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, 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.
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, milk thistle can promote liver health in liver transplant patients.
Another study by University Magna Graecia in Italy 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 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 on 51 type II diabetic patients confirmed that these anti-oxidant properties had a beneficial effect on the glycemic profile of the patients.
Another study conducted at Anti-Diabetes Centre in Italy 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 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.
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.
6. Milk has anti-aging effects
This herb can also help in reducing aging effects visible on your skin. As this study suggest, by taking milk thistle, you can reduce skin damage, dark spots, wrinkles, lines and discoloration.
7. Milk thistle improves bone health
Milk thistle has beneficial effects on bone formation, and evidence suggests it may help both build bone and prevent bone loss. It is also effective in preventing osteoporosis 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, 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.
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.
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