Amazingly, milk thistle possesses liver-protecting properties which are far superior to any pharmaceutical. As a matter of fact, its benefits have never been argued, even by the conventional medical community. Hence, it is no wonder that this miraculous plant is never taken into consideration when talking about liver-protecting herbs and supplements.
This plant is native to the Mediterranean and has been widely used for its potent medicinal properties since the 1st century AD. According to John Gerard, a sixteenth-century English herbalist, “milk thistle is the best remedy that grows, against all melancholy diseases.” It has been also widely used to support kidney, gall bladder, and liver health. Its silymarin content, which is going to be discussed below, is said to be responsible for the majority of its benefits, such as anti-inflammatory properties, anti-viral properties, antioxidant properties, and liver-protection.
Studies show that milk thistle protects liver`s cells by blocking the entry of detrimental toxins and remove them from the cells. Being a potent antioxidant, it maintains health and energy by working as first line defense against free radical damage.
Silymarin, the active ingredient in milk thistle, is made up of compounds called flavonolignans which help repair liver cells damage by alcohol and other toxic compounds. Its effectiveness lies in its ability to stimulate protein synthesis. However, silymarin does not only treat liver disease, acute viral hepatitis, chronic viral hepatitis, and toxin-related liver diseases, but it has been also found to reduce liver injury caused by drugs and toxins like chemotherapy, radiation, carbon tetrachloride, acetaminophen, amanita phalloides, and phenylhydrazine.
A study involving workers exposed to toxic chemicals for an extended period of time showed notable improvement to liver function when given Milk Thistle extract (80% silymarin) for a month.
Not long ago, a review by the U.S Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) identified 16 studies on the use of milk thistle for the treatment of liver disease. As mentioned above, it was found to heal the liver from damage caused by prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, alcohol, and other toxic substances.
Silymarin, the active ingredient in milk thistle, acts as anti-cancer agent, too. As found by the University of Maryland, it prevents cancerous cells from proliferating, also reducing blood supply to tumors.A study from the University of Colorado Cancer Center found that it has the ability to prevent photo-aging and skin cancer.
As noted by Integrative Oncology Essential, milk thistle protects against various cancer cell types, including:
- Skin cancers