Milk thistle is a prickly herb that stands out for its purple blossoms, spotted white leaves and milk white veins. It comes from the ‘Asteraceae’ family of plants, i.e. the same family as daisy and sunflowers. It grows abundantly in Mediterranean countries and regions with warm temperate climate.
Looks apart, milk thistle is a powerful herb bursting with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. It has deep detoxifying and cleansing effects on the body, especially the liver.
It is often used as natural therapy to complement medical treatment for various health conditions and disorders. It aids liver function and even protects liver cells. It helps improve digestive function by promoting enzyme formation and reducing inflammation. Its antioxidant activity defends against free radical action.
There are innumerable benefits to incorporating milk thistle into your diet. Here, in this blog post, I touch on a few important details about this amazing herb.
The Detoxifying effects of Milk Thistle
The liver plays a major role as a ‘toxin filter’ in the body. It works hard to protect us, constantly cleaning and removing harmful substances and keeping our body healthy and strong. Milk thistle acts as an aid to the liver, fortifying the organ and rebuilding liver cells.
There are several biologically active ingredients found in milk thistle collectively called ‘flavonolignans’. The ‘silymarin’ extract from the milk thistle plant is the main active constituent.
Milk thistle extracts reduce, and in some cases even reverse, any damage to the liver. They are especially potent in scrubbing out toxins such as amatoxin, and they reduce the effect of toxins that are metabolized by the liver. Often prescription medications, alcohol, antibiotics, pollutants, heavy metals and so on are metabolized by the liver as toxins.
Due to this effect, milk thistle is used to help treat gallbladder problems and liver diseases such as cirrhosis, jaundice and hepatitis, as well as some instances of liver cancer.
Other Health Benefits of Milk Thistle
The ‘flavonolignans’ extracts from milk thistle offer a range of benefits over and above supporting liver function. Here is how they work to improve other aspects of your health and wellbeing:
- The lipophilic extracts from the seeds of the plant act as bioflavonoid antioxidants that increase immunity and slow down oxidative stress.
- Milk thistle slows the impacts of age and stress. It has been used as a traditional remedy for neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease for ages. It can be protective against bone loss.
- Milk thistle can be highly useful in therapy to help manage type 2 diabetes. Milk thistle extracts work the same way as some diabetes medicines, by helping in improving insulin sensitivity and decreasing blood glucose levels.
- Additionally, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help enhance kidney function and reduce the risk of developing kidney diseases.
Directions for Use
Milk thistle can be taken orally through dietary supplements or infused with tea. Dietary supplements are available in stores. Milk thistle can be consumed in combination with other supplements and herbs without any side-effects.
Decaffeinated milk thistle tea is also widely available in stores. However, while drinking milk thistle tea, it is best to limit intake to less than 4 cups a day.
It is recommended that you consult with a trusted health coach before altering your diet or taking supplements. Advice is also essential for dosage and related instructions.
The liver works non-stop to clean and filter out toxins from the body. This is often a mammoth task for a single organ. And, with our unhealthy lifestyle and eating habits, we are continually over-burdening our liver.
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