Being a medicinal herb, milk thistle contains important phytochemicals that greatly affects the body. The typical phytochemical found in this herb is flavonolignands, flavonoids, silymarin. The main active component of milk thistle herb is silymarin, known to protect the liver; hence, this herb has been commonly recommended for the treatment and remedy of liver ailments. The silymarin complex is composed of four phytochemicals, namely silybinin, silydianin, silychristin and isosilybinin. In addition, the term ‘silymarin’ and ‘milk thistle’ are frequently used interchangeably.
The liver plays a major role inside the body, secreting vital substances for proper maintenance of body functions. It produces substances for breaking down of fats and produces urea that is an important substance of urine. It also helps in manufacturing certain types of amino acids, the building blocks of protein, and also aids in the conversion of glucose, the maintenance of proper glucose levels in the blood and the filtration of toxic substances that enter the body. These harmful substances include drugs at large doses not easily tolerated by the body, alcohol and other toxins in the food we eat. The role of milk thistle herb in the body is to guard the liver cells from being damaged by these harmful toxins so it stays in good shape and can perform its functions, hence leading to a healthier body.
Believed to be an antioxidant with great anti-cancer properties, studies on milk thistle show that silymarin and its other active components have the ability to prevent cancer cells from reproducing and replicating. Test tube samples even showed the herb’s ability to cut off the blood flow to the tumors, hence causing the death of the growth neoplasm or reducing its life span. But further research is still necessary to confirm the results and check for other potential effects.
Based on traditional medicine, milk thistle is used as an immediate antidote for people who have ingested Amanita phalloides, commonly known as death cap mushroom, a deadly poisonous fungus. Milk thistle herb has the ability to completely and immediately negate the deadly effects of the mushroom. It is highly effective when given 10 minutes after the mushroom is taken. If the herb is given with 24 hours, the risk of liver damage is greatly reduced and death may be averted.
For people suffering from liver damage and diseases such as acute and chronic hepatitis and liver cirrhosis from alcohol abuse, milk thistle herb is one of the recommended herbal remedies that can strengthen liver health.
As of today, no mainstream drug can benefit the people suffering from liver disease as well as milk thistle can. The stem, leaves, fruit and flower buds and even the roots of this plant have medicinal uses and are edible. However, milk thistle herb growing in the wild doesn’t offer enough silymarin compared to the specially cultivated variety used in commercial supplements and standardized extracts. If you are using this herb to treat an ailment, you had better stick to commercial formulations. The common dosage is 200 mg in a standardized silymarin pill or 1 teaspoon of liquid silymarin extract thrice a day.