The Power of Milk Thistle Herb
ilk thistle a.k.a. Mary thistle or holy thistle is a Mediterranean flowering herb which has been touted as a herbal remedy for several ailments like liver disorders and gallbladder problems.
Silymarin- the active ingredient in milk thistle is used to treat cancer, protect the liver from snake bites, alcohol, and numerous environmental toxins. It can also help lower blood cholesterol levels and manage diabetes.
Let’s take a look at some of the incredible health benefits offered by milk thistle:
- Neuroprotective effects
Milk thistle has been used for several centuries to treat neurological ailments like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. A 2017 study that reviewed the neuroprotective effects of milk thistle against several neurological dysfunctions revealed that silymarin was promising in treating various neurodegenerative disorders where neuroinflammation and oxidative stress are involved.
Liver- the key organ of metabolism and excretion is exposed to foreign compounds continuously. And since toxins absorbed from the intestines first enter the liver, it can lead to several disorders. For a long time, milk thistle has been used as a liver protectant. Even though it is not completely understood as to how milk thistle acts, its enormous antioxidant, immunomodulatory, antiproliferative, and antiviral properties make the herb a very effective hepatoprotection.
- Prevents and treats cancers
Milk thistle herb has been touted for its effects on treating and preventing several cancers including breast, lung, ovarian, skin, prostate, cervical, bladder, liver, and colon cancers. Thanks to silymarin’s cytoprotective activities associated with antioxidative and radical-scavenging effects, the herb appears promising in suppressing tumors and in treating cancers.
- Reduces blood cholesterol levels
Elevated cholesterol levels are associated with heart diseases and an increased risk of stroke. Studies have demonstrated that consuming milk thistle supplements might help maintain blood cholesterol levels. A 2006 study found that people who took milk thistle supplements to treat diabetes experienced a reduction in blood cholesterol levels compared to those who didn’t take it.
- Aids weight loss
Milk thistle isn’t likely to reduce appetite or burn body fat on its own, but it helps in digestion, which in turn might help people lose weight. A 2016 study conducted in animal models revealed that the herb caused weight loss in mice that were fed a diet that was intended to increase body weight. The researchers demonstrated that milk thistle might be beneficial for people who carry excess body weight. However, further research and human trials are necessary to prove the safety and effectiveness of milk thistle supplements for weight loss.
- Offers renal protection
Oxidative stress can impair the functions of your kidneys including glomerular filtration. Studies have demonstrated that treatment with silymarin supplementation can help improve the alteration in serum creatinine concentrations and offers great protection to your kidneys. Milk thistle has also been found to treat inflammatory anemia in dialysis patients.
- Protects the pancreas
Silymarin can elevate your serum insulin levels, lower serum glucose levels, and improve your endocrine and pancreatic functions. Its incredible chemoprotection effect can help improve the function of the pancreas that has been exposed to several toxic substances. Alloxan- the substance which provokes diabetes by harming your pancreatic cells can be treated using silymarin. Studies have demonstrated that milk thistle can be considered as a potential drug to treat diabetes mellitus.
- Prevents bone loss
Progressive bone loss can lead to several diseases like osteoporosis which develops slowly over many years and weakens your bones, making them fragile. Milk thistle has been proven to offer great protection against bone loss alongside stimulating bone mineralization. Experts opine that milk thistle can be a very useful therapy to prevent or delay bone loss, particularly in women of the postmenopausal age.
- Boosts breast milk production
Milk thistle has been found to increase breastmilk production in lactating mothers. It is believed that the herb works by increasing the milk-producing hormone called prolactin in nursing women. A 2008 study demonstrated that lactating mothers who consumed 420 mg of milk thistle for more than 2 months produced 64% more milk compared to those who didn’t take the supplement. However, further research is needed to confirm the safety of milk thistle for breastfeeding mothers.
- Treats Acne
Even though it is not dangerous, acne- a chronic inflammatory skin condition can leave scars and might make people worry about their appearance. Studies have demonstrated that oxidative stress is one of the main reasons for skin conditions including acne. Thanks to milk thistle’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, the herb can do wonders to treat people suffering from acne. A study published in the Journal of Clinical & experimental dermatology research demonstrated that individuals with acne who consumed 210 mg of silymarin per day for a period of 2 months experienced a 53% decrease in acne lesions. This is the only study to report the dermatological benefits of milk thistle and therefore, further research is required to come to any conclusions.
- Helps maintain blood sugar levels
Milk thistle contains compounds that can work similarly to certain diabetes drugs and helps improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels. A 2016 study reported that individuals who regularly consumed milk thistle experienced a significant reduction in their fasting blood sugar levels as well as HbA1c- an important measure of blood sugar control. Moreover, silymarin has enormous antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce the risk of developing complications associated with diabetes including kidney diseases.
- Protects against environmental toxins
Milk thistle possesses a substantial protective effect against environmental contaminant-induced oxidative stress and biochemical changes. After testing a variety of antioxidants for their protection against environmental toxicity, researchers found that milk thistle is a compound that can be used clinically and consumed as dietary supplements due to its high human acceptance. The researchers also emphasized that milk thistle should be considered a potential protective agent for environmental contaminant induced immunotoxicity.
- Relieves asthma and allergy symptoms
The active ingredient- flavonoids found in milk thistle called ‘silibinin’ has been found to reduce inflammation. A 2012 study found that silibinin prevented the development of immune system proteins present in the bronchoalveolar fluid alongside preventing the development of airway hypersensitivity-related responses. The researchers highlighted that milk thistle could protect people against airway inflammation and can serve as a potential medicine in treating asthma.
How much milk thistle should I take?
Milk thistle is available in different forms including capsules, tablets, tincture as well as intravenous solution. Experts recommend 420 mg/day of extract (70-80% silymarin) three times per day for a period of 6 to 8 weeks. Maintenance doses can be of 280 mg/day. And if taken intravenously, to treat mushroom poisoning, it is recommended that you take a dose of 33 mg/kg/day.
Milk thistle is considered a safe supplement that appears highly promising as a complementary therapy to treat several health conditions. However, it is recommended that you purchase your milk thistle supplements from a reliable and trustworthy brand like Zenith Nutrition.