The use of milk thistle has been known for many centuries. It has been used as a herb for liver detoxification, as and antidote to food poisoning and even as a galactagogue.
Milk thistle, what is it?
Milk thistle is also known as Silybum Marianum and it grows mainly in rocky places in the Mediterranean area. It belongs to the family of Asteraceae, such as daisies and the active part of the plant is its seed. The flower of the plant is a red-purple spiny flower and contains black seeds.
What does it consist of?
Milk thistle is used in cases of hepatitis, jaundice, fatty liver infiltration and in the treatment of psoriasis. Its main component, which has hepatoprotective properties, is silymarin. In addition, milk thistle is also a rich source of flavonoids (silibinin, silidianin and silicristin), quercetin and vitamin E.
The extract of the plant derives from the seeds and dietary supplements usually contain 70-80% silymarin. There are several forms of milk thistle supplements like tablets, capsules and tincture.
Actions and benefits
Milk Thistle is one of the most powerful hepatoprotective elements. It protects the liver, increases the regeneration rate of liver cells, helps digestion and in the treatment of psoriasis and has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Fatty liver infiltration and liver protection
Silymarin belongs to the largest group of flavonoids. Its most important actions are:
- helps strengthen the liver tissues and competes with the action of toxic substances
- increases the protein synthesis rate in liver cells, helping to increase cell regeneration
- enhances neutralization of free radicals by providing strong antioxidant activity to liver cells
- reduces inflammation due to inhibition of certain anti-inflammatory substances
Poisoning by chemical toxins and alcohol
Intravenous administartion of silymarin is a powerful antidote to food poisoning caused by a lethal kind of mushrooms, the Amanita phalloides (Death Cap).
Silymarin has powerful antioxidant properties and prevents the transport of toxic substances in to the liver for futher metabolism, while it also antagonizes the action of toxins, thus reducing cell death and toxicity. Thus, supplementation of milk thistle is helpful even in alcoholism.
Thanks to the powerful antioxidant properties, milk thistle helps neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress in liver cells, which is common in cases of high alcohol consumption or food poisoning.
Hepatic cell regeneration
Silymarin increases the rate of regeneration of liver cells as it affects the rate of protein synthesis. The above action is helpful in cases of hepatitis, alcoholic fatty infiltration, cirrhosis and non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFLD).
Milk production – galactagogue
Milk thistle, as well as Fenugreek, are herbs that are believed to increase milk production in nursing women. According to studies, the recommended dose is 1-3 grams of seeds in the form of capsules or smashed in tea or other beverages. In any case, breastfeeding women should consult their physician first before taking milk thistle.
Side effects and interactions
Supplements with milk thistle are quite safe. Mild gastrointestinal disturbances may occur such as stomach upset, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and rashes.
As milk thistle is metabolized in the liver by certain hepatic enzymes, its use is contraindicated along with certain drugs such as anxiolytics, antilipidemic (statins), anticoagulants, antiplatelet as some anticancer drugs. Its use in pregnant and lactating women is not recommended as there is not enough evidence yet for safety and it is contraindicated in cases of hormone-dependent cancers.
In Vita4you you can find a great variety of dietary supplements with milk thistle in various forms.