Milk Thistle: Ancient Support for Modern Times
Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on October 29, 2011 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Modern times have created a host of toxic chemicals that we are exposed to everyday. Never before in our long history have we created so many substances of potential harm to our body and health, as well as the health of our environment.
The liver is the body’s “workhorse” when it comes to detoxification, and the importance of this in maintaining health can’t be overstated. Milk Thistle has been used for thousands of years for this very purpose; nowadays, providing regular support for the liver is almost a necessity! Doing so can greatly improve our body’s overall wellbeing.
Milk Thistle is recognized as the pre-eminent remedy for protection of the liver against a wide number of toxins. It contains a group of compounds (flavolignans) collectively referred to as silymarin that confer this protection. Silymarin protects the liver cells (hepatocytes) from damage caused by alcohol, organic solvents, viral infections, inflammation, byproducts of metabolism including foods, drugs, chemotherapeutic agents and other chemicals, and environmental pollutants. Because Milk Thistle increases bile production, it is also very useful in supporting proper fat digestion and metabolism.
Milk Thistle helps mitigate liver damage from virtually all causes, including cirrhosis due to alcoholism or other causes. Cirrhosis is another term for scarring of the liver, wherein hepatocytes, the functioning cells of the liver, are damaged or destroyed and replaced by connective tissue (nonfunctional). Remarkably, it not only helps to repair liver cells but can even help to regenerate new ones.
Milk Thistle is especially notable for its benefits with infectious hepatitis, particularly type C viral hepatitis. While not a cure, Milk Thistle helps maintain healthy liver function and can lower elevated liver enzymes associated with this condition.
It is highly anti-inflammatory and provides useful support alongside other therapies for inflammatory conditions such as autoimmune disorders, asthma, psoriasis, eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
All in all, Milk Thistle is one of the safest*, and most useful, herbs available and can be used long-term to provide outstanding liver protection.
*If you are on any medications, it is always advisable to inform your doctor of any natural remedies or supplements that you are using or considering taking, to avoid possible drug-herb interactions.
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Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan