A medicinal plant that has been traditionally used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for over 2000 years, milk thistle’s (Silybum marianum) botanical name Silybum is derived from the Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides.
The other half of the botanical name, Marianum, comes from a legend that the white veins running through the plant’s leaves were formed by a drop of the Virgin Mary’s milk. Due to its association with Virgin Mary, milk thistle is also known as Mary thistle, St Mary’s thistle, Our Lady’s thistle and other such names.
Three isomer flavonolignans (silibinin, silydianin, and silychristin) collectively known as silymarin form the active ingredients in milk thistle. Silymarin acts as an antioxidant and reduces free radical damage and lipid peroxidation, the process by which free radicals remove electrons from lipids in cells and damage them.
Milk thistle has been commonly recommended for gallbladder disorders, jaundice, cirrhosis, hepatitis and protect the liver against damage caused by snake bites, insect stings, mushroom poisoning and excessive alcohol consumption. Here are four ways in which milk thistle can benefit your health.
1) An Effective Galactogogue
Milk thistle can be used as a galactogogue, a substance that increases the production of breast milk in a nursing mother.
A clinical study showed that supplementation with silymarin (the active component of milk thistle), increased milk production by 64 percent in subjects that took milk thistle than those who didn’t. Studies suggest that for it to work as an effective galactogogue one should either take 1-3g crushed seeds of milk thistle, or crush the seeds and steep them as a tea, thrice a day.[4,5] .
2) Fights Liver Cancer
According to a laboratory study, milk thistle reduced the development of tumors, in cases where consumption of alcohol was directly related to an increased growth rate of liver tumors. The study showed that milk thistle countered the effects of alcohol in liver cancer.
3) Regenerates The Liver
Milk thistle enhances cellular protein synthesis that can be useful in repairing a damaged liver. Animal studies show that it increases DNA synthesis in rats with partial hepatectomy (missing parts of the liver).
Milk thistle can also decrease the symptoms of steatohepatitis (fatty liver) and enhance cell survival by reducing lipotoxicity, accumulation of fat in non-fatty tissues such as the kidneys, heart, liver and muscles, that can cause cellular dysfunction and can be life-threatening.[10,11]
4) Protects The Prostate
Silibinin, the primary compound in silymarin in milk thistle, has a protective effect on the prostate. It regulates protein development and ensures that the prostate cells function correctly as a person ages. Clinical studies show that in prostate cancer, silibinin causes apoptosis (cell death), controls cell signaling, decreases metastasis (spread of cancer cells) and increases angiogenesis (development of new blood vessels).
How To Take It
- Take ½tsp crushed milk thistle seeds in a cup. Add boiling water to it and steep for 15 minutes. Drink this tea twice daily for better health.
- Alternatively, you can take a capsule of milk thistle extract twice daily to obtain relief from hepatitis. You can buy it here.
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