Nutrient Fact File
I am a Naturopath and Nutritional Therapist. I make recommendations to my clients based on their individual needs. If this information is useful to you please discuss your options with your trained health practitioner able to help you to make natural choices that are suitable for your individual needs. Take responsibility for your health and choices.
Milk Thistle has been used for 2,000 years as an herbal remedy for a variety of ailments, particularly liver, kidney, and gall bladder problems. It is native to the Mediterranean region although it is now found throughout the world, usually in dry, sunny areas. The spiny stems branch at the top and reach a height of 5 – 10 feet. The leaves are wide, with white blotches or veins, the flowers are red purple and the small, hard skinned fruit is brown, spotted, and shiny. Milk Thistle gets its name from the milky white sap that comes from the leaves when they are crushed.
The above ground parts and seeds are used to make medicine (the seeds are more commonly used). The plant contains a biologically active compound called silymarin, a phytochemical which is classified as a flavonoid (which is an antioxidant). Studies indicate this compound helps protect the liver from toxins.
Here is a diagram showing you the role milk thistle plays in liver detoxification;
- This shows it is a Phase 1 detoxification inhibitor- this is protective for the liver as it slows down the amount of toxins entering the liver pathways. It also slows down and therefore limits the amount of reactive toxins circulating potentially causing cell damage.
- It is an antioxidant to help protect cells against the reactive toxins.
- It then induces phase 2 detoxification which pairs the reactive toxin to another compound to render it inactive (conjugated).
- Its last action, which is also really important, is that it then encourages elimination of the toxin by inhibiting its re-absorption by the body.
All through the livers pathways milk thistle is central to the movement and protection of the body against damage and build up of toxins.
So Silymarin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and it may also help the liver repair itself by growing new cells. Extensive research conducted over the past 30 years shows Milk Thistle extract improves liver dysfunction in patients with acute and chronic hepatitis A, B and C, chronic alcoholic liver disease and fatty liver caused by chemical toxin damage. Silymarin has been shown to lower the death rate of alcoholic patients over a two to four year period.
Milk thistle extract can be used to treat:
* Liver and gallbladder disease, cirrhosis and gallstones
* Liver damage due to indulgence in alcohol, drugs, fatty food and exposure to toxic chemicals
* Skin disease, including eczema and psoriasis (as it helps to eliminate toxins so they do not have to be excreted through the skin)
* Heartburn (dyspepsia) as it helps to reduce inflammation
Some people use milk thistle for diabetes, hangover, diseases of the spleen, prostate cancer, malaria, depression, uterine complaints, increasing breast milk flow (also protecting breast milk from containing circulating toxins), allergy symptoms
1 tbs added to hot water to make a tea or added to smoothies (which is how I like it) a day may be a good place to start. (this is the one I like)
However it is best to consult your natural practitioner to consult with you on your individual case.