This herb has been known as a traditional liver tonic for centuries and several hundred scientific research papers have been produced on its liver-healing properties (Flora, K et al. 1998, Milk thistle for the therapy of liver disease. Amer J Gastroenterol).
Milk Thistle is also known as Silybum marianum or St. Mary’s thistle. Milk Thistle has liver-protective, liver regenerative, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidants properties.
Milk Thistle can be used with benefit of the following conditions:
- Chronic hepatitis
- Liver damage from many causes
- Bile stagnation (cholestasis)
- Alcohol and chemically induced fatty liver
Clincial and laboratory studies and tissue examinations, both in humans and animals, have found Milk Thistle to have beneficial effects in treating all of the above.
In 1969 the renowned phalloidine experimetn was carried out by the researchers Vogel and Temme. During this test, Milk Thistle was proven to be liver-protective. Phalloidine is extremely toxic to the liver. Milk Thistle can block its toxic effects, which indicates that it has powerful liver-protective capability.
Not only is this remarkable herb liver-protective, it has also been found to help liver cells (hepatocytes) repair and regenerate themselves, after they have been damaged. Milk Thistle contains, a flavone, which protects some of the intracellular components of liver cells (mitochondria and microsomes) from lipid peroxidation; this protective effect upon the liver is much more powerful thatn that of vitamin E.
The powerful detoxifcation enzymes in the liver that break down drugs and toxic chemicals are called the cytochrome P450 enzymes. These enzymes are improved by one of the components of Milk Thistle called silibinin or silymarin.
A three month study following 67 patients with chronic hepatitis, toxic liver damage and biliary inflammation found that Milk Thistel greatly helped their liver disease.
The same study found that patients wiht alcohoic cirrhosis had a significantly higher survival rate if treated with Milk Thistle.
Milk Thistle can be taken as the dried whole herb, or as an extract of silymarin, or as a componet of a liver tonic.
For more information see Cabot (1996) The Liver Cleansing Diet.
Always contact a qualified Herbalist or talk to your local GP before taking any herbal or medical product.