Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) is a flowering herb with red to purple flowers that naturally thrives in Southern Europe and some regions in Asia. This herb is known for supporting healthy functioning of the most hardworking organ in the body – the liver. The liver is responsible for detoxifying the body with the toxins we get from preservatives in the diet, alcohol, smoking, and synthetic drugs to prevent them from causing any harm. Your liver also manufactures bile, proteins for the blood plasma, and cholesterol, convert glucose into glycogen for storage, and control amino acid levels in the blood among others. With all these tasks, the liver is also at risk for damage and would greatly benefit from liver support Milk Thistle can provide.
Milk Thistle contains the liver-loving ingredient silymarin, a potent antioxidant and detoxifier. There is no clear explanation how silymarin benefits liver health. The most common theory is that silymarin protects the liver from toxins acquired from alchohol and drugs like acetaminophen. Long-term exposure to toxins can cause severe damage that when left untreated, can lead to liver cirrhosis or the scarring of the liver. A scarred liver won’t be able to repair itself completely and may limit its ability to perform all its functions in keeping the body healthy.
Doctors in Europe usually prescribe Milk Thistle supplements together with hepatotoxic drugs. It can also be used in restoring optimum liver functions in patients suffering from Hepatitis and other liver conditions. Silymarin was found to exhibit potent antioxidant activities, protective the liver from the oxidative stress due to the accumulation of free radicals. Oxidative stress damages hepatic cells, destroying important cellular structures leading to cell death. Additionally, there are evidences suggesting that taking Silymarin supplements can increase the production of Glutathione in the body. Glutathione is the most powerful of all antioxidants, for additional free-radical protection to the liver and to other organs in the body. Studies on Milk Thistle suggest that it can filter chemicals from food agents to prevent the development and proliferation of cancer cells.
The other benefits of Milk Thistle are not limited to the liver but also to other organs. Silymarin helps stimulate normal flow of bile from the gallbladder, thereby reducing the risk for gallstones formation. It is also traditionally used to reverse the effects of poisoning after ingestion of the deathcap mushroom. The benefits of Milk Thistle can be valuable in initiating healthy anti-inflammatory responses in people with chronic diseases related to inflammation like arthritis, colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
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