THE HERBAL CORNER - "Milk Thistle"

MILK THISTLE is also called Mary Thistle or wild artichoke. It is a thorny, weed-like plant that reaches five feet in height and is native to the Mediterranean. Typically, only the seeds of the dried flower are used in medicinal preparations. It thrives both in the wild and in the garden and is used by herbalists to treat such liver disorders as cirrhosis and hepatitis.

Benefits and uses: MILK THISTLE's long history of medicinal use for liver ailments goes back to the Greeks and Romans. This traditional use has been confirmed by hundreds of scientific studies since the 1930s, conducted mainly in Germany, on MILK THISTLE seed preparations.

Many people now take MILK THISTLE regularly as protection for the liver from the effects of alcohol, heavy metals, and drugs, and as needed after exposure to solvents, pesticides, bacteria from food poisoning, or other toxins. MILK THISTLE has been used to help treat cirrhosis, hepatitis, and other liver diseases.

In Europe emergency room doctors have used a MILK THISTLE-derived drug to save the lives of people who accidentally ingest poisonous deathcap mushrooms. It may also have a beneficial effect on the kidneys, pancreas, bowels, adrenal glands and gallbladder. It is also believed to ease outbreaks of psoriasis, since these may worsen when the liver fails to neutralize certain toxins that circulate in the bloodstream.

Do scientists know how it works?
The active compounds in MILK THISTLE seeds are silibinin and other flavonolignans, especially a combination of these known collectively as silymarin. Studies confirm that silymarin benefits liver health in a number of ways, including stabilizing liver cellsí membranes, helping to regenerate injured liver cells, and acting as an antioxidant to protect liver cells from free radical damage.

Silymarin also boosts the organís ability to filter toxins from the blood. It is good for the immune system, adrenal glands and benefical for skin disorders like psoriasis.

Recent findings:
A study on middle-aged women undergoing long-term drug therapy for psychiatric ailments found that the antioxidant activity of a MILK THISTLE seed extract reduced the kind of liver damage typically seen in these and other patients who take prescription anti-psychotic drugs for extended periods. Other new studies have found that silymarin can help protect against cancers of the prostate and the skin, reduce the risk of diabetes, and benefit cholesterol profiles.

Taking MILK THISTLE products does not seem to cause any adverse effects either immediately or over the long-term. In fact, the young (non-spiny) leaves and the stems were once a consumed as foods in Europe. It has been used by a wide variety of people, including pregnant and lactating women. Its ability to stimulate liver and gallbladder activity may cause a mild and temporary laxative effect in some people. Because taking MILK THISTLE increases bile secretion, loose stools may be the result.

What types of MILK THISTLE products are available?
MILK THISTLE comes in dried bulk, capsules, tablets, softgels, and liquid extracts; silymarin does not dissolve well in water so teas are very weak. Among the most popular products are extracts standardized for 70 to 80 percent silymarin. It can also be found in combination products. A combination of herbals is often preferred to give the best result. When you purchase herbal products, look for standardized brands.

Please note: the information contained herein has been compiled from various sources. The above statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. We make no claims, either expressed or implied, that any treatments mentioned in this newsletter will cure disease, replace prescription medication, or supersede sound medical advice.


The Olive Branch, On the Net since 1996