Tip Of The Day: Milk Thistle Protects The Liver

As nutritional science advances, many of the revelatory discoveries made simply prove that our ancestors were right all along. One such case is the use of Milk Thistle as a nutritional supplement.

Image Of A Milk Thistle Flower

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Source: http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5181/5648258720_0674261a85_o.jpg

Now praised for its therapeutic effects, this substance has been utilized by ancient civilizations all over the world for thousands of years to protect the liver from toxins. Milk Thistle is a flowering plant related to the Daisy.

It is native primarily to the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Northern Africa. The Milk Thistle can be identified by its purple color, tall stem, and “milky” sap it emits. It is often confused with another plant, the Sow Thistle.

Health Effects Of Milk Thistle

For centuries, the Milk Thistle has been described as a “liver tonic”. While independent medical research on the plant has been conducted the world over since the 1970’s, much of this research cannot be verified or is otherwise inconsistent.

The positive reports have claimed that Milk Thistle can both protect the liver and improve its function. Over the years, it has been used to treat chronic hepatitis, liver inflammation, gallbladder disorders, toxin induced liver damage, and liver cirrhosis.

A review of past medical experiments using Milk Thistle by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concluded that while there is strong evidence for legitimate medical uses and benefits, the research conducted thus far was of such inconsistent design that no recommendations of dosage or targeted diseases can yet be made.

In one study, factory employees who had been exposed to toxic chemicals for five to twenty years were given either a placebo or Milk Thistle extract for thirty days. The employees taking the extract showed significant improvement in liver function over the group taking the placebo.

In 2009, a study published in the journal Cancer suggested that Milk Thistle can help prevent the liver damaging effects of Chemotherapy in children.

Milk Thistle has also been recognized as one of the few ways to treat Amanita (Death Cap) mushroom poisoning. While hyperbaric oxygen and penicillin were proven to increase rates of survival, Milk Thistle extract, when added, helped protect the liver in the process. A direct correlation has been established between Milk Thistle therapy and survival.

Milk Thistle Other Uses

Other unproven treatment claims have been made about Milk Thistle. Bodybuilders supplement with it after a steroid cycle to attempt to protect the liver and cleanse the body of toxins. Some medical studies have suggested it could possibly lower cholesterol levels, though this is often disputed. Many hangover cures list it in their ingredients, perhaps misunderstanding the science behind both the hangover and the supplement.

Some medical treatment centers give Milk Thistle to patients in the Acute Withdrawal stage of Opiate detoxification. Studies have also suggested that it has the potential to reduce the rate of cancer growth in cervical, breast and prostate cancers.

While Milk Thistle seems to have incredible effects on the liver and perhaps other, thus far un-established benefits, the research done thus far has been of a relatively low quality. As always, consult with your primary care physician before beginning a supplement regiment.

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