I recently posted an article all about how the liver is related to weight loss and a healthy metabolism. Knowing whether you have a healthy liver is important to your weight loss efforts because of it’s role in breaking down fats and processing toxins. One of the things I’ve always heard was good for liver health is Milk Thistle. I wanted to do some research and give you more info on the benefits of this herb.
An alternative herbal supplement, milk thistle is a plant found in the Mediterranean region. When the leaves of this plant are crushed, a milky white liquid oozes out, hence the name milk thistle. Most of the benefits derived from this plant come from a chemical called silymarin which is extracted from the seeds. This active ingredient found in milk thistle herbal supplements is believed to combat a number of conditions affecting the liver including cirrhosis, hepatitis, cancer, and liver poisoning.
Liver Benefits of Milk Thistle
Silymarin possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which are thought to help the liver repair itself and grow new cells. The following are some benefits associated with this supplement:
- Cirrhosis – Numerous studies have shown that milk thistle can improve liver function and stave off death in cases of liver cirrhosis and liver damage due to alcoholism. However, some studies have been inconclusive, leaving most in the medical community yearning for more studies into the effectiveness of milk thistle.
- Hepatitis – The anti-inflammatory properties of milk thistle have helped hepatitis patients – particularly those with hepatitis C – improve their liver function and reduce inflammation. In one study, slightly less than half of all participants were able to reduce their viral hepatitis to undetectable numbers.
- Cancer – Laboratory studies with cancer cells have shown some promise. During research, it has been found that silymarin appears to prevent cancer cells from reproducing, shorten their lifespan, and reduce the blood supply to tumors. However, there have been no reputable human trials performed as to the effectiveness of milk thistle when it comes to treating cancer in the body.
- Poisoning – The liver is a giant sponge, filtering hazards and toxins from the body. In cases of poisoning, the liver can become damaged, resulting in death. Silymarin has been used in cases of deathcap mushroom poisoning as an antidote. Studies in animals have shown that milk thistle can counteract the effect of this toxic mushroom if administered within just a few short minutes of ingestion. If administered within the first day, it can reduce the risk of liver damage and death.
Milk thistle has been shown to offer other benefits not related to the liver including menopause, high cholesterol, and diabetes. In most cases, however, the effectiveness of milk thistle has not been studied and researched effectively, resulting in mixed results. While medical trials and laboratory testing show a great deal of promise, more research is needed.
While the effectiveness of milk thistle might be debatable at this point, the safety of this alternative supplement is not. Salymarin has been found to be safe when taken as a daily supplement over a long period of time. Consult with your doctor or health professional of choice before starting any regular use of an herb supplement like milk thistle. You never know when you may have an allergic or adverse reaction to an herb or natural supplement or if it will react to other medications. Better safe than sorry.