Milk thistle can be found throughout the world. The species is considered an annual or biennial plant. It has been used for centuries for medical purposes. Here Dr. Joseph Mercola, Mercola.com, reflects on milk thistle promoting liver function and more health benefits:
“Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a member of the Asteraceae family and an herbaceous perennial native to Southern Europe and Asia. The plant enjoys full sun and grows to a height of nearly 5 feet. It blooms between July and August with deep purple to pink flowers.1
Throughout history, people have used the fruit and seeds of the milk thistle plant as a treatment for liver disorders. The plant goes by several other names, including Holy thistle, Mary thistle, Our Lady’s thistle, wild artichoke and St. Mary thistle.2
Traditionally, the leaves have been harvested to use in salads and the flower may be roasted and used as a coffee substitute. However, it is the seeds of the milk thistle that were prized for their medicinal activity.
According to the NIH, the oldest recorded use of the plant was by Dioscorides, who believed it could be used as a treatment for snake bites.3 During the Middle Ages it was used as an antidote for liver toxins and by 1898 physicians were using it to treat liver, kidney and spleen disorders. Currently, the German Commission E lists milk thistle for the treatment of hepatic cirrhosis and toxin-induced liver damage and to support chronic inflammatory liver conditions.
Milk Thistle Protects Your Liver Health
The main bioactive compound in milk thistle is a group of flavonolignans called silymarin.4 Flavonolignans are a group of flavonoids with known hepatoprotective properties.5 Silymarin consists of seven different flavonolignans among which silybin has the highest concentration and biological effect. Nearly 70% of silymarin is in the form of silybin A and silybin B.6
Silymarin can be isolated from milk thistle seeds, and while the term milk thistle and silymarin have been used interchangeably, it is technically inaccurate. Multiple studies have demonstrated the ability of silymarin to help protect your liver, and it is regularly used in individuals whose liver has been damaged by nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, hepatitis and liver cancer.7,8
Silymarin also has a protective effect against amatoxin, a deadly toxin produced by the death cap mushroom. Nearly 90% of fatalities from mushrooms worldwide are due to the death cap mushroom.9 Symptoms manifest six to eight hours after ingestion and are followed by kidney and liver failure.
In one review, researchers found nearly 1,500 documented cases where the mortality was less than 10% in patients treated with Legalon® SIL, a pharmaceutical silibinin compound. In another case report,10 doctors successfully treated two patients who accidentally ingested the death cap mushroom with a combination of n-acetylcysteine, cimetidine, silibinin and high-dose penicillin.
Benefits to liver health from silymarin likely result from the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antifibrotic properties of the compound. Silymarin also has demonstrated the ability to reduce virus-related liver damage and has a direct antiviral effect when administered intravenously in patients with hepatitis C.11
Silymarin has a positive effect on nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is a more advanced form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.12 The compound can also help reduce the fibrotic changes that lead to liver cirrhosis.13 In combination with vitamin E, researchers found silymarin helps improve liver function tests and can be:14
“… an alternative valid therapeutic option particularly when other drugs are not indicated or have failed or as a complementary treatment associated with other therapeutic programs.”
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Read More … Article Source: https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2021/01/18/milk-thistle-promotes-liver-function.aspx
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