Milk Thistle – (Silybum marianum) is a member of the sunflower family. It is well-known for its use in liver disease. The seeds of the milk thistle contain a compound called ‘silymarin,’ which is an antioxidant and is thought to help in protecting and regenerating the liver.
Common Names–milk thistle, Mary thistle, holy thistle. Milk thistle is sometimes called silymarin, which is actually a mixture of the herb’s active components, including silybinin (also called silibinin or silybin).
Latin Name–Silybum marianum
Although it was used for centuries in Europe as a liver tonic, by the beginning of the twentieth century, its value was nearly forgotten. Some years ago, German scientists began investigating the chemical properties of the Milk Thistle fruit and discovered a concentrated group of flavonoid compounds called silymarin. Flavonoids in general are an important group of antioxidants that devour free radicals, the free-roaming, unstable molecules that rage through the body, harm healthy cells, and accelerate aging. Silymarin is actually a group of flavonoids that functions as an antihepatoxic, meaning that it acts directly on the liver to protect it from poisons. It mounts the defenses on two fronts. First, it binds to the membranes of liver cells and creates a tough shield so that toxins have a more difficult time penetrating the cell walls. If toxins do make it into the cells and cause damage, silymarin stimulates the liver to speed up production of beneficial enzymes and proteins as part of a healing restoration.
“Silymarin is an antioxidant that acts very specifically on liver tissue. It also increases the activity of glutathione, the bodyâ€™s own antioxidant
The results of numerous studies suggest that silymarin not only protects liver cells by preventing the actions of toxic substances but that it also stimulates protein synthesis to accelerate the regeneration and production of liver cells. Silymarin also has antioxident properties that prevent free radical damage and the formation of damaging leukotrienes.
One well known controlled study involved the use of the Amanita phalloides mushroom, which contains two of the most toxic liver poisons, (phalloidin and amanitin). Ingestion of this mushroom leads to death in up to 40% of cases and severe liver damage in the balance. Silymarin given before ingestion of this mushroom is effective in 100% of cases in preventing death and liver damage. As an antidote given within 24 to 36 hours silymarin has been found to reduce liver damage and prevent death.
Clinical studies involving humans have shown that this herb is effective in the treatment of liver diseases including fatty liver, chronic hepatitis.
Milk thistle has been used with dogs and cats, and has been recommended as part of the therapy for a number of liver diseases including fatty liver, chronic hepatitis, etc. It is often used help rid the liver of toxicity (poisoning) from insecticides, pesticides, mushrooms, and some drugs.
Milk thistle is often recommended by herbalists, veterinary naturoaths and holistic veterinarians as an aid to healing after drug therapy, vaccinations, and infections such as canine parvovirus, as well as an potential adjunct treatment for cancer. Researchers at Case Western University concluded from their work that â€œsilymarin possesses exceptionally high protective effects against tumor promotion . . . â€ Some human studies even suggests a role for milk thistle in diabetes mellitus through its normalizing effects on red blood cells. It may also help prevent diabetic neuropathy, a common complication of the disease that causes degeneration of the nerves controlling the hind limbs, which consequently produces weakness and an abnormal gait.
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