Sep 7th, 2008 by Janeen
When you hear that something has been used for over 2000 years as a treatment for liver and gallbladder conditions, it makes you stop for a moment and think about it. 2000 years! I’d say with that kind of recommendation, it has to be worth looking into, at least. After all, how many treatments can hold up to 2000 years of critics trying to debunk its value (leeches anyone?). Milk thistle (silybum marianum) is not only an herbal remedy that can tout the claim to have outlived its critics, it is also a simple and pleasant treatment option.
After 2 centuries, it is still used primarily for the liver and gallbladder, but has other significant benefits as well. I take milk thistle daily and have for going on eight years. Now, that isn’t quite as impressive a length of time, as the centuries old remedy itself, but this natural treatment is something I intend to continue using. That is one of the nice benefits of this herbal remedy, it doesn’t seem to have side-effects, even in extended use. Let’s take a closer look at milk thistle, where it comes from and how it can help you.
Characteristics of the bloom:
- A common weed with a distinctive white marking on its leaves.
- Grows throughout Europe but is naturalized in California and Australia.
- Grows up to five feet with purple flowering heads.
- The seeds are the part of the plant that is dried and used as an herbal medicinal treatment.
- Protects the liver from toxins, drugs, and the effects of alcohol.
- Promotes the growth of new liver cells.
- Helps to regulate digestion of fats.
- Helps keep blood sugar stabilized.
- Helps to stabilize cholesterol.
The liver rapidly metabolizes nutrients, xenobiotics (harmful toxins), and wastes that are absorbed via the gut. Milk thistle detoxifies and defends the liver from pollutants by protecting it from an imbalance between the production of free radicals, highly reactive molecules, and the systems ability to handle them before they can cause damage. This is also known as oxidative stress. It does this because it contains an antioxidant that is specific for the liver, silymarin. An important way in which silymarin enhances the detoxification process in the liver is that it actually helps prevent the depletion of glutathione. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant enzyme, which is a primary liver detoxification nutrient. This is important for those of us with MS (or other ailments/diseases) who are using medications. This is because we need to counterbalance things that (though helpful for some symptoms) can effect liver function and its ability to detoxify properly. Glutathione has been used as a support supplement for MS.
A few health benefits of Glutathione:
- Powerful Antioxidant.
- Glutathione binds toxins and transforms them into a substance that can be removed from the body.
- Helps with weakened immune system.
- Energy booster.
- Anti-aging agent.
Glutathione is found in meat, fish, vegetables and fruits. It is found in walnuts, asparagus and avocados in higher amounts. Packaged foods have shown to be a very poor source of glutathione.
In addition to preventing the depletion of glutathione, milk thistle extract has no known side effects. However, due to its ability to stimulate the liver and gallbladder it may have a mild laxative effect for some. This should only last a few days.
As I stated earlier, I have been taking milk thistle for many years and feel it is a very important part of my daily health routine. The liver is very important to our health and milk thistle is one of the less expensive ways to aid in the health of the liver.
Per Phyliss Balch author of Prescription for Herbal Healing, milk thistle is best used as silymarin gel-caps. It is less effective as teas and tinctures, because milk thistle has poor water solubility. A concentrated capsule or extract form is best.1 Most supplements of milk thistle do have or should be at least 80% silymarin.
For appropriate dosage of milk thistle or more information please contact me or check with your health care professional.
1. Balch, A. Phyllis, cnc, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Avery, The Penquin Gruup, New York, pp. 103.
Janeen Goldsmith is a Certified Nutrition Therapist who specializes in working with people who have MS or other autoimmune conditions and who are seeking additional health support along with traditional therapies. Her practice is based on the principle that because everyone is different, each person’s nutrition program should specifically fit his or her lifestyle and preferences. Janeen’s goal is to help people eat better to feel better. She meets with individual clients in person, email and/or by phone. She also shares her knowledge through public speaking and teaching cooking skills to local Colorado residents.
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