Milk thistle is indigenous to the South of Europe however today it can be found growing around the world. It is naturalized in most of Europe and North America. Its usage historically has been as a liver tonic and regenerative. It is an annual or biennial herb that grows to 5 feet high. It is a tenacious herb that can be cultivated easily in sunny gardens. It has an erect stem with alternate wavy, clasping lanceolate leaves at the top and indented-pinnatisect sessile lower leaves. The leaves have white spots and thorns running along the margins. The stem terminates in a solitary large flower composite that is spiny and has a violet to purple head composed of tubular florets. The fruit is blackish to brown, obovoid, spotted, and glossy, with a white long pappus.
Milk Thistle's main active bioconstituent is Silymarin. Silymarin selectively acts as an anti-oxidant and protects the b.d. from free radical damage specifically in the intestines and stomach. It increases the liver's content of GSH (glutathione) which is a substance in detoxifying many potentially damaging hormones, chemicals, and drugs (including acetaminophen) It has demonstrated a membrane stabilizing action, which inhibits or prevents lipid peroxidation. It seems to alter the structures of outer wall membranes of hepatocytes, preventing penetration of liver poisons and stimulates the action of nuclear polymerase A. It may increase ribosomal protein synthesis and stimulate the formation of new hepatocytes. Silymarin nourishes the liver like no other nutrient currently known. The liver acts as the body's filter constantly cleansing to protect you from toxins. Over time, these toxins can accumulate in the liver. Milk Thistle's potent antioxidant properties and rejuvenating actions help keep the liver strong & healthy. Silymarin has been shown to consist of a large number of flavonolignans, including silybin, isosilybin, dehydrosilybin, silydianin and silychristin. Animal studies have shown that silymarin exerts a liver protective effect against a variety of toxins, including the phallo toxins of the deadly Amanita phalloides mushroom. Amanita phalloides is one of the most poisonous mushrooms in the world, containing toxins that are particularly destructive to the liver. Ingestion of this mushroom can lead to severe liver damage and death if untreated. The active ingredient of the herb is a bioflavonoid mixture called silymarin, the principal component of which is silybin. In animal experiments, when silymarin was given before poisoning by the Amanita phalloides mushroom, it was found to be 100 percent effective in preventing liver damage. Silymarin was also found to be completely effective if given to animals within ten minutes of exposure to the poison. When given within twenty-four hours it still prevented death and greatly reduced the amount of liver damage.
Milk Thistle is a good supplement to use to protect the liver when needing to take pharmaceutical drugs. Primary chemical constituents of Milk Thistle include flavolignans (silymarin), tyramine, histamine, gamma linoleic acid, essential oil, mucilage, and bitter principle. The dried fruit of Milk Thistle contains the flavonoid complex known as silymarin - the constituent responsible for the medical benefits of the plant. Milk Thistle can be used to increase the secretion and flow of bile from the liver and gall-bladder. Its traditional use as a liver tonic has been supported by research showing that it contains constituents which protect liver cells from chemical damage. It is used in a whole range of liver and gall bladder conditions including hepatitis and cirrhosis. Historically, this herb has been used in Europe as a liver tonic, and current phytotherapy indicates its use in a whole range of liver and gallbladder conditions including hepatitis and cirrhosis. It may also have value in the treatment of chronic uterine problems. A wealth of research done in Germany is revealing exciting data about reversal of toxic liver damage as well as protection from potential hepato-toxic agents. The mechanism of action of silymarin is becoming well understood, providing insights into the metabolic basis of this herbs activity. As its name implies, it promotes milk secretion and is perfectly safe to be used by all breast feeding mothers. Milk Thistle is also an antioxidant that is more potent than vitamins C and E.
Milk thistle nutritionally supports the liver's ability to maintain normal liver function. It has shown positive effects in treating nearly every known form of liver disease, including cirrhosis, hepatitis, necroses, and liver damage due to drug and alcohol abuse. Milk thistle works due to its ability to inhibit the factors responsible for liver damage, coupled with the fact it stimulates production of new liver cells to replace old damaged ones.
Milk thistle has been proven to protect the liver from damage. The detrimental effects of environmental toxins, alcohol, drugs and chemotherapy may be countered with this valuable herb. The active chemical component in the herb is silybin, which functions as an antioxidant and is one of the most potent liver protective agents known. Clinical trials have proven silybin to be effective in treating chronic liver diseases and in protecting the liver from toxic chemicals. An injection of silybin is a proven antidote for poisoning with the Deathcap mushroom (Amanita phalloides).