ANTIOXIDANTS LIVER HEALING
Dr. Vogel and other well-known plant researchers, including Hildebert Wagner,
Ph.D., have found that the antioxidants in milk thistle called flavonoids are
some of the most potent liver-protecting substances known. One important function
of antioxidants is to protect the liver against damage from heavy metals and
other toxic substances in the air and the food we eat. In case you think that
heavy metal exposure is nothing to worry about, consider that more than 600,000
tons of lead are put into the atmosphere every year in the United States alone.
Heavy metals are all around us—lead solder in tin cans, lead and cadmium
in cigarette smoke, mercury in dental fillings and some cosmetics, and aluminum
in antacids. Research conducted in Germany has shown that milk thistle helps
protect the liver from drug and heavy metal poisoning. As a result, milk thistle
is the basis for a number of German drugs used to treat liver problems.
Milk Thistle is a liver healing herb. There are no known drug interactions.
The worst side effect includes of course a severe allergic reaction, which could
possibly lead to anaphylactic shock and possible death. Researchers studied
the effects of St. John's wort, ginger, echinacea, green tea and milk thistle
on the white blood cells and nerve cells of mice. Milk thistle was the only
herb that boosted both the immune and nervous systems, helping nerve cells produce
more neurites and keeping cells alive longer, protecting DNA integrity.
Milk thistle is a potent antioxidant which destroys free radicals. Free radicals that are not contained in the power plants of cells (mitochondria) or in the cells' garbage disposals, damage membranes of cells, DNA, and other essential molecules in the body. In fact, free-radical damage has been indicted for at least 50 chronic diseases! Some studies show that the antioxidant quality of milk thistle is almost 10 times as powerful as that of vitamin E. Protecting the integrity of the cell's membranes is important because these membranes shield the contents of the cells from free-radical damage.
Herb-drug 2005 review discusses interactions of garlic, milk thistle, St. john's wort and more. Check with your physician for possible drug interactions. For more drug interactions, click here. For an alphabetical search listing try here. For a comprehensive discussion of milk thistle click the links.
MILK THISTLE TEA
Milk thistle is a diuretic. Increasing water intake may help diminish this. See water for pkd. For those with any liver cysts, some have tried milk thistle. A new tasty herb tea by celestial seasonings called sugar cookie sleigh ride. This is a special occasion tea. The ingredients of sugar cookie sleigh ride are: milk thistle, roasted barley, orange peel, natural sugar cookie flavor, with other natural flavors and vanilla bean. Calories 0, fat 0, sodium 0, carb 0, sugars 0, protein 0 contains gluten.
CAUTION if you take certain medications, milk thistle may interfere with these (Cyclosporine, birth control pills).
This tea especially with a little tupelo honey tastes like a sugar cookie and it also contains milk thistle, an herb found by some to be useful when a cystic liver gets so very large. Milk thistle has noticeably relieved cystic liver pain. That is, some took it for a week, noticed the pain disappeared; then stopped it for a week, the pain returned; then took milk thistle once again and the pain left. For the moment enjoying sugar cookie sleigh ride herbal tea might be an alternative to caffeine drinks. The active ingredient of milk thistle is silymarin.
Milk thistle has been used to counteract mushroom poisoning.
MILK THISTLE Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)
has been used since Greco-Roman times as an herbal remedy for a variety of ailments,
particularly liver problems. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries physicians
in the United States used milk thistle seeds to relieve congestion of the liver,
spleen, and kidneys. Today, several scientific studies suggest that active substances
in milk thistle (particularly silymarin) protect the liver from damage caused
by viruses, toxins, alcohol, and certain drugs such as acetaminophen (a common
over the counter medication used for headaches and pain; acetaminophen, also
called paracetamol, can cause liver damage if taken in large quantities or by
people who drink alcohol regularly.)
A comprehensive review by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
(AHRQ) recently identified 16 scientific studies on the use of milk thistle
for the treatment of various forms of liver disease. A European standardized
extract of milk thistle was used in most of the trials.
Preliminary laboratory studies also suggest that active substances in milk thistle
may have anti-cancer effects. One active substance known as silymarin has strong
antioxidant properties and has been shown to inhibit the growth of human prostate,
breast, and cervical cancer cells in test tubes and animals. In dogs milk thistle reversed the kidney toxic effects of gentamycin.
The active constituents found in milk thistle may afford protection from certain cancers. Take skin cancer, for example. The sun's ultraviolet rays that are so useful in killing germs, can actually suppress immune components in the skin, by generating free radicals which damage it-thus encouraging the development of skin
cancer. And so the skin uses antioxidants to protect itself from sun damage.
Animal studies indicate that topical applications of silymarin reduce skin cancer caused by ultraviolet rays.(7) Additional studies demonstrate that the herb can significantly inhibit the proliferation of skin cells with damaged DNA,(8) thus again reducing the incidence of skin-cancer. Scientists are now thinking that antioxidants like silymarin should even be added to sunscreens.
Animal studies suggest that silymarin could also reduce or retard the ability of damaged cells to multiply in the colon.(9) Rodent and test-tube studies reveal that silymarin, taken orally, may inhibit the progression of prostate cancer in both its early and advanced stages.(10),(11) Silymarin seemed to inhibit the growth and DNA synthesis in human breast and cervical carcinoma cells as well.
Milk Thistle An Anti-inflammatory Agent
As an anti-inflammatory agent, milk thistle blocks inflammation in several ways. For example, milk thistle is a natural Cox-2 inhibitor.(6) Cox-2 is essential in the production of a hormone called PGE-2. Excess amounts of PGE-2 suppress the immune system and spells serious inflammation! Milk thistle, because it is a Cox-2 inhibitor, reduces inflammation. That is good news indeed because inflammation is largely responsible for a whole host of problems caused by Alzheimer's, arthritis, atherosclerosis, cancer, gum disease, obesity, ulcers, liver disease, and diabetes-to name just a few. Topical application of silymarin is especially effective also for many inflammatory problems of the skin.
Milk thistle most impressed the medical world when G. Vogel, M.D., used it to
save lives in the 1970s. A leading milk thistle researcher, Dr. Vogel brought
to his clinic 60 people suffering from severe mushroom poisoning. He gave them
a compound called silymarin that was extracted from milk thistle and found that
"results ranged from amazing to spectacular," even though most of
the people were not treated until a full day after eating the bad mushrooms.
From an article: There is strong preclinical evidence milk thistle protects the liver and is anti carcinogenic, including inhibiting cancer cell growth. Milk thistle is considered safe and well-tolerated, with gastrointestinal upset, a mild laxative effect, and rare allergic reaction being among the adverse events reported when taken within the recommended dose range. Check with your doc if it is safe.
Because the liver breaks down many drugs and cancer-producing agents, it is a hot-bed of free-radical generation. Scientific studies show that milk thistle helps to protect the liver not only from free radicals, but also from toxins that jeopardize its functioning. Similar to its work elsewhere in the body, milk thistle also protects the liver by guarding its cell membranes. For example, animal studies demonstrate that silymarin, the main active ingredient in milk thistle, protects the liver from certain toxins in Death-Cap mushrooms. If these mushrooms are eaten, they damage the liver and can cause certain death.
Other animal studies show that silymarin affords significant protection to the liver from alcohol. A controlled, doubleblind study showed that silymarin reduced elevated liver enzymes, an elevated level of which indicates serious liver damage and disease.(2)
Early studies demonstrate that silymarin can also reduce liver damage caused by certain mind-altering drugs. A word of caution here. Alcohol, obesity, pot-belly fat, diabetes, and depression all injure the liver. The liver cannot fully recover as long as these lifestyle conditions persist. In other words, no herb-however beneficial substitutes for good health habits.
Silymarin increases the liver's content of another important antioxidant, glutathione(3) Glutathione is needed for the detoxification of cancer-producing agents. Common lifestyle problems like stress, obesity, toxins, medications, too much dietary fat, and an excessive amount of niacin, all deplete the liver of glutathione. It follows that a modest supplementation of milk thistle could benefit people affected by such conditions-especially when coupled with the adoption of healthful lifestyle practices. Just a note-because the trace mineral selenium is essential to glutathione production, no amount of milk thistle would bolster the liver's glutathione if one's diet contained insufficient selenium.
A variety of studies show that silymarin can be helpful in acute and chronic hepatitis. As in other conditions, it helps to lower elevated liver enzymes seen in hepatitis. Milk thistle also has another compound, silybinin, that stimulates protein synthesis and thus repairs and regenerates liver cells.
Tucked below the lower edge of the liver is the gallbladder. This organ stores and concentrates the bile which the liver produces. Bile is important, because it physically breaks up (emulsifies) fats, making them more susceptible to digestive enzymes. Sometimes the flow of bile from the gall bladder through its duct leading into the intestine becomes sluggish. Some studies suggest that silymarin improves the excretion of bile from the gallbladder and thus reduces the risk of gallstone formation.
Active Ingredients in Milk Thistle Protects the Kidneys. Animal research shows that the active ingredients in milk thistle also protect the kidneys from free radical damage and poisons. For instance, the drug cisplatin is a very powerful agent in the treatment of testicular cancer. It has, however, devastating side-effects, including damaging the nerves and poisoning the kidneys. An infusion of silibinin given before or after the administration of cisplatin significantly reduced damage to the nephrons, the urine-making factories of the kidneys. In addition, milk thistle stimulates overall repair in the kidneys by improving their ability to synthesize proteins.
A FEW MORE NOTES ON MILK THISTLE
Turmeric, milk thistle, and artichoke are known to help cirrhotic livers. This combo just happens to also relieve cystic liver pain. It was so long ago when I took this combo. It was my husband who first noticed this. I had been absentmindedly holding my liver constantly as I was in pain, a persistent low level of chronic pain. Then I took this combo from Wise Women Herbals and I took it for a week as prescribed by my naturopath physician. Then I stopped it for a week. When I stopped milk thistle, turmeric, and artichoke, my husband said,
"You are holding your liver once again; does it hurt you?"
I started back on the combo and it didn't hurt any more. My liver pain left. It was a genuine surprise.
Perhaps allopathic medicine might be complementing herbal medicines along these lines? In other cultures, in Germany for instance, herbal treatments are much more mainstream than here in the USA. It is only in the last 2-3 years that the Mayo Clinic has developed an alternative medicine department right alongside women's health, nephrology, and internal medicine. I read of a clinical trial with milk thistle for children on chemotherapy.