating some forms of cancer. A tall, spiny plant with large, purple flowers native to the Mediterranean region, milk thistle now grows all over the world. It has been used for at least 2,000 years, primarily in the treatment of liver and gall bladder problems.
- The Liver-Immune Connection
Milk thistle – and its active constituents sylimarin and silibinin – is useful in the treatment of liver diseases like cirrhosis and viral hepatitis. The liver plays a huge role in detoxifying the body, and when liver function is compromised, so is immune function. The liver plays a direct role in the immune system by eliminating microorganisms and preventing tumor transformation, according to an article published in the journal “Hepatology." Milk thistle supports healthy liver function through its effect on the regeneration of liver cells and its antioxidant effect, which prevents free radicals from damaging liver cells called hepatocytes.
- Immunostimulatory Effect
Milk thistle and its constituents also have a stimulatory effect on the immune system as a whole, according to research published in the “Medical Science Monitor.” In vitro testing found it to increase lymphocyte proliferation with a direct correlation to the dose of milk thistle given. Milk thistle's immunostimulatory effects make it an exciting candidate as a complementary treatment for cancer and infectious disease.
- Milk Thistle and Cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, milk thistle has the potential to make chemotherapy less toxic and more effective in treating cancer; to stop or slow the growth of tumors; and to block tumors from starting to grow. In a randomized trial in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, milk thistle was shown to decrease the harmful effects of chemotherapy in the liver without hindering the cancer treatment. Other studies show that milk thistle may demonstrate direct anticancer effects against breast, prostate and cervical cancer, as well as decrease tumor growth in colorectal cancer.
- Uses and Precautions
Milk thistle seeds can be freshly ground and stirred into foods like yogurt. It can also be taken as a tincture, in capsule form, as a standardized extract of sylimarin or as silymarin phosphatidylcholine complex – which may be absorbed more easily than other standardized extracts. Milk thistle is generally regarded as safe, however due to its effect on the liver it should only be taken under the supervision of a healthcare provider if you are taking certain medications – antipsychotics, dilantin, blood thinners, antianxiety drugs and hormone replacement or hormonal birth control. Avoid milk thistle if you are pregnant or nursing or if you are allergic to plants in the daisy family like ragweed, chamomile or yarrow.
The Advantages of Milk Thistle
- By Adam Cloe
Taking milk thistle may provide relief from mushroom poisoning and other liver diseases that are otherwise difficult to treat using conventional medicine. There is evidence that milk thistle may also be useful in the prevention of cancer. This plant has been used for medicinal purposes for over 2,000 years. However, you should talk to your doctor before beginning milk thistle or any other herbal treatment.
- Milk Thistle Components
The seeds of the milk thistle plant are the components that are used in herbal medicine. Milk thistle seeds are rich in a substance called silymarin. Silymarin is comprised of four different chemicals that have antioxidant properties, which means that they can prevent cellular damage from free radicals. Silymarin may also help protect cellular membranes and repair damaged liver cells.
- Silymarin and Liver Disease
Milk thistle or silymarin has traditionally been used as an antidote for Amanita phalloides, also known as the death cap mushroom, which causes death via liver failure. Consumption of milk thistle extract within 24 hours may reduce the risk of liver damage and death. Milk thistle has also been used as a therapy for liver inflammation and cirrhosis caused by alcohol consumption. Other forms of liver disease, including hepatitis C may also be treated with milk thistle.
- Milk Thistle and Cancer
Milk thistle's protective effects on cells mean that it may be helpful for treating or preventing cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, experiments on cancer cell cultures have found that milk thistle can inhibit cancer cell growth or directly kill some types of cancer. In particular, milk thistle slows the growth of breast, prostate and cervical cancer cells, though this has not been tested in clinical trials. It has also been used to prevent liver damage in patients receiving chemotherapy for leukemia.
- Other Benefits
Milk thistle can help control blood glucose levels in diabetics with liver damage. It has also been used to treat menopausal symptoms and indigestion and may be effective for lowering cholesterol.
Adverse effects from taking milk thistle are rare and usually mild. Some patients may experience an upset stomach, nausea, heartburn and diarrhea. Mild allergic reactions are also possible. If you have diabetes and take medications to lower your blood sugar, milk thistle may further reduce your blood glucose levels, so you may need to lower the doses of your other medications. Before taking milk thistle, talk to your doctor to make sure it is safe for you.
Milk extract could protect against skin cancer
- (Admin, TheHealthSite)
Silibinin, an extract from the milk thistle, protects against skin cancer and aging caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation, especially for those who are fond of tanning, says a new study. ‘When you have a cell affected by UV radiation, you either want to repair it or kill it, so that it cannot go on to cause cancer. We show that silibinin does both,’ said Rajesh Agarwal, co-programme leader of Cancer Prevention and Control at the Colorado University Cancer Centre.
The first study worked with human skin cells subjected to UVA radiation, which makes up about 95 percent of the sun’s radiation that reaches the Earth. The Agarwal Lab treated these UVA-affected cells with silibinin, the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology reports. ‘When you take human skin cells – keratinocytes – and treat them with silibinin, nothing happens. It’s not toxic. But when you damage these cells with UVA radiation, treatment with silibinin kills the cells,’ thus removing the mutated cells that can cause skin cancer and photo-aging, Agarwal said, according to a Colorado statement. Specifically, the study shows that pre-treatment with silibinin resulted in higher release of reactive oxygen species (ROS) within the UVA-exposed cells, leading to higher rates of cell death.
The second study, published by the same authors in the journal Molecular Carcinogenesis, shows that instead of beneficially killing cells damaged by UVA radiation, treatment with silibinin protects human skin cells from damage by UVB radiation, which makes up about five percent of the sun’s radiation reaching Earth. Agarwal’s suggestion is that the prevention of UV-induced skin cancer can happen in two ways: by protecting against DNA damage or by killing cells with damaged DNA.
With UVA, silibinin kills; with UVB, it protects, in this case by increasing cells’ expression of the protein interleukin-12, which works to quickly repair damaged cells. ‘It has been 20 years of work with this compound, silibinin,’ Agarwal said. ‘We first noticed its effectiveness in treating both skin and solid cancers, and we now have a much more complete picture of the mechanisms that allow this compound to work,’ he added.
The 7 Best Herbs That Will Improve Your Health
- By Lauren Weiler
While getting the proper intake of fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats is essential to a healthy diet, you may be missing one key component — fresh herbs. Though you may only buy your herbs for special occasion dishes or when you’re entertaining guests, consider putting away the dried parsley flakes and reaching for a few snips of fresh herbs for everyday use. Though adding that sprinkle of basil over the top of your pasta dish or chives onto your salmon dish may not seem like a boost to your health, you may be surprised to find that, like other greens, herbs can help ward away cancer, protect your heart, improve brain function, and fight infection. Here are seven of the best herbs for your health.
Though sage may not be in your usual repertoire of herbs to include in your meals, it pairs excellently with turkey and chicken dishes and with herb stuffing, making it a staple right around Thanksgiving. While it was originally known for its healing properties and its aid in plague prevention in the 1500s, Authority Nutrition explains how studies are currently showing that sage may aid in proper brain function and memory.
This may be especially useful for those suffering from Alzheimer’s — in a four-month study outlined within the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, a fixed dosage of sage extract (60 drops per day) was shown to significantly improve brain function in those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Peppermint isn’t just the flavor of your holiday candy canes anymore — drinking peppermint tea or adding mint leaves into pesto dishes, salads, and couscous is the perfect way to reap the health benefits that this small plant has to offer. There’s a reason that peppermint tea is consumed worldwide and is considered to be one of the most beneficial teas to sip on. The Global Healing Center explains that when steeped in hot water, just a single tea bag of peppermint leaves offers antioxidants that can help prevent illness and chronic disease.
Peppermint can also help with irritable bowel syndrome, as it supports digestion by increasing bile flow and assisting in the break down of fats. This also means that it helps support proper liver function, as it can help reduce the bad cholesterol that can slow the liver down. If you’re feeling nauseous, forget the OTC medicines and try reaching for some peppermint instead, as it can help relieve gas, indigestion, and vomiting.
While you may be used to sprinkling a bit of dried rosemary over your beef, chicken, pork, or lamb, you’re actually doing your body a bigger favor than you realize by consuming this herb.
You’ll want to be wary when boiling, frying, or grilling meats at high temperatures, as this can produce dangerous carcinogens, or substances that are known to cause cancer. Prevention explains how the use of powdered rosemary extract has been shown to reduce the levels of these carcinogens — you can even toss this powder with your proteins before cooking to lower your carcinogen intake. J. Scott Smith, PhD, lead researcher at Kansas State University, says that rosemary contains carnosol and rosemarinic acid, which are two antioxidants that are known to destroy the specific type of carcinogen produced from cooking meats. Aim to marinate your proteins in rosemary and any other herbs and spices of your choosing before you begin cooking to get the most benefits.
4. Holy Basil
You may think you recognize this herb as the basil you know and love that might be sitting on your countertop or in your garden right now, but holy basil is different than the sweet or Thai varieties often found in popular dishes. Holy basil is native to Southeast Asia, and it’s been cultivated for its medicinal properties for centuries. This particular type of basil is a member of the mint family but can also be cooked in the same ways as other basils, its flavor is much the same as other types of basil as well. Including holy basil in your pesto, your pasta dishes, and in a sauce for your proteins is the perfect way to incorporate it into your diet.
Medicine Hunter explains how holy basil is an antioxidant with both anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Though there has not been much formal scientific research dedicated to holy basil in the past, it is garnering much attention from the medical community in recent years because of its natural therapeutic effect. Holy basil is an effective stress reliever as well due to the fact that it is considered to be an adaptogen. While adaptogens don’t relieve stress themselves, they help the body function at its best when faced with physical or emotional stressors. This herb is considered to be one that can help relax and ease the mind most effectively, and it is available in its fresh form and as an extract for easy usage.
Mexican food may come to mind immediately when thinking of cilantro, but this herb is more than just a taco topper. While the taste of cilantro has a love-it-or-hate-it reaction from many, those who love it should feel free to pile it high on their rice and bean dishes or even add plenty of it into your favorite juices and smoothies for that extra punch of flavor and extra health boost.
Cilantro is known for its ability to cleanse and heal the body from the inside out. Natural Health 365 explains that cilantro has an array of antioxidants and can also aid in digestion, and it is a fungicide and aphrodisiac that can also help with healing and warding away infections. It is also high in vitamins A, K, C, and has traces of B vitamins as well as being rich in iron and manganese. Though cilantro is rich in the vitamin and mineral department, its most coveted trait is the fact that it can help remove heavy metals from the body like mercury and aluminum. When consumed for long periods of time, cilantro will assist in removing mercury from tissue.
6. Milk Thistle
Though you may not have considered adding milk thistle into your salads to replace greens like spinach, this flowering herb has amazing benefits to the liver that you can reap just by eating the herb itself, steeping it to create a tea, or taking an oral milk thistle supplement.
Silymarin is the active ingredient in milk thistle that protects the liver, and the herb was approved in 1986 to treat liver diseases like alcoholic fatty liver, cirrhosis, both alcoholic and viral hepatitis, and liver poisoning. This ingredient also works as an anti-inflammatory agent and encourages the growth of the liver as well. Herb Wisdom explains how milk thistle works to detoxify chemicals that enter the body, and these chemicals can be in the form of medicines like acetaminophen to recreational alcoholic beverages to heavy metals. If you’re feeling like you may have had too much to drink at the bar the night before, it’s not a bad idea to consume some milk thistle the next day to help your liver repair itself from the damage.
Oregano is another common herb that we all know, love, and sprinkle atop many Italian, Greek, and Spanish dishes. While it’s the perfect accompaniment to pizza, fresh salads with feta and olives, or vegetarian dishes, one tablespoon of the fresh herb has the same antioxidant super power as a medium-sized apple, says Vegetarian Times. With such a high concentration of antioxidants, consuming this unassuming herb may help ward away cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure while also preventing cellular damage. Its antimicrobial properties are also of the utmost importance, as oregano can prevent fungal and bacterial infections.
Medical News Today also describes the advantages of eating oregano for its anti-inflammatory properties. Beta-caryophyllin, an active ingredient in oregano, can help fight osteoporosis and arteriosclerosis. Oregano has also been used to help fight acne, dandruff, headaches, allergies, and menstrual cramps, among other illnesses and other conditions. If you don’t love the taste of fresh or dried oregano in your food, then oil of oregano supplements may be the route best suited for your consumption.
What Are the Benefits of Milk Thistle & Dandelion?
- By Joanne Marie
Dandelion and milk thistle are plants that contain natural phytochemicals with medicinal properties. Traditionally used as part of Chinese and other forms of herbal medicine, both plants have potential benefits for a number of your organs and may help keep you healthy and disease-free. Discuss use of one or both remedies with your doctor to decide whether either might be helpful for you.
Dandelion roots and leaves have been part of traditional medicine for centuries. Practitioners recommend dandelion for many ailments, including liver problems, kidney disease, heartburn and stomach upset. Dandelion is rich in vitamins C, D, A and the B complex, and contains iron, potassium and zinc. It also provides a number of natural, biologically active compounds, including some called flavonoids and terpenoids. Some of these compounds benefit liver function, while others are diuretics that increase urine production by your kidneys. Dandelion also contains natural antioxidants, compounds that help your body get rid of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules made in your body that can damage cell membranes and DNA, potentially speeding aging and raising your risk of cancer and other diseases.
Research supports many of the possible benefits of dandelion. For example, a clinical study published in "Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine" found that human subjects who consumed dandelion extract over a 24-hour period produced significantly more urine than they had in each of the previous two days. In addition, the University of Maryland Medical Center says the diuretic action of dandelion may benefit your liver and circulation by helping lower your blood pressure. Dandelion may also have anti-cancer properties, according to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, which indicates that it could slow growth of cancerous tumors and cultured cancer cells, at least in the laboratory. A study published in "Life Sciences" found that cancerous cells cultured with dandelion extract grew more slowly and eventually died, compared to cells grown without the extract. These results are promising but need confirmation in studies with human subjects.
- Milk Thistle
The milk thistle plant and its milky, white sap have been used medicinally for several thousand years, traditionally recommended to protect the liver and treat liver disease. The plant contains a biologically active compound called silymarin, a phytochemical classified as a flavonoid. Silymarin is a natural antioxidant that also has anti-inflammatory activity, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, which says it also stimulates liver cells to divide, helping provide new cells to replace injured ones and potentially helping the liver recover from injury. Like dandelion, milk thistle may also have anti-cancer properties.
Research suggests that milk thistle might help improve several liver problems, including cirrhosis and alcoholic liver disease. In a review published in "Forschende Komplementarmedizin," a German journal, the authors examined 65 clinical studies with silymarin extracted from milk thistle. They concluded that silymarin could help improve symptoms of liver cirrhosis and other liver problems, and may also protect the liver from damage caused by toxins in poisonous mushrooms. Memorial Sloan-Kettering also says that silymarin from milk thistle may stop cancerous cells from dividing and interfere with the spread of cancer cells into healthy tissue, although this needs to be confirmed in clinical studies with human subjects.
- How To Use
Milk thistle and dandelion are both generally available at health-food stores, in capsules or as a liquid extract or tincture. Both herbs are generally considered safe, although dandelion may cause an allergic reaction or heartburn and stomach discomfort in some people. Dandelion may interact with certain drugs, including lithium, diuretics or diabetes medicines, while milk thistle could interfere with antipsychotics, seizure medicines, allergy medications or drugs broken down in your liver. Do not self-treat for any condition with dandelion or milk thistle; talk to your doctor before adding either to your regimen.
Silibinin, found in milk thistle, protects against UV-induced skin cancer
- (University of Colorado Denver)
A pair of University of Colorado Cancer Center studies published this month show that the milk thistle extract, silibinin, kills skin cells mutated by UVA radiation and protects against damage by UVB radiation -- thus protecting against UV-induced skin cancer and photo-aging.
"When you have a cell affected by UV radiation, you either want to repair it or kill it so that it cannot go on to cause cancer. We show that silibinin does both," says Rajesh Agarwal, PhD, co-program leader of Cancer Prevention and Control at the CU Cancer Center and professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
The first study, published in the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology worked with human skin cells subjected to UVA radiation, which makes up about 95 percent of the sun's radiation that reaches Earth. The Agarwal Lab treated these UVA-affected cells with silibinin. With silibinin, the rate at which these damaged cells died increased dramatically.
"When you take human skin cells -- keratinocytes -- and treat them with silibinin, nothing happens. It's not toxic. But when you damage these cells with UVA radiation, treatment with silibinin kills the cells," Agarwal says, thus removing the mutated cells that can cause skin cancer and photo-aging.
Specifically, the study shows that pretreatment with silibinin resulted in higher release of reactive oxygen species (ROS) within the UVA-exposed cells, leading to higher rates of cell death.
The second study, published this month by the same authors in the journal Molecular Carcinogenesis shows that instead of beneficially killing cells damaged by UVA radiation, treatment with silibinin protects human skill cells from damage by UVB radiation, which makes up about 5 percent of the sun's radiation reaching Earth.
Again, remember Agarwal's suggestion that the prevention of UV-induced skin cancer can happen in two ways: by protecting against DNA damage or by killing cells with damaged DNA. With UVA, silibinin kills; with UVB, it protects, in this case by increasing cells' expression of the protein interleukin-12, which works to quickly repair damaged cells.
"It has been 20 years of work with this compound, silibinin," Agarwal says. "We first noticed its effectiveness in treating both skin and solid cancers, and we now have a much more complete picture of the mechanisms that allow this compound to work."
Agarwal and colleagues continue to test the effectiveness of silibinin in cancer prevention and treatment in cell lines and mouse models, and are working toward human trials of silibinin-based therapeutics.
Detoxify with Milk Thistle after celebrating Diwali
- By Shikha Sharma (Hindustan Times)
Let’s face it: even the most austere of us tend to over-indulge during the festive season – and then live to regret it, thanks to digestive and other problems.
However, there is a way out, and as I do an occasional column on herbs that heal, this is the best time for me to tell you about milk thistle, a herb that removes toxins from the liver and hence sorts out all sorts of problems.
Milk thistle, so called because it has leaves as white as milk, is found all over the world, and has been used to cleanse the liver for at least 2,000 years. The liver is the seat of health: its job is to extract vitamins and minerals from the food we eat, and send them all over the body to help maintain and rejuvenate body functions and tissues.
The toxins we’re exposed to thanks to pollution also wind up in the liver and can harm it. But milk thistle heals and detoxifies this vital organ.
Milk thistle’s active compound is silymarin, which is available at chemist stores as tablets.
Though milk thistle is a safe herb to consume, be sensible and consult your doctor before you start taking the tablets.
These are the primary benefits of milk thistle:
1.It lowers cholesterol naturally.
2.Because it detoxifies the liver, it boosts metabolism.
3.It helps ease water retention in a natural and gentle way.
4.If you suffer from a liver disease or disorder, it’s the best herb you could take.
5.It helps protect your liver against damage caused by alcohol.
6.Since it purifies the blood, it gives you clearer skin.
7.Milk thistle helps the liver balance bile, which makes it good for patients with gall bladder stones.
8.It eases the effects of long-term use of antibiotics or steroids, both of which have a negative impact on the liver.
9.It works very well for women who have hormonal imbalances. This is due to a liver function that breaks down the end products of hormone production and cleans out the waste.
Detoxing teas to sip while you spring clean
- By Jody Scott
Herbal teas can help kick start digestion and support spring cleansing.
Endless cups of hot tea are one of the best things about winter. But there are many brews you can sip in spring to promote detoxification.
“Spring is the perfect time to enjoy cleansing herbs in a tea form,” says practising naturopath, herbalist, author of I Am Food and founder of Ovvio Organics, Anthia Koullouros. “There are some fantastic herbs that help kick start our digestion and promote detoxification.”
She says as the temperature and humidity rises, it’s best to choose cooling herbs and teas to compliment such such as peppermint, spearmint, fennel and chamomile. “Warming herbs and spices such as ginger and cinnamon and pepper still have great use in spring and summer,” she says. “These warming herbs are fantastic for breaking up mucous and can assist those suffering from hay fever and a runny nose. I recommend to pick the teas and herbs that work best for your constitution.”
- Herbs to brew for spring cleansing
Dandelion root: Traditionally used as a bitter digestive tonic that is gentle for liver and indicated for constipation, lack of appetite and general detoxification. Dandelion leaf: Traditionally used for fluid retention and urinary infections and irritation. Milk thistle seed: Traditionally used as a liver and digestive tonic that is indicated for poor liver function, toxicity and an overall cleanser. Nettle leaf: Traditionally used as a skin purifier and allergic eczema and hay fever. Elderflower: Traditionally used for upper respiratory conditions such as hay fever and mucous.
- Herbs to calm your nervous system, recharge and reset your mind for spring
Chamomile: for anxiety and digestive disturbances. Lavender: for anxiety and depression with restlessness and sleeplessness. Holy Basil: an adaptogen, helping the mind and body better adapt to physical and emotional stress. Passionflower: for its calming and relaxing properties. Lemon balm: to alleviate anxiety and calm the digestive system. Koullouros says the active constituents in herbal teas and spices can boost the immune system, stimulate digestion and detox the body.
A recent study by the Institute of Food Technologists found the temperature and length of time leaves are steeped affects their antioxidant properties. And it differs according to the type of tea you are using.
For example, green tea is best steeped below 70°C, as the tannins and antioxidants dissolve at higher temperatures.
Black tea or more robust herbs such as rosemary and thyme can handle higher temperatures.
“To ensure you are getting the most out of your tea, and that the plant survive the brewing process, it is best to follow the instructions on the tea you purchase,” says Koullouros. “An extra little tip is to not to forget to remove the strainer or infuser from the tea pot once brewing time has been reached, this will help avoid over-steeping.”
- Switch to warm weather brews
Koullouros says you can give your favourite winter brew a spring makeover simply by steeping four teaspoons of tea with one tablespoon raw honey (except those that contain licorice root as they are naturally sweet) in five cups of boiling water for 10 minutes.
Remove tea leaves and refrigerate. Serve the next day with ice and freshly sliced fruit and fresh herb leaves. Add sparkling mineral water and or kombucha for a bubbly, refreshing and hydrating drink.
“Putting your homemade tea infusions in water bottle is an excellent idea to enjoy your tea on the go,” she says. But remember to always opt for a BPA free or glass bottle.
- Some of Koullouro’s favourite teas to enjoy during warmer weather
Traditional Ice Tea made with English Breakfast or Earl Grey Tea. Serve with lemon slices and fresh mint leaves. Lemony Ice Teas include tea blends with lemon grass, lemon myrtle, lemon balm, lemon scented gum. Serve with lemon and orange slices and fresh stalks of lemongrass. Minty Ice Teas include tea blends with peppermint and spearmint. Serve with fresh mint leaves. Fruity & Floral Ice Teas include tea blends with dried fruit such as pineapple, apple, peach and berries such as rosehip, elderberry, juniper berries, hibiscus and rose petals. Serve with freshly sliced strawberry, pineapple or orange.
- Recipe: Spring Tea Recipe by Anthia Koullouros
“This is the perfect combination of herbs for those who suffer from hay-fever and change of season related allergies,” says Koullouros. “It combines both warming, immune boosting and vitamin C rich herbs and spices to help you get through this change of season.”
- -1 teaspoon of elderflower
- -1 teaspoon fresh ginger root
- -1 slice fresh lemon with the skin from an organic lemon
- -½ teaspoon dried turmeric powder
- -Place all ingredients together in an infuser into a teapot
- -Steep in boiling water for 3-5 minutes
- -Add a teaspoon of honey, and enjoy!
5 Easy Ways to Drastically Slash Your Type 2 Diabetes Risk
- By Michelle Schoffro Cook
Moms around the world are celebrating a victory for every time they told us to “eat our vegetables.” That’s because a new study has been added to the growing volume of studies proving that plant-based diets low in or devoid of animal protein can substantially reduce the risk of serious disease. The latest in the long line of studies found that a healthy vegetarian diet substantially reduces type 2 diabetes risk.
- Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Published in the online medical journal PLOS Medicine researchers assessed the diets of 200,727 people to determine a possible dietary link to diabetes. The researchers found that a healthy vegetarian diet substantially reduced diabetes risk. They also assessed the health level of the diet, ranking whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and tea and coffee as healthier options than other foods. The researchers concluded that “…plant-based diets, especially when rich in high-quality plant foods, are associated with substantially lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Eat Less Meat
An earlier large-scale study comparing the eating habits of diabetics to non-diabetics published in the medical journal Diabetologia found that a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, and refined grains may lower diabetes risk. Discover more health benefits of vegetarianism in the article “7 Types of Vegetarianism and Their Environmental and Health Benefits.”
- Skip the Soda
Eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat and refined grains are important ways to reduce diabetes risk. Other research found that drinking only one can of sugary soda daily can increase the risk of diabetes by 22 percent. Conversely, cutting out soda can have a huge impact on diabetes risk as well. Choosing soda sweetened with artificial sweeteners is not a healthy alternative to sugary soda, as artificially sodas have been linked to many serious health conditions. Of course, it is still best to reduce other sugary foods and beverages in your diet to reduce your diabetes risk.
- Add Milk Thistle to Your Plate
Most people may think of the herb milk thistle as a liver-boosting herb, if they think of it at all. But, exciting research in the medical journal Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, and Obesity, found that an extract of milk thistle was able to improve numerous markers of the conditions for which the journal is named, including: reducing triglycerides, LDL cholesterol (often considered the harmful cholesterol), and blood sugar levels. Few of the medicinal properties of milk thistle are extracted in water, so herbal teas with this particular herb are not the best option. Instead, choose an alcohol-based extract known as a tincture. Follow package directions. If you are already diabetic choose capsules or glycerin-extracts instead.
- Include Nettles in Your Diet
Exciting research in the journal Neuroscience Letters found that nettles showed tremendous capacity to assist many of the health issues linked to diabetes, including: reducing high blood sugar levels, reducing the symptom of excessive thirst, improving body weight, regulating insulin levels, reducing the pain of neuropathy, and even improving memory and cognition. While the research using nettles for diabetes is still in its infancy, these impressive results suggest that the herb holds great promise for the disease. Fresh nettles are available in the spring time at an increasing number of farmer’s markets and grocery stores. Add fresh or dried nettles (handle with gloves if using the fresh herb to avoid its hair-like stingers) to soups or stews. You can also make a tea using one teaspoon of dried herb per cup of boiled water and allow to steep for at least 10 minutes. Add twice the amount of fresh herb if using fresh nettles. Alternatively, choose a nettles tincture and follow package directions.
The Benefits of Milk Thistle
- By Cathy Wong, ND (Reviewed by a board-certified physician)
Health benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a plant used in herbal medicine. Said to improve liver function, it's often touted as natural remedy for liver problems, such as hepatitis and cirrhosis.
Available in dietary supplement form, a substance known as silymarin contains a mixture of compounds found in milk thistle (including silybin, silydianin, and silychristin).
- Uses for Milk Thistle
While treatment of liver conditions is one of the most common uses for milk thistle, the herb is also said to fight the following health issues:
- • depression
- • diabetes
- • gallbladder disorders
- • hangovers
- • heartburn
- • high cholesterol
- • insulin resistance
- • menstrual problems
- • Parkinson's disease
- • seasonal allergies
Some proponents also claim that milk thistle can protect against certain forms of cancer, including breast cancer and prostate cancer.
- The Health Benefits of Milk Thistle
Here's a look at the science behind the potential health benefits of milk thistle:
1) Liver Disease
Some preliminary research suggests that silymarin may improve liver function by keeping toxic substances from binding to liver cells. However, studies on the milk thistle's effectiveness in treating liver disorders have yielded mixed results.
For example, most clinical evidence indicates that milk thistle neither improves liver function nor reduces the risk of mortality in people with alcoholic liver disease, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C, according to a report published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology in 2005.
Furthermore, some small studies have shown that milk thistle may improve liver function in people with cirrhosis, while other clinical trials have demonstrated that milk thistle may be of little or no benefit to people with this disease.
Several studies have shown that milk thistle may be beneficial for people with diabetes.
The most recent research on milk thistle and diabetes includes a study published in Phytomedicine in 2015. For the study, 40 people with diabetes were treated with either silymarin or a placebo for 45 days. At the study's end, members of the silymarin group showed a greater improvement in antioxidant capacity and a greater reduction in inflammation in comparison to those given the placebo.
According to the study's authors, these findings suggest that silymarin may benefit diabetes patients by reducing oxidative stress (a process known to play a major role in the development of diabetic complications).
Additionally, several small clinical trials conducted in recent years have found that milk thistle may aid in diabetes control by regulating blood sugar levels and preventing the progression of diabetes-related kidney damage.
3) Seasonal Allergies
A small study published in Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery in 2011 shows that silymarin may help treat seasonal allergies.
In a clinical trial involving 94 people with seasonal allergies, researchers observed that those treated with silymarin for one month had a significantly greater improvement in the severity of their symptoms (compared to those given a placebo for one month).
- Safety and Side Effects
Milk thistle may trigger a number of side effects, including diarrhea, gas, headache, indigestion, joint pain, and sexual dysfunction.
Milk thistle may lower your blood sugar levels, so it should be used with caution by people with diabetes and by anyone taking medications or supplements that affect blood sugar levels.
Since there is a theoretical risk that milk thistle could have an estrogen-like effect, people with hormone-sensitive conditions such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or cancers of the breast, uterus, or ovaries should avoid milk thistle. Milk thistle may theoretically reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives by inhibiting an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase.
In addition, people with allergies to daisies, artichokes, kiwi, common thistle, or plants in the aster family may also be allergic to milk thistle.
Milk thistle supplements haven't been tested for safety and keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get tips on using supplements here, but if you're considering the use of milk thistle supplements, talk with your primary care provider first.
- Where to Find Milk Thistle
Dietary supplements containing milk thistle are sold in many natural-foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in herbal products. You can also purchase milk thistle products online.
Milk Thistle Extract Kills Skin Cancer, Repairs Sun Damage, Research Finds
- By James Ayre
Milk thistle extract (silibinin) has been found to kill skin cells that have become mutated, via exposure to UVA radiation, and also to protect against UV-induced skin cancer and photo-aging, by two new studies from the University of Colorado Cancer Center.
Milk thistle extract (and silibinin) has long been known for its medicinal and culinary uses. They have very likely been in use for hundreds of thousands of years. Much like the extremely nutritious plant stinging nettles, and the highly medicinal dandelion plant.
“When you have a cell affected by UV radiation, you either want to repair it or kill it so that it cannot go on to cause cancer. We show that silibinin does both,” says Rajesh Agarwal, PhD, co-program leader of Cancer Prevention and Control at the CU Cancer Center and professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
One of the studies, just published in the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology, investigated human skin cells that were exposed to UVA radiation. UVA radiation is the main type of radiation that reaches the Earth from the Sun, making up roughly 95% of the total radiation. “The Agarwal Lab treated these UVA-affected cells with silibinin. With silibinin, the rate at which these damaged cells died increased dramatically.”
“When you take human skin cells — keratinocytes — and treat them with silibinin, nothing happens. It’s not toxic. But when you damage these cells with UVA radiation, treatment with silibinin kills the cells,” Agarwal says. This effectively removes the mutated cells that may otherwise lead to some forms of cause skin cancer and also photo-aging.
“Specifically, the study shows that pretreatment with silibinin resulted in higher release of reactive oxygen species (ROS) within the UVA-exposed cells, leading to higher rates of cell death.”
The other study, published in the journal Molecular Carcinogenesis, “shows that instead of beneficially killing cells damaged by UVA radiation, treatment with silibinin protects human skill cells from damage by UVB radiation, which makes up about 5 percent of the sun’s radiation reaching Earth.”
“Again, remember Agarwal’s suggestion that the prevention of UV-induced skin cancer can happen in two ways: by protecting against DNA damage or by killing cells with damaged DNA. With UVA, silibinin kills; with UVB, it protects, in this case by increasing cells’ expression of the protein interleukin-12, which works to quickly repair damaged cells.”
“It has been 20 years of work with this compound, silibinin,” Agarwal says. “We first noticed its effectiveness in treating both skin and solid cancers, and we now have a much more complete picture of the mechanisms that allow this compound to work.”
Agarwal and the other researchers are continuing to explore the effectiveness of silibinin in the prevention and treatment of various forms of cancer. They are currently restricted to “cell lines and mouse models, and are working toward human trials of silibinin-based therapeutics.”
To date, milk thistles have been noted for possessing a wide variety of medicinal uses. Since ancient times, and likely into prehistory, they have been noted for their very beneficial effects on the liver. They are very effective both in treating liver damage, and in preventing it. There is also very good evidence that they can prevent death after the accidental ingestion of certain poisons, such as the death cap mushroom.
Milk thistles also have a long history of use as a food. The whole plant is edible if properly prepared. The roots and greens in particular are noted as being very good, with the greens tasting somewhat like spinach.
Milk Thistle Extract Combats Mushroom Poisoning
- (WholeFoods Magazine Staff)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is spending more and more time reviewing reports of liver damage caused by drugs. It is with this backdrop that results from a new Cancer study on a milk thistle-derived ingredient show some promise for maintaining liver health in individuals taking certain chemotherapeutics.
Children undergoing such therapy (with vincristine, MTX, 6-MP) to treat leukemia are prone to liver toxicity. In this study conducted at Columbia University Medical Center, 50 children taking chemotherapeutics were given a milk thistle extract (Siliphos from Indena, based in Milan, Italy) or a placebo for several weeks. During this time, the children were given blood tests to monitor liver function such as changes in alanine transferase (ALT), aspartate amino transferase (AST) or total bilirubin (TB). After 56 days, the milk thistle group had “significantly lower” AST and ALT levels. Of interest, there was a “modest synergistic effect” between the two therapies and the herb did not negatively affect the chemotherapy.
These results are encouraging, and the group feels additional research should be conducted on this promising application.
Milk thistle shows merit for liver health
- By Pamela Thiessen
It might be hard to believe that a plant from the thistle family has any merit at all. However, one species known as milk thistle has been used for thousands of years as a remedy for a number of ailments, particularly for problems with the liver. The herb is available in capsule form, as a liquid extract and as a tea.
The active ingredient in milk thistle is a flavonoid called silymarin found in the seeds of the plant. It appears to protect the liver from toxins which enter the body in various ways-often from substances which are ingested. You may have heard that acetaminophen (sold under brand names such as Tylenol) may cause liver damage when taken consistently over a long period of time. Although the medication helps relieve pain, in the long run Tylenol would be seen as a toxin by the liver.
Alcohol is also a toxin when taken in large amounts over many years. This can cause cirrhosis of the liver or alcoholic hepatitis which may respond to milk thistle although scientific studies have been mixed. While studies show that the herb improves liver function and increases survival rates of those dealing with cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis, they are often done on a small number of subjects which makes it difficult to state conclusively exactly what milk thistle does and does not do.
It is no surprise, then, that milk thistle is used to treat viral hepatitis (particularly hepatitis C) as well. Again, results aren’t conclusive, but in one study 16 patients who did not respond to interferon and riboflavin therapy, did improve when given milk thistle.
- Anti-inflammatory properties
Silymarin (the active ingredient in milk thistle) is an antioxidant and exhibits anti-inflammatory properties. This explains how it assists the liver to repair itself by growing new cells. This may also indicate that milk thistle could well have anticancer effects by stopping the mutant cells from dividing and reproducing, as well as reducing blood flow to tumours. One theory also states that silymarin may offer sunscreen protection and help reduce the risk of skin cancer.
Other positive effects of milk thistle that have been suggested are helping decrease cholesterol levels, especially in the gall bladder, and helping dissolve stone build-up. While studies show promise in the laboratory, more research is needed on human subjects to show just what effects the herb has.
You might well ask if milk thistle is readily available to us as a plant from which to extract the potent ingredients. As other thistles species which love hot dry conditions, milk thistle can thrive on the prairies, and is raised quite extensively in Saskatchewan. It is a fairly attractive plant with a long stalk capped by a pink or purple flower which forms the seed head. While some ambitious horticulturalists recommend growing it for ornamental purposes, chances are it will never become popular as a garden plant.
However, it will continue to be raised mostly for its seeds which are harvested in late summer on the prairies and ground up for use in capsules or tea. These can be both be purchased at health food stores. Some consumers drink the tea simply for pleasure when a few minutes of steeping is enough. If used for medicinal purposes, steeping time should be increased.
Milk Thistle Extract, Silibinin, Could Help Protect Against Skin Cancer, Studies Show
- (The Huffington Post)
A bright purple flower could play a role in protecting against skin cancer, according to two new studies.
New research from the University of Colorado Cancer Center shows that not only does milk thistle extract, called silibinin, protect against skin cancer-causing ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation, but it also kills cells that have undergone mutations due to ultraviolet-A (UVA) radiation — a process that would potentially lead to cancer.
“We first noticed its effectiveness in treating both skin and solid cancers, and we now have a much more complete picture of the mechanisms that allow this compound to work,” study researcher Rajesh Agarwal, Ph.D., a professor and co-program leader of Cancer Prevention and Control at the university, said in a statement.
In one study, published in the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology, researchers found that treating cells damaged by UVA radiation with silibinin effectively killed them. Plus, they found that silibinin didn’t damage regular, non-mutated skin cells, meaning “it’s not toxic,” Agarwal explained.
In the other study, published in the journal Molecular Carcinogenesis, the researchers found that the silibinin actually had a protective effect against UVB rays by upping cell expression of a particular cell-repairing protein.
Milk thistle is known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and has been used for treating liver problems, according to WebMD.
The Health Benefits of Milk Thistle
- By Kyle Perry
For over 2,000 years, milk thistle has been used to treat a number of common conditions that affect the pancreas and liver. While the herb is bitter tasting, it does a fine job of battling hepatotoxic agents, and can help reverse injuries to the liver. Just one benefit to the liver delivered by milk thistle is the ability to stimulate protein synthesis, which can help with the development of new liver cells. Early medical practitioners would use milk thistle to treat congestion in the veins, spleen, and kidneys. For the most part, milk thistle is considered to be a safe natural treatment, but some medical professionals warn that it can lead to an increase in hepatic clearance of pharmaceuticals.
- Milk Thistle Benefits:
1. Liver Affinity
A number of common liver issues, such as jaundice, can be treated with milk thistle. It is the flavonoids found in the milk thistle seed that are thought to be responsible for the benefits that are delivered to the liver. The immune system is positively affected when flavonoids are introduced, making it easier for the body to fend off common illnesses. Cell membranes are stabilized, and cell function is brought under control. Other problems that can be treated with milk thistle include acute viral hepatitis, metabolic disease, continual-persistent hepatitis, and cirrhosis of the liver.
The research is still in the early stages, but it does indicate that anti-cancer effects may be delivered by the active materials found in milk thistle. One of these materials in particular, silymarin, possesses powerful antioxidant qualities that are effective in inhibiting the development of cancer cells in the breasts, prostate, and cervix. More work has to be done before the herb is safe and effective in the treatment of these particular types of cancer.
3. High Cholesterol
Studies performed on animals showed that silymarin was as effective at lowering cholesterol as the drug Probucol. The tests also showed that HDL, or good, cholesterol was raised. Again, more research needs to be done before results are proven definitive.
4. Gallstones and The Gallbladder
Silymarin also does a good job of raising bile solubility, making for easier circulation, which can be helpful in preventing or treating gallstones. When bile is able to circulate, it is more difficult for gallstones to form. The cholesterol levels in bile may also be decreased with the regular use of milk thistle.
Not many people are aware of the role that liver function plays in fat reduction, to the point where it is routinely ignored in just about every weight loss program. The liver helps purify the blood, as well as metabolizing body fat. Liver function can be increased with the introduction of silymarin, which means body fat can be metabolized at a faster rate. The end result is being able to lose weight that much more effectively.
Skin is the body’s largest organ, and it is responsible for cleansing. Psoriasis is just one ailment that can come as a result of toxins making their way into the bloodstream. Research has connected the dots and found that psoriasis may lead to abnormal liver function. It stand to reason that if milk thistle can help improve liver function, it will also mean that we may end up having healthier skin as a result.
- The Side Effects of Milk Thistle:
Now that you know the benefits of milk thistle, you are probably wondering about potential side effects. This is perfectly natural, as you should study these effects before beginning any type of medical treatment. When you take an over the counter or prescribed medication, there are usually a list of common side effects that come as a result of taking them. The good news with milk thistle is that there are only really a couple of problems that might arise.
An upset stomach is the most common complaint that users of milk thistle have. For some, this might mean bloating, heartburn, appetite loss, and diarrhea. Allergies are rare, but can include rashes, hives, swelling, and problems breathing. Rarer still are lethargy, weakness, and impotence.
If you notice any of these side effects, you should stop using milk thistle for at least 3 days. A milk thistle product that is of inferior quality could lead to more severe side effects brought on by some form of chemical pollution. With that in mind, you should only ever buy milk thistle from established, reputable retailers.
Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, milk thistle and other natural treatments do not undergo strict analysis, which means that almost all of them will not be FDA approved for use in treating medical issues of any kind.
Milk Thistle Health Benefits
- By Christopher Hobbs, L.A.C., A.H.G.
An herbal defense against everyday toxins.
Through the ages, the thistle has earned a reputation as a cursed plant. Bristly and prickly, it spreads rapidly and can take over vast fields where less invasive plants once stood. Ancient people often considered the thistle an abomination, a sign of a rich land gone wrong. Even today, if you choose to grow thistle in your garden, neighbors may turn against you if the flower head goes to seed.
Such factors could overshadow the thistle’s therapeutic assets. But modern research shows that the fruit of the milk thistle (Silybum marianum) may restore and protect the liver, the body’s largest internal organ, from damage by chemicals, alcohol, and other toxins.
- Clues From The Past
Historical references to the thistle’s medicinal value, including liver protection, are particularly abundant in the herbals of the Middle Ages. But milk thistle has been praised throughout the centuries for its ability to cure; such observations have contributed to modern interest in the herb.
Dioscorides, the first-century Greek physician who wrote a treatise on more than 600 medicinal plants titled De Materia Medica, stated that a tea of thistle seeds could be used for treating snakebite. John Gerard, a sixteenth-century English herbalist, went further. “My opinion,” he wrote, “is that this is the best remedy that grows, against all melancholy diseases.” Melancholy once referred to any liver or bile disease; it comes from the Greek roots melan, for black, and chole¯, for bile.
Nicholas Culpeper, a seventeenth-century apothecary, thought milk thistle was good for removing obstructions of the liver and spleen, and recommended an infusion of the fresh root and seeds to treat jaundice. The Eclectics, a school of medical herbalists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, used milk thistle to treat varicose veins and various pelvic congestions, including those linked to menstruation and to the liver, spleen, and kidneys.
- Modern Views
Using milk thistle as medicine became less common in the West during the twentieth century, perhaps with the discovery of penicillin and the development of modern medical approaches. But during the 1970s in Germany, where herbs have remained an integral part of medical care, scientists began testing the herb’s fruits (commonly referred to as seeds) and discovered some compounds collectively called silymarin.
During the 1980s, researchers learned that silymarin increases the ability of liver cells to regenerate through a vital bodily process known as protein synthesis. Additionally, laboratory and human research showed that silymarin counteracts the effects of poisons, even that from the deathcap mushroom (Amanita phalloides), the most virulent liver toxin known.
- Using Milk Thistle
The German government endorses the use of milk thistle as a supportive treatment for inflammatory liver conditions such as cirrhosis, hepatitis, and fatty infiltration caused by alcohol or other toxins. It also recognizes that silymarin possesses the ability to help prevent liver damage if taken before toxin exposure.
Who may benefit from using it: Anyone with a liver-based problem including cirrhosis, jaundice, hepatitis, damage from alcohol or drug abuse, or liver poisoning from other foreign chemicals.
Milk thistle is also effective for less serious problems. After several years of using milk thistle extract, I have been able to improve my digestion and liver function, which was less than optimum after having hepatitis twice more than twenty years ago. I take extra milk thistle—up to 1 dropperful of the tincture or 1 tablet of the powdered concentrate three times daily—when I’m having digestive discomfort from overeating or eating unsettling food combinations. I take milk thistle in conjunction with a regimen of light eating (fruits and vegetables) for five days to a week.
Daily dose: For preventive care, take 420 mg of silymarin divided into three doses for six to eight weeks, after which the dose can be reduced to 280 mg per day for an indefinite period. Look for preparations that are standardized to 80 percent silymarin. Standardized milk thistle products can be found in natural and health-food stores.
Cautions: No known toxic side effects if taken according to instructions. Tinctures are fine for prevention and liver support when no previous disease exists.
- The Thistle’s Method
Few plant principles have been more extensively researched than silymarin. More than 300 laboratory and human trials have proven that there is strong scientific basis for believing that it can protect the liver from damage by toxins such as carbon tetrachloride and alcohol while showing no toxic effects against the human body. Such results have convinced German health officials to recognize silymarin as helpful in treating hepatitis, cirrhoisis, and other chronic inflammatory liver disorders.
Many studies have focused on the deathcap mushroom, whose species include those that contain phalloidine, the quickest-acting and most toxic of liver poisons. Phalloidine destroys the outer membrane of liver cells, a situation that can lead to death within three to seven days of ingestion. Another deathcap mushroom toxin, alpha-amanatine, penetrates the cell nucleus to block normal cell regeneration, resulting in the breakdown of the liver, entry of waste products into the bloodstream, and death after three to five days.
One early study (1983) of eighteen patients suffering from poisoning after eating deathcap mushrooms showed that silymarin, taken at a daily dose of 33 mg for every kilogram of body weight for 81.6 hours, prevented severe liver damage. Researchers concluded that silymarin is an effective remedy if administered within 48 hours after eating the mushrooms. Further studies indicated that silymarin works against phalloidine by occupying its binding sites so that it can’t destroy cell membranes, and works against alpha-amanatine by changing the outer cell membrane so the toxin can’t permeate it. Specifically, silymarin stimulates RNA polymerase A, which, in turn, enhances protein synthesis and liver cells’ ability to rebuild themselves, an effective defense against not only deathcap mushroom poisoning but also industrial chemical and alcohol-induced poisoning. A 1988 study, for example, focused on thirty workers who had been exposed to toluene and/or xylene vapors on the job for five to twenty years. All the workers had low blood platelet counts and abnormal liver function tests. After taking silymarin for thirty days, researchers reported, the workers all showed a significant improvement in liver function tests and blood platelet counts, although dosages weren’t specified in the study’s translation.
Further, some researchers have concluded that silymarin may be an effective preventive medicine. It offers valuable liver protection from exposure to alcohol, industrial chemicals, and psychopharmaceuticals because it speeds up the liver’s ability to return to normal. Additionally, the standardized seed preparations alter the cell structure of the outer liver membrane so toxins can’t enter the organ in the first place.
- Trying For Precision
Researchers working primarily for phytopharmaceutical companies continue to aim for a precise understanding of how silymarin works. Among the pieces of the puzzle they have so far are, first, that silybin, one member of the group of compounds that make up silymarin, contains a steroid structure. Steroids enter cells to stimulate protein synthesis and cell regeneration, so silybin’s steroidal activity may be the mechanism by which silymarin works.
Additionally, researchers know that silymarin acts almost solely on the liver and kidneys, possibly because it moves in a rigid cycle from blood plasma to the liver bile and so is concentrated in liver cells. This cycle is difficult to break, one reason why some toxic substances are so destructive—they also concentrate in the liver. Toxins allow waste products to enter the bloodstream by impairing the liver’s ability to transform them into water-soluble compounds, which pass harmlessly from the body through the kidneys and urine. Silymarin, which moves along the same path but is both nontoxic and therapeutic, counteracts this destructive activity, making it one of the liver’s best allies.
Finally, research shows that silymarin is a powerful antioxidant that focuses its power directly on the liver, protecting it against cell-damaging free radicals.
- Above The Crowd
Milk thistle is closely related to other thistles, but only Silybum marianum is known to contain silymarin, the chemical complex responsible for its ability to protect and heal the liver.
Milk thistle is also known as Our Lady’s thistle; that name and the species name marianum may refer to the white mottling of its leaves, which one legend holds was caused by a drop of the Virgin Mary’s milk. Its origins are in Western and Central Europe; it became naturalized in North America and now grows commonly as a weed from Vancouver Island to Mexico and east to the Atlantic. It also grows wild in many southern regions of the world, including southern Europe, Africa, and South America. It is cultivated in Texas and Argentina for European markets.
Milk thistle is a stout member of the Compositae or daisy family growing from 4 to 10 feet tall, depending on growing conditions (it prefers sunny locations and well-drained soil). It has large, prickly leaves marked with many undulating white zones. The flowering heads that appear at the end of the stalks are large, bright purple, and beset with an abundance of stout spines.
Milk thistle flowers from March in Southern California to July or August in the Pacific Northwest. According to one German study, southern plants produce seeds highest in silymarin, but its production also is dependent on conditions such as rainfall, average temperature, and the genetic heritage of the plants.
When the heads finish flowering and are showing a profusion of white pappus parachutes, they contain the ripest seeds for use. The seed vessel is the only part of the plant that contains silymarin. Many species of birds are attracted to the seeds for food, and it’s common to see birds clinging to the spiny stalks of milk thistle and swaying in the wind as they eat during the late summer.
Milk Thistle Cuts Liver Toxicity from ALL Chemotherapy
- By John Gever
An extract from the milk thistle plant significantly reduced some signs of liver inflammation in children receiving chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and showed favorable trends in other measures, researchers said.
After 56 days of oral treatment with milk thistle in capsule form, children in a placebo-controlled trial showed significantly lower levels of aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and trends toward lower alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and bilirubin, according to Kara M. Kelly, MD, of Columbia University, and colleagues.
The study "provides preliminary evidence that milk thistle may be a safe, effective, supportive-care agent," the researchers concluded in an online report in Cancer.
"Milk thistle needs to be studied further, to see how effective it is for a longer course of treatment, and whether it works well in reducing liver inflammation in other types of cancers and with other types of chemotherapy," Kelly said in a press release issued by the American Cancer Society, publisher of Cancer. "However, our results are promising as there are no substitute medications for treating liver toxicity."
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is an herbal plant, native to Mediterranean Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, that has been shown to protect the liver and kidneys against damage from known toxins. Extracts are widely available in drugstores and herbal medicine shops, as well as from Internet vendors.
The version used in the current study was a 1:2 mixture of silibinin, believed to be the most active component of the herb, and soy phosphatidylcholine to improve the former's bioavailability.
Among the herb's purported benefits is limiting liver toxicity from cancer chemotherapy, but this had not previously been tested in a placebo-controlled trial.
So Kelly and colleagues assigned 50 children receiving treatment for ALL with a regimen of vincristine, methotrexate, 6-mercaptopurine or thioguanine, and prednisone or dexamethasone to receive daily doses of the milk thistle product or placebo.
Participants ranged in age from under two to 19 (mean age 8.7 in the milk thistle group, 7 in the placebo group). About 60% in each group were classed as standard risk and the rest were high risk.
Milk thistle was given in quantities designed to equate to a silibinin dose of 5.1 mg/kg/day, for 28 days.
Levels of AST, ALT, and bilirubin were measured at baseline and at days 28 and 56.
The only significant difference between the milk thistle and placebo groups in these outcomes was for AST at day 56, with mean levels of about 47 U/L with milk thistle versus 67 U/L with placebo (P=0.04). Mean AST levels were also lower at day 28, but the difference was smaller and not significant.
ALT levels were slightly higher on day 28 in the milk thistle group versus placebo. On day 56, mean ALT levels were 122 U/L with milk thistle versus 140 U/L with placebo, but the P value remained above 0.05.
Bilirubin levels were virtually identical in the two groups at day 28. They were somewhat lower at day 56 with milk thistle (0.70 versus 0.87 in the placebo group) but this also failed to reach significance.
Chemotherapy dose reductions because of toxicity were also somewhat less common in the milk thistle group, with 61% taking reductions compared with 73% of the placebo group (not significant).
Milk thistle appeared to have no impact on delays in planned chemotherapy, and grade 3-4 toxicities were, if anything, more frequent in the actively-treated group.
During the first four weeks of treatment, five patients in the milk thistle group and three taking placebo experienced grade 3-4 hepatic toxicity. From day 28 to 56, eight children on milk thistle and five in the placebo group had grade 3-4 hepatic toxicity.
Kelly and colleagues said there were no toxicities or other untoward results attributable to the milk thistle. They suggested that the equivocal efficacy findings could have resulted from inadequate dosing of milk thistle, especially since testing of plasma samples from 18 children in the study failed to find detectable levels of silibinin in any patient.
"An evaluation of clinical literature shows a wide range of therapeutic doses and duration," they noted in their report, adding that they had chosen a "conservative" dose level and duration to be on the safe side.
It's also possible that children metabolize silibinin at different rates from adults, which would account for the lack of detectable silibinin in plasma samples.
Finally, Kelly and colleagues noted that compliance was poorer in the milk thistle group: 68% of planned doses were given, compared with 96% of placebo capsules. The milk thistle product was identical in smell and taste to the placebo.
The only difference the researchers identified that might have accounted for the compliance disparity was age. The milk thistle group had a significantly higher mean age, and noncompliant patients were significantly older than compliant children (mean 13.1 versus 6.9 years old, P=0.01).
"Future clinical trials should explore milk thistle in the setting of patients in which hepatic toxicity prevents provision of the recommended chemotherapy in individuals with cancer," Kelly and colleagues concluded.
Milk thistle extract may help you beat colorectal cancer
- By Harold Mandel (Syracuse Natural Health Examiner)
Something natural and safe which may help you beat colorectal cancer seems almost too good to be true. However, the University of Colorado Denver reported on April 20, 2015, oral milk thistle extract has been observed to stop colorectal cancer stem cells from growing tumors. In results from a study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2015 it was revealed that oral administration of the chemical silibinin, purified from milk thistle, slows the ability of colorectal cancer stem cells to grow cancerous tumors.
It was also observed that when stem cells from tumors which were grown in silibinin-fed conditions were re-injected into new models, the cells did not develop equally aggressive tumors even when silibinin was absent. Rajesh Agarwal, PhD, said tumors from mice that were initially fed silibinin had less cancer stem cells, they were smaller, they had lower metabolisms and they displayed decreased growth of new blood vessels.
It has been particularly significant to note that when the cancer stem cells from tumors in mice which were fed silibinin were re-injected into new mice, these stem cells were seen to have lost their potential to repopulate even when there was no exposure to silibinin. Silibinin is a non-toxic agent which is derived from milk thistle seeds which is potentially chemopreventive. The researchers also see a likely therapeutic mechanism with silibinin.
Medline Plus reports colorectal cancer occurs when tumors develop in the lining of the large intestine. The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases after age 50. Your risk for this cancer is increased if you eat a diet high in fat, smoke, have colorectal polyps, a family history of colorectal cancer, ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. Early diagnosis and treatment helps improve the prognosis with this condition. Aggressive initiatives to prevent colorectal cancer are always advisable.
Milk Thistle Extract Combats Mushroom Poisoning
- By Gretchen Goetz
Doctors at Georgetown University Hospital don’t see many victims of mushroom poisoning. This September, however, when 4 new cases cropped up in 2 weeks, they had an opportunity to try an investigational drug on these patients – a drug that led all patients to a full recovery.
The substance is called silibinin, and is derived from the milk thistle plant. It works by preventing the mushroom’s poisonous amatoxins from reaching and damaging liver cells. Amatoxins are released by the Amanita mushroom, a poisonous genus that accounts for 95 percent of human illnesses from mushrooms in the U.S..
The treatment of mushroom poisoning has historically been an imperfect science. Given the rarity of these illnesses in the United States, doctors do not have many opportunities to figure out what works best for these patients.
A little over 1,300 illnesses were linked to mushroom poisoning in 2010, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Of these cases, 41 were considered severe, and 3 deaths occurred.
Indeed, the occurrence of 4 cases in the D.C. metro area in a span of 2 weeks is “extremely rare,” says Dr. Jaqueline Laurin, a liver specialist at Georgetown Hospital and the doctor who prescribed silibinin to the patients there, who before last month had not yet treated a case of Amanita poisoning in her 17-year career.
While silibinin has been approved for use in Europe, and has proven effective there, in the U.S. it is only approved for conditional use. Doctors must submit an application to the National Institutes of Health to gain access to it for a patient.
Dr. Laurin had read about silibinin’s success in Europe and in studies in the United States. So when 4 patients from the D.C. metro area presented with high liver toxicity after ingesting amanita mushrooms, she decided the drug was worth a shot.
And though 3 out of the 4 patients arrived outside of the 24 hr window – the time after ingestion in which treatment is most successful – all 4 achieved full recoveries and have now been discharged from the hospital.
Laurin says silibinin likely led to a better outcome for the patients than the standard forms of treatment for mushroom poisoning.
Penicillin G is one of the drugs most commonly given to patients who have eaten poisonous fungi. However, while the drug “has a similar effect, it doesn’t appear to have as strong an effect as silibinin,” she says.
But, Laurin explains, in order for silibinin to be more widely accepted as a treatment for Amanita mushrooms, its effects must be more widely studied.
“The problem with the silibinin is there aren’t any large controlled trials, especially against placebos, for ethical reasons,” she says.
And while rains continue to fall in the northeast, Laurin warns residents there – and anyone picking wild mushrooms – to be sure they know what they’re putting on the table.
“People are out there with their field guides picking mushrooms, but field guides may not have enough detail to be able to help people tell the difference between the edible varieties and the poisonous varieties,” she says.
Symptoms of amanita poisoning usually appear 6 to 12 hours after ingestion. Patients experience severe, watery diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. After 1-2 days, symptoms disappear for a period of time, but amatoxins continue to attack the liver, and can remain in the body anywhere from 5 to 7 days.
Milk thistle has been shown to repair damages in the liver
- By Heather Suhr
The liver is the body’s second largest organ and performs many essential functions in relation to digestion, metabolism, immunity, and the storage of nutrients within the body. If the liver lacks energy and nutrients, it could die quickly. However, positive side is that the liver can regenerate dead or damaged tissues quickly if it is properly taken care of.
Fairly recent studies have shown that milk thistle have powerful cancer suppressing abilities when used alone or along with other medicinal agents. Milk thistle is a 2,000-year-old remedy for a variety of ailments.
Silymarian, is a flavonoid found, in the seeds of milk thistle and it’s known to detoxify and protect the body against environmental toxins. It acts as an herbal remedy for ailments such as liver, kidney, and gallbladder problems. Silymarian has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help the liver repair the liver by growing new cancer cells.
Research shows that back in 1986, milk thistle was finally approved for treating liver diseases, such in cases as alcoholic hepatitis, alcoholic fatty liver, cirrhosis, liver poisoning, or viral hepatitis. In addition, it has been shown to protect the liver from toxins created by medications such as acetaminophens, which are non-aspirin pain suppressors.
It’s native roots come from the Mediterranean, however, now it can be found throughout the world. The height of the plant can reach up to ten feet high and its name is received from the milky white sap that emits from the leaves when squashed. Milk thistle has anti-cancer properties.
A study conducted by Dr. Ke-Qin Hu, at the University of California, concluded that milk thistle could be used confidently as a preventive against liver cancer, which is found to be one of the most prevalent cancers worldwide. In Hu’s findings, milk thistle showed the ability to reduce cancer cell cycle speed.
While milk thistle is highly recognized for supporting the liver, another study pointed out that it exhibits anti-proliferative effects against MCF-7 breast cancer cells. As the researchers indicate, “Our results show that silibinin blocks mamalian target of rapamycin signaling with a concomitant reduction in translation initiation, thus providing a possible molecular mechanism of how silbinin can inhibit growth of transformed cells.”
Another study evaluated children with leukemia and was randomly given milk thistle or a placebo to evaluate the liver’s response. The results showed that toxic levels reduced in children partaking milk thistle and that did not interfere with the chemotherapy process. Choose the best quality milk thistle for optimal results.
It’s best to look for an extract that has silymarin and silybinin as found in studies in order to allow the activities of milk thistle to be effective. Also, if you are on any prescribed or anti-cancer medications, seeking the advice of a holistic practitioner is wise before you incorporate milk thistle into your daily routine.
In The News: Experimental Drug Made From Milk Thistle Saves Two Lives
- By Justine Patton
Two men who recently consumed poisonous mushrooms owe their lives to a new experimental drug, called silibinin. Why are we so excited about it here in the herb world, you ask? Because this new drug is made from milk thistle.
On September 12, Frank Constantinopla, a Springfield, Virginia resident, harvested a few mushrooms from his yard and threw them into a stir-fry that evening. Within a few hours, he and his wife were suffering of stomachaches and vomiting. When their symptoms didn’t subside, Constantinopla visited an emergency room near his home and was sent to Georgetown Unviersity Hospital for a possible liver transplant. When he arrived, the doctors delivered some grave news: the mushrooms Constantinopla had consumed were a highly poisonous mushroom commonly known as death cap.
The doctors moved quickly and convinced Constantinopla to try silibinin, an experimental drug made from milk thistle. He recovered within a few days, no liver transplant needed.
A similar incident occurred less than one week later when a local farmer munched on a poisonous mushroom, commonly known as destroying angel, from his yard. Luckily, Lantz also ended up at Georgetown University Hospital, where he was given the same drug, and a full recovery ensued for him as well.
Milk thistle stops lung cancer in mice
- By Garth Sundem
Tissue with wound-like conditions allows tumors to grow and spread. In mouse lung cancer cells, treatment with silibinin, a major component of milk thistle, removed the molecular billboards that signal these wound-like conditions and so stopped the spread of these lung cancers, according to a recent study published in the journal Molecular Carcinogenesis.
Though the natural extract has been used for more than 2,000 years, mostly to treat disorders of the liver and gallbladder, this is one of the first carefully controlled and reported studies to find benefit. Here is how it works:
Basically, in a cell there can be a chain of signals, one leading to the next, to the next, and eventually to an end product. And so if you would like to eliminate an end product, you may look to break a link in the signaling chain that leads to it. The end products COX2 and iNOS are enzymes involved with the inflammatory response to perceived wounds – both can aid tumor growth. Far upstream in the signaling chain that leads to these unwanted enzymes are STAT1 and STAT3. These transcription factors allow the blueprint of DNA to bind with proteins that continue the signal cascade, eventually leading to the production of harmful COX2 and iNOS.
Stop STAT1 and STAT3 and you break the chain that leads to COX2 and iNOS – and the growth of lung tumors along with them.
“This relatively nontoxic substance – a derivative of milk thistle, called silibinin – was able to inhibit the upstream signals that lead to the expression of COX2 and iNOS,” says Alpna Tyagi, PhD, of the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy. Tyagi works in the lab of University of Colorado Cancer Center investigator Rajesh Agarwal, PhD.
In addition, Tyagi and collaborators compared the effects of silibinin to drugs currently in clinical trials for lung cancer. Would drugs that target other signaling pathways – other linked chains – similarly cut into the production of COX2 and iNOS?
It turned out that inhibiting the chains of JAK1/2 and MEK in combination and also inhibiting the signaling pathways of EGFR and NF-kB in combination blocked the ability of STAT1 and STAT3 to trap the energy they needed to eventually signal COX2 and iNOS production.
Compared to these multi-million dollar drugs, naturally-occurring silibinin blocked not only the expression of COX2 and iNOS, but also the migration of existing lung cancer cells.
“What we showed is that STAT1 and STAT3 may be promising therapeutic targets in the treatment of lung cancer, no matter how you target them,” Tyagi says. “And also that naturally-derived products like silibinin may be as effective as today’s best treatments.”
Milk Thistle for post-holiday detox
- By Chris Kilham
It's easy to eat too much fatty food and rich desserts during the holidays. And when the holidays are over, many people want to detoxify, to rid the body of that heavy feeling. The best and quickest way to do so is to rid the liver of unwanted fats and accumulated digestive by-products. And the best way to do that is with Milk thistle.
Milk thistle is Silybum marianum. Silybum derives from the Greek word sillybon, which means tuft. The flower of Milk thistle looks like a purple tuft. Milk thistle, or Silybum marianum, is native to southern Europe and southern Russia, and is common throughout North and South America, South Australia and Central Europe. Milk thistle is a biennial plant up to 10 feet in height, easily recognized by its brilliant reddish-purple flowers and large prickly leaves. The plant, most notably its seeds, contains a complex of therapeutic compounds known collectively as silymarin.
Milk thistle grows wild in Europe and North America, India, China, South America, Mexico, Australia and Africa. The plant is cultivated in Europe and the United States, in areas whose altitudes range from sea level to 1000 feet. The plant matures in less than a year. Primarily, milk thistle's large, shiny brown seeds are used to make therapeutic preparations. However, in folk medicine the leaves and flowers are also used.
As an herbal remedy, milk thistle in the form of standardized extracts made from the seeds of the plant, is used for liver cleansing, protective and therapeutic purposes. Milk thistle tea is also used for the same purposes. Milk thistle is widely used throughout Europe for liver ailments including hepatitis A, alcoholic cirrhosis, and exposure to hazardous chemicals. It is also employed as an effective antidote to the otherwise fatally poisonous "death cap" mushroom, Amanita phalloides. Remarkably, milk thistle helps to repair damage to the liver, and to regenerate liver tissue. For this reason, it is a highly beneficial health aid.
- Medicinal History
Milk thistle has been employed as a medicine for at least 2,000 years, primarily for ailments of the liver. The 4th Century BC herbalist Theophrastus, and the 1st Century AD physician Pliny, both mentioned milk thistle. The first significant writings on milk thistle were by 1st century AD Greek physician Dioscorides, who employed the roots to induce vomiting, and boiled the leaves to treat snake bites.
The famous 19th Century herbalist Nicholas Culpepper employed milk thistle for diseases of the liver and bile. In the 19th and 20th century, Eclectic physicians in the United States prescribed milk thistle for disorders of the liver, kidneys and spleen, and for varicose veins and pelvic congestion. Use of milk thistle seed for the treatment of liver ailments was promoted by 19th century German physician Rademacher.
Since the late 1930's German herbal researchers have led scientific investigation into the properties and health benefits of milk thistle. Today in Europe, milk thistle is widely recognized and employed as a protective and restorative agent for liver damage due to hepatitis, cirrhosis, alcohol, drugs, and environmental toxins. In France, Germany, Hungary and Greece, various preparations of milk thistle are employed for a wide variety of health complaints related to liver function. These uses are becoming increasingly popular in the United States due to keen interest in natural remedies.
- How It Works
Silymarin in milk thistle has been shown to inhibit damage from toxic substances including alcohol, drugs and other chemicals. Silymarin stabilizes cell membranes in the liver, thus minimizing or inhibiting cell damage due to insult from harmful agents. Silymarin not only shows protective power, but demonstrates specific activity in regenerating liver cells as well. Some of silymarin's protective activity is as an antioxidant. In this role, silymarin neutralizes harmful substances called free radicals that can damage cells. Specifically, silymarin protects oxidative damage to the lipid membrane that surrounds liver cells.
As recommended by Germany's Commission E, for liver protective and supportive treatment purposes, take 200 - 400 mg of silymarin in doses of 100 - 200 mg of silymarin, 2 times daily, morning and evening, with sufficient fluids.
- Product Choosing/Buying Tips
Look for standardized extracts of milk thistle containing between 100-200-mg silymarin per capsule/tablet. Standardized products will clearly state their silymarin values. I favor the product Thistlyn by Nature's Way, which has been the subject of several human clinical studies. For herbal tea, I'd suggest Alvita brand Milk Thistle, found in most natural food stores. Drink a couple of cups daily to rid your liver of unwanted gunk.
- Science Update
A review of 36 silymarin studies found that silymarin from milk thistle demonstrates cell protective activity in the liver, and reduces risk of mortality in cases of cirrhosis. The review further suggested that silymarin may be specifically beneficial in cases of alcohol-related cirrhosis.
- Fun Facts/Trivia
- • The name Mary thistle or St. Mary thistle, originates from a legend that Mary, while nursing the infant Jesus, spilled some breast milk on the plant, and that this resulted in the characteristic white veins which occur in the leaves.
- • According to ancient legend, milk thistle was dedicated to Freya, the Norse goddess Freya, the Norse goddess of love, marriage and fertility.
The Benefits of Using Milk Thistle for Better Liver Health
- (The Alternative Daily)
Milk thistle is an herb that has been around for hundreds of years, yet it is still relatively unknown in the U.S. So, what’s the scoop on milk thistle?
This herb has many detoxifying properties, especially for the kidneys, liver, and lymphatic system. It has been traditionally used to help treat fatty liver, assist with weight loss, combat toxicity, fight and help remedy liver disease, and reduce chronic inflammation.
Where does milk thistle come from?
Milk thistle herb comes from the plant known as Silybum marianum, and its active ingredient, known as silymarin, is the chemical extracted from the seeds. The milk thistle plant is in the same family as sunflower and daisy, and has a beautiful reddish purple flower. It originally hails from the Mediterranean, though it now grows in many parts of the world.
It has been used in natural and alternative medicine for hundreds of years as a way to improve liver health, and today you can find it in any health-food store in the form of a supplement.
Benefits of milk thistle
Milk thistle has been used to aid with cirrhosis of the liver, alcohol poisoning, liver disease, general cleansing, and even cancer throughout the ages. However, it is important to note that scientific evidence shows mixed results as to whether it’s effective enough to be a solid, sole treatment for these issues.
This herb may, however, help improve daily liver function to aid in the reduction of everyday toxins, and it may help prevent fatty liver, liver disease, and cirrhosis in someone with an already healthy diet. Milk thistle has also been shown to help improve liver toxicity from alcohol poisoning. It stimulates bile flow to assist with liver health, and aids in the overall detoxification and destruction of toxins.
Milk thistle may also go a step further to repair liver cells and fight inflammation that has occurred from liver poisoning or toxicity. These benefits may lead to better health and have a dramatic effect on the overall aging process.
How milk thistle may help with weight loss
Our liver is our primary fat-burning organ, and if it is not functioning at its best, we will not feel our best. When we eat toxic foods, drink excess alcohol, and live an unhealthy lifestyle, our liver function slows down. While certain foods can improve liver health, such as greens, beets, and other root vegetables like daikon, certain herbs can also be helpful for boosting liver function further.
Milk thistle is the most commonly recommended natural herbal supplement for liver problems, and is found in many detoxification supplements for this very reason.
Milk thistle is also a potent antioxidant which may help to aid the body with weight loss and regular detoxification. The stronger the body’s defense mechanisms, the better the metabolism can function, and the less work the body has to do to fight off disease.
Milk thistle may also improve overall digestion, another important part of weight loss and metabolism. It works by speeding up the removal of toxins so less work is placed on all the elimination organs of the body. This results in a faster metabolism, more energy, and enhanced weight loss. Remember, the better the liver works, the better it can metabolize fat.
Best forms of milk thistle to use
Milk thistle flower macro backgroundMilk thistle is found in many different over-the-counter detox pills, teas, and tinctures. Like any herbal supplement, however, you should always look for those that are certified non-GMO and regulated by GMP (good manufacturing practices). Always buy from reputable companies — doing your research and asking around is essential.
It may be best for liver health to avoid alcohol tinctures. Choose a pure tea or tincture instead.
Potential side effects
The side effects of milk thistle are rare, however, if you overdose you may experience nausea, digestive upset, or rashes. Milk thistle may trigger an allergic reaction if you suffer from ragweed allergies. Always talk to your health-care practitioner before implementing milk thistle into your routine.
If you have ever had problems with your liver and wanted a more natural treatment than prescription drugs, or have general sluggishness and a slow metabolism, you may wish to look into milk thistle a little further to see if it’s right for you. It’s one of the most common herbs for overall detoxification, and is a favorite among many natural health specialists.
If you’ve ever used this natural remedy for better liver health, what benefits have you experienced?
Milk Thistle: A Liver and Skin Protector
- By Nicole Cutler
Supplementing with milk thistle offers more than one benefit. It protects liver cells on the body’s inside and skin cells on the outside.
Milk thistle is well known to protect liver cells from damaging toxins. Despite milk thistle’s frequent association with liver cell protection, the liver is not the only beneficiary of this popular supplement. Some relatively new studies have determined that the skin receives a similar protective benefit from milk thistle as the liver does. Liver Protection
The human liver is capable of recovering from an injury, but chronic liver disease repeatedly challenges this ability. When the rate of liver cell injury outpaces the liver’s regenerative capacity, scars form. Unfortunately, scarring in the liver can block blood flow – a problem that fosters even more damage to liver tissue. If this damaging cycle persists, severe scarring can render the liver no longer capable of performing all its duties. Thus, those who either have liver scarring or are at high risk of liver damage due to fat accumulation, hepatitis, excessive exposure to alcohol or toxins, or another liver disadvantage are encouraged to take action against further liver injury.
Milk thistle seed extract has been used for centuries to add a layer of protection to vulnerable liver cells. Experts have found that milk thistle:
- • Strengthens the outer walls of liver cells to better resist injury
- • Promotes the growth of healthy liver cells
- • Fights oxidation – a process that damages liver cells
Decades of clinical trials indicate that silymarins, a group of potent antioxidants extracted from the seeds of milk thistle, are responsible for milk thistle’s therapeutic properties. Of the silymarins, silybin (also referred to as silibinin) own to be the most effective constituent of silymarin for preserving liver health. External Skin Protection
Guarding against ultraviolet radiation is the primary concern for keeping the skin healthy. To shield the skin from damage, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest:
- • seeking shade during the midday hours
- • wearing clothing over exposed skin
- • donning a wide-brimmed hat
- • wearing UVA and UVB blocking sunglasses
- • applying sunscreen
- • avoiding indoor tanning
Most recommended skin protectors come in the form of soaps, lotions or creams designed to keep skin clean and moist while deflecting harmful radiation. According to Tina Alster, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at Georgetown University, a regimen including the following topical products helps protect the skin:
- • Cream Cleanser – a cleanser that is not overly harsh or drying can help keep the skin stable and reduce the risk of irritation.
- • Moisturizer Containing Sunblock – The American Academy of Dermatology recommends daily use of a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Makeup or foundations containing sunscreen often are not applied thickly or evenly enough to provide adequate protection.
- • Anti-Aging Product at Night – Active ingredients to look for in an anti-aging cream include glycolic, ascorbic, or retinoic acid. Alster recommends using one or two of these products on an alternate night basis to help skin turnover more regularly. However, some anti-aging creams may increase skin sensitivity.
- Internal Skin Protection
Skin is traditionally protected with topical creams or lotions, but researchers have found a non-traditional method that protects against skin damage as well. In addition to protecting liver cells, internal supplementation with milk thistle also seems to protect skin cells.
As published in the January 2013 edition of the journal Molecular Carcinogenesis, researchers from the University of Colorado Cancer Center found that silibinin:
- • protects against skin cancer-causing ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation by upping cell expression of a particular cell-repairing protein
- • kills cells that have undergone mutations due to ultraviolet-A (UVA) radiation (a process that potentially leads to skin cancer)
These results support previous findings that show silibinin promotes destruction of cells damaged by UVA, but not healthy cells. According to senior study author Rajesh Agarwal, “When you have a cell affected by UV radiation, you either want to repair it or kill it so that it cannot go on to cause cancer. We show that silibinin does both.”
Although a great deal more research will be needed before dermatologists suggest milk thistle supplementation for their patients to ward off skin cancer, the evidence is compelling. The traditional approach for protecting the skin (avoiding the hot sun, covering exposed skin, wearing sunscreen) is vital to preserving the skin’s vitality. But silibinin seems to add another safeguard. Likely to become the focus of future dermatological study, silibinin not only protects and helps in the repair of liver cells – it also appears to offer a similar type of protective and reparative assistance to skin cells.
Milk Thistle Extract Fights Cushing Disease Brain Tumor, Research Finds
- By James Ayre
Milk thistle extract (silbinin) works effectively to alleviate symptoms of Cushing Disease (caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland in the brain), according to new comprehensive research from the Max Planck Institute. The research included work done using cell cultures, animal models, and also human tumor tissue.
The treatment appears to be so effective that the researchers involved in this work think that it may allow some patients to avoid brain surgery completely — an ideal outcome as far as treatment of Cushing Disease (which is not Cushing’s Syndrome it should be noted) goes.
In Cushing Disease, a brain tumor in the pituitary gland causes the secretion of increased levels of the stress hormone adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), which triggers the release of the stress hormone cortisol from the adrenal glands — which leads to fat gain, muscular weakness, elevated blood pressure, and diminished testosterone levels, amongst other things.
Patients with the disease are highly prone to microbial infections, depression, osteoporosis, and may show cognitive deficiencies. Standard treatment for severe case currently is brain surgery — which in 80-85% of cases results in the tumor being removed. Inoperable cases exist though — and as it stands are treated with a regimen that is accompanied by severe side effects.
Effective treatment via simpler, cheaper, and safer, compounds such as silbinin (milk thistle extract) would be of great use.
“Silibinin is the major active constituent of milk thistle seeds. It has an outstanding safety profile in humans and is already used for the treatment of liver disease and poisoning,” stated Marcelo Paez-Pereda, lead researcher behind the new study. (See: Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) Benefits, Side Effects, & Silymarin Uses + Research Findings)
The research found that with silibinin treatment, tumour cells reverted to normal ACTH production, tumor growth slowed down considerably, and “symptoms of Cushing Disease disappeared in mice”.
A recent press release provides further information:
- In 2013, the Max Planck scientists filed a patent on a broad family of chemical and natural compounds, including silibinin, to treat :pituitary tumours. Compared to humans, of which only 5.5 in 100,000 people worldwide develop Cushing Disease, this condition is very common :in several pets. For example, 4 % of dogs and even 7 % of horses suffer from Cushing Disease. Thus, the researchers now plan to test special formulations with a very pure substance and slow release of the active component silibinin in clinical trials.
- In their first experiments the researchers found tremendously high amounts of the heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) in tumour tissue from patients with Cushing Disease. In normal amounts HSP90 helps to correctly fold another protein, the glucocorticoid receptor which in turn inhibits the production of ACTH.
“We knew that Cushing Disease is caused by the release of too much ACTH. So we asked ourselves what causes this over production and how to stop it.”
“As there are too many HSP90 molecules in the tumor tissue, they stick to the glucocorticoid receptor,” explained Paez-Pereda. “We found that silibinin binds to HSP90 thus allowing glucocorticoid receptor molecules to dissolve from HSP90. With silibinin we might have discovered a non-invasive treatment strategy not only for the rare Cushing Disease but also for other conditions with the involvement of glucocorticoid receptors such as lung tumors, acute lymphoblastic leukemia or multiple myeloma.” The new findings are detailed in a paper published in the journal Nature Medicine.
Did You Know? Surprising Benefit of Milk Thistle
- (Editors at LiverSupport.com)
A growing body of research is demonstrating that silymarin can help decrease blood sugar levels in those with diabetes and those with insulin resistance – a precursor to diabetes. Researchers hypothesize this is because of milk thistle’s ability to support and improve liver function. The liver plays a role in producing and regulating hormones. Insulin is a hormone and when released into the bloodstream, it lowers blood sugar levels.