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Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle - Silymarin, Carduus marianum; Silybum, Compositae

Milk ThistleThree bioflavonoids of the silymarin group are particularly efficient at nullifying the impact of several toxins including alcohol. They especially protect and help heal liver cells. Normal life processes will produce approximately one ounce of alcohol in your body each day. So a good antioxidant/antitoxin of this type should slow the rate at which your body is aging itself. Also protects antioxidant glutathione, emulsifies fats, inhibits inflammatory enzymes and assists digestion, protects liver from heavy metals and has helped varicose veins.

Habitat: Throughout Europe, rare in Britain. Common In California

Collection: The mature achenes (seed heads) are cut ant stored in a warm place. After a few days, tap the heads and collect the seeds.

Part Used: The seeds.

Constituents:

  • Flavolignans; the mixture of these is known as silymarin and composed mainly of silybin (=silibinin), with isosilybin, dihydrosilybin, silydianin, silychristin, and in some varieties at least, silandrin, silymonin, silyhermin and neosilyhermin.

Actions: Hepatic, galactogogue, demulcent, cholagogue.

silybum marianumIndications: For more details on this plants please refer to the section on the liver. Milk Thistle can be used to increase the secretion and flow of bile from the liver and gallbladder. Its traditional use as a liver tonic has been supported by research showing that it contains constituents which protect liver cells from chemical damage.

It is used in a whole range of liver and gall bladder conditions including hepatitis and cirrhosis. Historically this herb has been used in Europe as a liver tonic and current phytotherpy indicates its use in a whole range of liver and gall bladder conditions including hepatitis and cirrhosis. It may also have value in the treatment of chronic uterine problems. A wealth of research done in Germany is revealing exciting data about reversal of toxic liver damage as well as protection from potential hepatotoxic agents.

A number of chemical components of herb are now being shown to have this protective effect on liver cells. They are all flavones and flavo-lignins, the best studied being silymarin. Silymarin has been shown to reverse the effects of highly toxic alkaloids, such phalloidine and a-amanitine from the Avenging Angel mushroom (Amanita phalloides) as well as protect liver cells from their impact.

The pharmacodynamics, site and mechanism of action of silymarin are becoming well understood, providing insights into the metabolic basis of this herbs activity, an activity long known and used by medical herbalists. As its name implies, it promotes milk secretion and is perfectly safe to be used by all breast feeding mothers.

Preparations & Dosage: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoonful of the ground seeds and let infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. Tincture: 1-2 ml three times a day.


Three bioflavonoids of the silymarin group are particularly efficient at nullifying the impact of several toxins including alcohol. They especially protect and help heal liver cells. Normal life processes will produce approximately one ounce of alcohol in your body each day. So a good antioxidant/antitoxin of this type should slow the rate at which your body is aging itself. Also protects antioxidant glutathione, emulsifies fats, inhibits inflammatory enzymes and assists digestion, protects liver from heavy metals and has helped varicose veins.

Milk thistle is a flower, more specifically a member of the aster family. Its seeds and roots have been used for an assortment of medical purposes for thousands of years. Three biochemicals of interest have been isolated from the milk thistle: silychristine, silydianin, and silybin. The mixture of these three substances is called "silymarin." Silymarin has been traditionally used in the treatment of liver disease and, while it has recently been advocated for use in pets, all scientific information available concerns human use. The biological mechanism of action is yet unknown but several theories exist:

  • Silymarin may control cell membrane permeability, which means that silymarin may control what substances actually enter the interior of a cell.
  • Silymarin may inhibit chemical pathways leading to inflammatory biochemicals.
  • Silymarin may have free radical scavenging properties which means that it may absorb harmful reactive atoms that could damage other molecules.
  • Silymarin may increase protein production by liver cells.
  • Silymarin may stabilize mast cells (cells containing inflammatory granules).
  • Silymarin in higher doses increases the flow of bile.

The most scientific information concerning the use of silymarin regards Amanita mushroom poisoning. Silymarin prevents uptake of the poison into the cells of the liver and thus prevent the lethal liver damage associated with this type of mushroom poisoning. Silymarin is regularly used for an assortment of liver diseases including cirrhosis and viral hepatitis in humans.

Silymarin, derived from the milk thistle plant, Silybum marianum, has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for diseases of the liver and biliary tract. As interest in alternative therapy has emerged in the United States, gastroenterologists have encountered increasing numbers of patients taking silymarin with little understanding of its purported properties. Silymarin and its active constituent, silybin, have been reported to work as antioxidants scavenging free radicals and inhibiting lipid peroxidation. Studies also suggest that they protect against genomic injury, increase hepatocyte protein synthesis, decrease the activity of tumor promoters, stabilize mast cells, chelate iron, and slow calcium metabolism. In this article we review silymarin's history, pharmacology, and properties, and the clinical trials pertaining to patients with acute and chronic liver disease.


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