Milk thistle or Silybum marianum is a species of thistle that has been used in Herbal and European medicine for over two thousand years for the treatment of liver diseases and to promote liver and gallbladder health. It is recognized by many health authorities as a “Liver Protectant”. As a body organ, the liver plays a very important part in the human body; it acts as a filter and detoxifies the blood. It defends against any and all invaders and protects the body-mind from external poisons and pathogens. It is responsible for detoxification and elimination of metabolic poisons. Milk thistle acts as a defender of this ever so vital organ.
Where is grows
It is native to the Mediterranean region of southern Europe, western Asia and northern Africa. It has also naturalized in parts of Europe, North America, South America, Australia and New Zealand. It is an annual or biennial plant of the family Asteraceae meaning that it blooms every second year but it can also be grown annually. It tolerates sun drained and poor soils well.
The active component silymarin is extracted from the seeds and is used in the treatment of a variety of medical problems including liver disorders, gall bladder disorders, high cholesterol and even mushroom poisoning and snake bites. It has hepatoprotectant and antioxidant properties and is a complex mixture of plant-derived compounds identified as mostly flavonolignans, flavonoids (taxifolin, quercetin) and polyphenolic molecules.
Milk Thistle or Silymarin supplements are considered as safe herbal products, since using the physiological doses of silymarin is not toxic if administered in the right doses and there are no known contraindications or restrictions for pregnant or nursing women.
The recommended dose varies from source to source but suggested use is anywhere between 200 mg to 700 mg of Milk thistle, or the equivalent of 200–400 mg of silymarin extract standardized at 70 – 80%; up to 2 or 3 times daily. Prolonged use is recommended for at least a minimum of 3 weeks.
Milk thistle has been traditionally used and/or scientifically studied for the following:
- Liver and gallbladder disorders
- To decrease toxicity and effects of narcotics, prescription drugs and alcohol
- As a natural treatment for things including cirrhosis, jaundice and hepatitis
- As a liver protectant against toxins such as amatoxin
- As possibly a neuroprotective that could help prevent the decline in brain function with ageing
- Combined with traditional treatment, it has shown to decrease in blood sugar levels and improve inulin resistance (help with diabetes)
- Additionally, it may have benefits on the skin, bone health and immunity