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If You Think Milk Thistle Is Just A Plant, You Don’t Know What You Are Missing Out!

If You Think Milk Thistle Is Just A Plant, You Don’t Know What You Are Missing Out!

It is most often seen in a form of a supplement or extract that you can take orally or in tea form, but milk thistle is actually a flowering herb that has been used for over 2000 years as a natural remedy for liver conditions. The health benefits of milk thistle were discovered in the ancient times and it was first used as a treatment for liver disorders by Europeans. It has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and it can enable you to detoxify your body in a natural way.

Milk thistle can grow in parts of the world where the climate is warm, and it can be found in southern Europe, southern Russia, Asia Minor, North Africa, and in North and South America as well. Milk thistle is a herb that belongs to the daisy family and it has red to purple flowers and green leaves. When its leaves are crushed, a white milky fluid comes out, and that is how this plant got its name. Although it is a plant, we don’t consume it in such form, but it is rather turned into supplements.

What are the health benefits of milk thistle?

There are many health benefits of this supplement, and one of its widely know beneficial effects is related to treatment of various liver diseases. According to a research conducted by Department of Biochemistry at Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences[1], silymarin, a derivate of milk thistle, has a positive effect on reducing ethanol-induced oxidative stress in liver that can cause cell damage.

Milk thistle can also help in lowering high cholesterol, protecting against cancer, controlling diabetes, helping with intestinal issue and it is also very beneficial for the skin.

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1. Milk thistle protects your liver

Milk thistle provides many health benefits for your liver and there are various studies confirming its healing effects. According to a study by VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System[2], milk thistle can promote liver health in liver transplant patients.

Another study by University Magna Graecia in Italy[3] highlights that it can also be used to treat alcoholic liver disease as well as various toxin-induced diseases.

2. Milk thistle protects your heart too

By lowering high cholesterol and raising the levels of beneficial cholesterol, milk thistle can decrease the risk of atherosclerosis, a disease that causes your arteries to be blocked. In addition to that, a research conducted by China-Japan Research Institute of Medical and Pharmaceutical Sciences[4] discovered that the silibinin, found in milk thistle, has a protective effect against injuries to cardiac muscle cells.

3. Milk thistle helps in controlling blood sugar levels

Milk thistle is a herb rich in anti-oxidants, and thanks to their existence, this herb can help regulate blood sugar levels. A 4-month study[5] on 51 type II diabetic patients confirmed that these anti-oxidant properties had a beneficial effect on the glycemic profile of the patients.

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Another study conducted at Anti-Diabetes Centre in Italy[6] on patients with cirrhosis and type II diabetes who developed insulin resistance showed a significant improvement in insulin resistance due to 12-month therapy with milk thistle.

4. Milk thistle helps to prevent and treat cancer

There is evidence[7] that milk thistle can inhibit the growth of cancer cells in prostate, skin, breast and cervical cells. Furthermore, the combination of milk thistle and selenium has been proven to reduce markers that are associated with prostate cancer progression, as reported by the Department of Urology at University Hospital in the Czech Republic[8].

5. Milk thistle protects your brain

It has been found that milk thistle has neuroprotective properties and the evidence suggest that such properties may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, as study conducted in Tokyo suggests[9].

6. Milk has anti-aging effects

This herb can also help in reducing aging effects visible on your skin. As this study[10] suggest, by taking milk thistle, you can reduce skin damage, dark spots, wrinkles, lines and discoloration.

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7. Milk thistle improves bone health

Milk thistle has beneficial effects on bone formation, and evidence suggests[11] it may help both build bone and prevent bone loss. It is also effective in preventing osteoporosis[12] due to estrogen deficiency, which would be of great benefit to postmenopausal women.

Are there any side effects when taking milk thistle?

There are no serious side effects that you should worry about. According to University of Maryland Medical Center[13], side effects are usually mild, and can include: stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea and vomiting.

Yet, if combined with certain medications or other herbs, it can trigger some side effects, so you should always consult your doctor before taking it. During pregnancy and breast-feeding, it’s better to avoid consuming it and also if you are allergic to ragweed and related plants.

How should I consume milk thistle?

You can take milk thistle in the form of supplements, usually in form of tablets or capsules, or you can drink it in the form of tea. When buying supplements, you should always choose standardized and reliable products as they will give you more reliable dose of the product. When taking capsules or tablets drink them with a full glass of water and take them as indicated on the package, but the safest way is to always consult a healthcare professional.

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Some of the recommended supplement brands are Ultra Thistle, which can protect your liver, and protect you from inflammation and scarring; Clinical Liver Support, beneficial for those who want to protect themselves against possible future liver issues; Milk Thistle with Artichoke and Turmeric, for removing toxins from your system.

As milk thistle is available in tea form, if it suits your preferences, you can consume it in the form of a hot drink. You can make your own milk thistle tea, or buy from trusted brands, such as Alvita, Traditional Medicinals and Celebration Herbals.

How much should I take?

There is no standardized dosage yet, but the range for recommended dosage is between 280 to 800 milligrams of silymarin, which constitutes 70-80% milk thistle extract. Most often, recommendations suggest taking 100-200 milligrams per day with your meals.

Featured photo credit: https://pixabay.com/ via pixabay.com

Reference

[1] NCBI: Protective effects of silymarin, a milk thistle (Silybium marianum) derivative on ethanol-induced oxidative stress in liver.
[2] NCBI: Alternative therapy use in liver transplant recipients.
[3] NCBI: Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future.
[4] NCBI: Protective effect of silibinin against isoproterenol-induced injury to cardiac myocytes and its mechanism
[5] NCBI: The efficacy of Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn. (silymarin) in the treatment of type II diabetes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial.
[6] NCBI: Long-term (12 months) treatment with an anti-oxidant drug (silymarin) is effective on hyperinsulinemia, exogenous insulin need and malondialdehyde levels in cirrhotic diabetic patients.
[7] NCBI: Advances in the use of milk thistle (Silybum marianum).
[8] NCBI: The safety and efficacy of a silymarin and selenium combination in men after radical prostatectomy – a six month placebo-controlled double-blind clinical trial.
[9] NCBI: Silymarin attenuated the amyloid β plaque burden and improved behavioral abnormalities in an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model.)), as well as multiple sclerosis and age-related diseases((NCBI: Silymarin extends lifespan and reduces proteotoxicity in C. elegans Alzheimer’s model.
[10] NCBI: Silymarin, a Flavonoid from Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum L.), Inhibits UV-induced Oxidative Stress Through Targeting Infiltrating CD11b+ Cells in Mouse Skin
[11] NCBI: Milk thistle: a future potential anti-osteoporotic and fracture healing agent.
[12] NCBI: Antiosteoclastic activity of milk thistle extract after ovariectomy to suppress estrogen deficiency-induced osteoporosis.
[13] University of Maryland Medical Center: Milk thistle

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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark Chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko Biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and Black Tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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