Has your liver worked hard these holidays? Well, it’s the new year and time for a new you! Find out how milk thistle can restore the health of your liver, kidneys and gallbladder, leaving you raring to face the year ahead.
What is milk thistle?
This herb has been used for thousands of years to support liver, kidney and gallbladder health. It contains the flavonoid silymarin, which is thought to be responsible for many of its beneficial effects, including protecting the liver and acting as an anti-oxidant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory agent.
How does silymarin protect your liver?
In an in-depth article by the prominent alternative medicine practitioner Dr Joseph Mercola, the active ingredient in milk thistle, silymarin, ‘is actually a group of compounds (silibinin, silidianin and silicristin) that work together to provide multiple health benefits.’ We’ve listed them:
- It is an antifibrotic, meaning that it prevents tissue scarring.
- Silymarin is used to treat alcoholic liver disease, acute and chronic viral hepatitis and toxin-induced liver diseases. Studies indicate that it also helps reduce liver injury caused by various drugs and environmental toxins, including alcohol (perfect if you’ve partied with enthusiasm during the holidays), carbon tetrachloride (a probable carcinogen common in building materials and cleaning agents), radiation, chemotherapy and iron overload in your system.
- Milk thistle has excellent anti-inflammatory effects, which are achieved via a complex two-phase process. (Read more about the process at https://goo.gl/ZbIIVF)
- A study published by the American Botanical Council suggests that milk thistle may help to treat or prevent certain cancers: prostate, skin tumours, bladder, breast, colon and leukaemia, and help protect the liver during radiation and chemotherapy.
- Milk thistle helps protect the kidneys and shows ‘promise for stimulating cell regeneration in the kidneys and may prove useful even in patients on dialysis,’ says Mercola.
- Milk thistle appears to improve heart health by raising levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol and decreasing the risk of atherosclerosis. Silymarin may also help reduce blood pressure.
- People with diabetes who took silymarin for four months ‘experienced improvements in their glycaemic profile, including a significant decrease in blood sugar, fasting blood glucose, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides compared to those taking a placebo.’
- Milk thistle appears to help protect the brain. Studies suggest that silymarin has neuroprotective properties that may help patients suffering with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and even Alzheimer’s.
- It helps treat varicose veins and haemorrhoids.
- The leaves contain manganese, iron, phosphorus, zinc and selenium, also a powerful anti-oxidant.
Acknowledgements & Photo credits
This article was adapted by Judy Beyer from the comprehensive document on milk thistle published by Dr Joseph Mercola.
- Mercola, J. Magnificent milk thistle. 2015. USA.
- American Botanical Council
- Murata, N., Murakami, K. et al. Silymarin attenuated the amyloid β plaque burden and improved behavioral abnormalities in an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. 2010. US National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2010;74(11):2299-306.
- Mayo Clinic. Milk thistle.
- University of Maryland Medical Center
- Photo courtesy of Lazare / Pixabay.com