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Healthy Diet Plans >>  Dietary Supplements >>  Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is an herb used traditionally over 2,000 years for medicinal purposes. It is commonly used in the treatment of gall bladder problems as well as liver disease cure.  Silymarin a flavonoid complex is believed to be the biologically active component of milk thistle and is extracted from its seeds. Often the term silymarin and milk thistle are used interchangeably.

Health and milk thistle

  1. Oral milk thistle showed improvements in liver tests for hepatitis caused by virus or alcohol. Oral milk thistle is also beneficial in cirrhosis as it helps to improve the liver function and decrease the number of death in cirrhotic patients.
  2. Milk thistle is also used to treat mushroom poisoning caused by amanita phalloides.
  3. Silymarin and silibinin in milk thistle may also be beneficial to reduce the growth of human breast, cervical, prostate and liver cancer cells.
  4. Milk thistle may improve blood sugar control of diabetic patients with cirrhosis.
  5. Milk thistle may have cholesterol lowering effects, but more researches in this area are required to prove this effect.
  6. Milk thistle may help to treat or prevent liver damage caused by toxic chemicals or drugs.
  7. Traditionally based on scientific theories milk thistle is used for asthma, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, bleeding, cancer, diabetic nerve pain, fatty liver, hangover, gallstones, immunostimulant, liver cleansing or dysfunction, loss of appetite, malaria, menstrual problems, radiation toxicity, spleen disorders, ulcers, sunscreen, varicose veins and work capacity.
All these uses of milk thistle are based on unproven scientific researches, to recommend it in these conditions more human based researched are required proving its safety and effectiveness.

Side effects of milk thistle

  1. Milk thistle is well tolerated up to six years when taken in recommended doses. Some adverse effects reported include stomach upset, itching, headache, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, appetite loss, heart burn and joint pain.
  2. Milk thistle may lower blood sugar levels thus should be taken with caution in diabetes, hypoglycemia and those taking drugs or supplements to lower blood sugar levels.
  3. Milk thistle above ground parts should be avoided in a woman who is sensitive to hormone, as it may have estrogenic effects that can cause ovarian, breast or uterine cancer, uterine fibroids and endometriosis. (Seed extracts are not believed to have these effects).
  4. Although milk thistle promotes breast milk secretion and there are no reported side effects in pregnancy, it is not recommended in these conditions as through scientific research for its safety are lacking.
Milk thistle may also interact with certain drugs or herbal supplements, thus it is recommended to take milk thistle in recommended amounts under the guidance of a health care professional.
Submitted on January 16, 2014