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Milk Thistle

Overview

For over 2000 years, physicians in many cultures have prescribed the juice of the milk thistle plant for various liver ailments and to treat and prevent gallstones.  As has been the case with many ‘folkoric’ remedies, modern science and medicine bears out the traditional use and beliefs.

 

Milk thistle is a purple flower that grows wild along both the east and west coasts of the United States.  The medicinal properties, concentrated in the seeds and fleshy leaves, include relieving inflammation and cleaning toxins from the liver and the body.  In fact, extract of milk thistle is regularly used in hospitals to counteract the toxins in the amanita mushroom.

 

What Milk Thistle Does:

The active ingredients in milk thistle extract are mostly flavonoids, including silymarin, silybin, isosilybin, and silibinin.  They have proven effectiveness in protecting the liver from damage, and in helping the liver to heal itself.  The authors of a 2002 study (J Herb Pharm) about the use of milk thistle in treating cirrhosis of the liver reported that “Although the mechanism of action is not fully understood, one explanation may be that it (silymarin) concentrates in the hepatocytes and competes with toxins for hepatocyte binding and penetration.”

 

In other words, it functions by chemically binding itself to liver cells and prevent the absorption of toxic substances by the liver.  In addition, there have been multiple studies in Germany to examine the effectiveness of silibinin, a component of milk thistle, in the treatment and prevention of prostate and bladder cancer, with extremely positive results.

 

It’s been suggested that regular use of milk thistle extract as a supplement may protect the liver from damage caused by free radicals and heavy metals, and keep it functioning at its optimum levels.

 

Health Benefits of Milk Thistle:

Milk thistle and its components protect the liver from damage and keep it functioning in top condition. Specifically:

 

Milk thistle prevents scarring and damage from cirrhosis and other liver conditions.

 

Milk thistle, specifically silibinin, prevents prostate and bladder cancer, and may be helpful in reducing the chance of other types of cancer, including lung cancer and colon cancer.

 

Milk thistle, applied topically, reduces the inflammation and irritation that accompanies psoriasis.

 

Milk thistle is recommended for patients undergoing chemotherapy as a protectant against the harmful side effects of anti-cancer drugs.

 

Milk thistle is an accepted antidote for poisoning by the amanita mushroom.

 

Possible Side Effects of Milk Thistle

There are no reported side effects with the use of milk thistle.

 

Summary

Because the liver is the second largest organ in our bodies (second only to the skin), and is responsible for sifting out all the toxins in the foods that we eat, a healthy liver is vital to a healthy body.  Many nutritionists recommend a daily supplement that contains milk thistle to help protect the liver and kidneys from the ravages of today’s toxic society.  Its proven ability to protect and heal the liver make milk thistle an ideal treatment to help the body’s ability to heal and protect itself from environmental pollutants like mercury and lead, as well as from the effects of alcohol and other chemicals found in our foods.

 

 

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