The thistle, or milk thistle, is a plant whose scientific name is Silybum marianum, which is characterized by its purple flower and leaves with thorns. It has been used for hundreds of years for its medicinal properties, highlighting its beneficial role on liver problems and antioxidant, cleansing and anti inflammatory properties.
This wonderful medicinal plant can help you improve your health in several ways:
- Promoting a healthy digestive function.
- Increasing production of bile.
- Reducing cholesterol.
- Preventing cancer.
- Decreasing inflammation of mucous membranes.
In this article I will mention the incredible benefits and uses of the thistle.
How Does Milk Thistle Work?
Milk thistle has been used for over 2,000 years. It is a plant that grows naturally in countries of the Mediterranean and Asia, but is also grown in other parts of the world. The Greek and botanic physician, Dioscorides, was the first to describe the medicinal properties of milk thistle in the year 40 AD.
It contains powerful antioxidants that help fight free radicals and thus slow down the process of cellular aging, while boosting the immune system, to prevent diseases. However, one of its most salient benefits is the treatment of liver problems.
The liver is a very important organ, which has several functions, such as:
- Detoxification of substances such as alcohol.
- Metabolism of corticosteroids.
- Storage and activation of vitamins and minerals.
Both the seeds and the leaves, you can find them in the market in the form of pills, powder, mother tincture, extract or infusions. The seeds can be consumed directly, but in general, people buy as supplements, since in one or two pills can get a higher dose of the active ingredient.
1. Liver Detoxification
The liver is one of the largest and most important organs in your body and is responsible for performing a number of essential functions. The condition in which your blood is, will depend to a great extent on the health of the liver, since the liver is a purifier of the same.
The main function of milk thistle is the detoxification of your liver. It helps to rebuild the liver cells, while eliminating the toxins that are processed there. It is effective in reversing liver damage, mild to moderate, caused by alcohol consumption, pesticides, heavy metals, overuse of medications and more.
It has been widely studied and approved in therapeutic treatments for various liver diseases, including fatty liver (liver steatosis), alcoholism, hepatitis and others.
2. Contributes to Cancer Prevention
Milk thistle seeds are a rich source of flavonoids and antioxidants. Its silymarin compound is associated with a decreased risk of cancer, by strengthening the immune system and preventing cancerous tumor growth.
In 2007, after reviewing numerous studies on therapeutic treatments, researchers at the University of Minnesota concluded that “There is strong preclinical evidence for the hepatoprotective and anticancer effects of silymarin, including inhibition of the growth of cancer cells in the prostate, Skin, breast and human cervical cells.
Between 50 and 70% of silymarin molecules are of the silybin type, a powerful antioxidant that stimulates protein synthesis and regenerates the outer layer of healthy cells, keeping them protected from damage and mutations. In addition, it helps cell renewal and counteracts the harmful effects of physical and chemical contaminants.
According to the Department of Experimental and Clinical Medicine at the Magna Graecia University, silymarin acts as a cancer protector because it is a ” blocking agent of toxins ” and inhibits its binding to cellular membrane receptors.
3. Milk Thistle Helps Reduce Cholesterol
If your last cholesterol test was altered, this point interests you. Marian thistle helps lower elevated cholesterol levels, purify blood, reduce inflammation in the arteries, and prevent oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
The National Library of Medicine of the United States considers milk thistle to be a potent anti-inflammatory, which helps prevent cardiovascular diseases.
Although investigations are not enough, studies have concluded that when using milk thistle, in combination with traditional treatments, total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides, are significantly reduced, compared to Conventional treatment.
4. It can contribute in the control and prevention of the Diabetes
According to the National Institute of Health, there is research that concludes that ingesting silymarin, along with conventional treatment for diabetes; helps keep the disease controlled because it helps keep blood glucose within normal ranges.
According to experimental and clinical studies, the antioxidants contained in milk thistle were found to be effective in lowering blood sugar levels in people with insulin resistance.
Finally, according to a 2006 study by the Department of Pharmacology of the Institute of Medicinal Plants, diabetic patients who received silymarin for four weeks significantly decreased their fasting blood glucose levels compared to the placebo group. This is based on the fact that the liver is responsible for the regulation of hormones, including insulin, which maintains glucose levels in the blood, so that the correct functioning of the liver benefits the control of diabetes.
5. Help Prevent Biliary Calculations
Milk thistle is beneficial for the proper functioning of the liver, as well as for organs that relate to it, specifically the gallbladder.
The gallbladder is an organ, in the form of sac, which is responsible for storing the bile that produces the liver, so they are closely related. It is common for calculi to form in the gallbladder, which if not treated in time, can end in a serious case of acute pancreatitis.
In this sense, milk thistle is a powerful liver protector that also contributes to the treatment of gallstones, thanks to silymarin.
In addition, milk thistle supports the functioning of the endocrine and gastrointestinal system, aiding in the production of bile and enzymes.
6. Improves Skin Health
Studies show that milk thistle phytochemicals are effective in inhibiting UV-induced oxidative stress (UV), which causes diseases such as skin cancer. Research also suggests that the application of silymarin, is effective in reducing skin damage, caused by radiation treatment for cancer.
In 2008, researchers from the Department of Dermatology at the University of Alabama Birmingham, compared the effects on the skin of mice after exposure to UV. Those who received Marian thistle extract showed minor tissue damage compared to mice that did not receive it.
7. A Powerful Anti-Aging Effect
The antioxidants contained in milk thistle, slow down the aging process of all your organs, helping you to maintain the correct functioning of your eyes, joints, muscles, etc.
Marian thistle can contribute to the prevention of common and serious conditions in adults, some of them caused by aging, such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney damage, liver damage, cancer, loss of skin elasticity and visual problems.
Thanks to its protective properties, it will help reduce the visible signs of aging, such as wrinkles, lines of expression and dark spots.
Milk Thistle and Glutathione?
Milk thistle helps maintain levels of glutathione, which is an important antioxidant to prevent various diseases. Glutathione is found naturally in your body, as well as in some plants, mushrooms, fungi and algae. In this context, silymarin, which is an antioxidant, can protect glutathione depletion.
The main function of glutathione is to combat oxidative stress, caused by free radicals, which leads to diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, among others.
Today, diet, pollution, toxins, drugs, stress, trauma, aging, infections, diseases and radiation, exhaust the proper functioning of the liver and the amount of glutathione in your body. And, thankfully, the thistle will help you to:
- Increase levels of glutathione, through an improvement in the detoxification function of your liver.
- Strengthen the walls of liver cells, reducing the damage of invasive toxins, supporting liver regeneration and glutathione formation.
Milk Thistle Side Effects
In the vast majority, milk thistle is well tolerated and is considered a safe product with very few side effects. Although, eventually, you could have some gastrointestinal discomfort, a mild laxative effect, vomiting or nausea.
When taken at the recommended dose, the chances of having an allergic reaction or interaction are reduced. But, on occasion, it has been found that antioxidants may interfere with the effectiveness of some drugs used in chemotherapy.
What Is The Recommended Milk Thistle Dose And Where To Buy It?
Because milk thistle is classified as a supplement and not as a drug, it is not subject to the supervision and quality control of the Food and Drug Administration. With less control over these products, the amount of the active ingredient can vary significantly between brands.
The dose has not yet been standardized, but it is recommended to consume between 20 and 300 milligrams per day.
Finally, you can get it at any naturist pharmacy or through the internet. Its price varies depending on the manufacturer and the presentation. A bottle of capsules costs about 11 dollars, but if you buy the seeds, they are priced at about 2 dollars.
It is always important that in the event of any side effects or preexisting illness, consult your doctor about treatment with milk thistle.