What Is Milk Thistle?
Milk thistle, also known as Silybum marianum, is a flowering herb related to the daisy and ragweed family. Originally a native of Mediterranean countries through to Asia, this prickly plant is now found worldwide. The annual or biennial herb has distinctive purple flowers and white veins, which, according to legend, were caused by a drop of the Virgin Mary's milk falling onto its leaves. The dried seeds of Silybum marianum contain a high amount of so-called "silymarin". This highly active botanical is not a single substance but a unique group of plant compounds with antioxidant power.**
How Does Milk Thistle Work?
The use of milk thistle can be traced back to more than 2.000 years. Even then, people recognized milk thistle's remarkable ability to support liver health. Nowadays, scientific evidence achieved so far allows us to understand its hepatoprotective effect better. Silymarin helps hold free radicals in check - it acts as a lipid peroxidation inhibitor, supports glutathione levels, and stimulates superoxide dismutase activity. Furthermore, the highly active botanical also supports the formation of new proteins in hepatic cells, helping the liver regenerate.**
Does Milk Thistle Play A Role In Liver Detoxification?**
The liver is the body's natural purifier. You name it, alcohol, drugs, environmental pollutants – a healthy liver can detoxify almost everything it encounters. To maintain good health, it is therefore essential to keep your workhorse in top shape. Milk thistle may be a helping hand in the liver's cleansing processes. Silymarin stimulates the body's glutathione synthesis and helps maintain glutathione levels. Glutathione is a potent hepatic antioxidant and has a vital role in the detoxification process. Most detoxification processes (e.g. alcohol, drugs, xenobiotics, endobiotics) are carried out through oxidative reactions. Silymarin not only stimulates glutathione synthesis, but it is also useful in supporting levels of other antioxidants, such as superoxide dismutase.**
Does The Gallbladder Also Benefit From Milk Thistle?**
Although milk thistle extract is most commonly used for liver health, there is also evidence that the herb has effects on the gallbladder. Study results suggest that silymarin support gallbladder activity and that it stimulates the production and flow of bile, which helps break down and digest fat. Furthermore, bile is also involved in the elimination of toxins from the body.**
What Is The Dosage And Are There Side Effects Involved?
There are no guidelines for the appropriate use of milk thistle extract, but studies have shown effects at dosages from 150 mg to 450 mg daily (depending on the purpose). Safety studies demonstrated that milk thistle extract is safe in humans and well-tolerated. Occasionally, people report various digestive reactions, including diarrhea, nausea, abdominal bloating, and flatus.**
Some people are advised to be cautious when taking milk thistle – these include individuals with allergies to members of the aster family (such as ragweed, daisies, marigolds, chrysanthemums), and people using diabetes medication. Due to a lack of robust safety data, milk thistle is not recommended during pregnancy and lactation. People taking regular medication should seek medical advice before taking milk thistle.