Milk Thistle

Silybum marianum L. Gaertn. or Carduus marianus L

Origin - Northern America, Europe, moderate climates

Part of the plant used - Seeds

Description - Milk thistle was named Silybum by Dioscorides in 100 AD for its large purple thistle-like flower heads. Since ancient times, the plant was valued for its nutritional and medicinal properties. By the Middle Ages the seed of the milk thistle was commonly used to treat liver diseases, to promote the flow of bile, and as a general tonic for the stomach, spleen, gallbladder, female organs, and liver.

Pharmacology - Milk thistle contains three potent liver protective flavonoids: silybin, silydianin and silychristin, known collectively as silymarin. Numerous clinical trials have shown that silymarin and milk thistle extract can protect the liver. Silymarin counteracts the toxic effects of a wide variety of poisons, including alcohol, carbon tetrachloride, acetaminophen overdose, and the deathcap mushroom, (Amanito or Amanita) phalloides which causes death within a day. The mechanism of action of silymarin involves altering the membranes of hepatic cells to inhibit passage of toxins and increasing cellular regeneration by stimulating protein synthesis. Silymarin also has antioxidant activity and inhibits inflammatory enzymes. Recent research has indicated that silymarin helps to protect against depletion of the antioxidant glutathione in liver cells.

Active Properties - Milk thistle extract has been the subject of numerous clinical trials and studies due to its potent liver protective properties. Milk thistle has been used for hepatitis, viral hepatitis, cirrhosis, jaundice, and fatty degeneration of the liver. Milk thistle has been used for indigestion since it promotes the flow of bile and thus helps emulsify fats. A positive therapeutic effect has been reported using silymarin for (psorasis/psoriasis). The Eclectics recommended milk thistle for varicose veins.

Historical Uses:

Toxicity, Cautions & Contraindications - No known toxicity, even in large doses.

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