The body requires sufficient cholesterol for different body functions such as hormone production, cell membrane creation and nerve function. But high cholesterol levels in your blood can result to serious health disorders including heart disease, mental impairment, hypertension, stroke and gallstones. Although one should be cautious when taking herbal supplements, using milk thistle for high cholesterol may help, as the herb possesses natural cholesterol-lowering effects.
Cholesterol is the fatty substance needed in maintaining body function and good health. The liver produces about 85% of the body’s cholesterol supply. The so-called ‘bad cholesterol’ is medically termed low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which are carried in your bloodstream. The ‘good cholesterol’ is called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and works by returning the excess cholesterol back to the liver where is it metabolized or excreted. When the body produces more LDL than HDL, the excess cholesterol stays in the bloodstream and these fat deposits attach to the blood vessel walls. This build-up of fat is referred as atherosclerosis, which can block blood supply to the brain, kidney, heart and other vital organs.
Silymarin is the active component of milk thistle. However, further research suggests that it is silibinin, one substance in silymarin, which is responsible for most of the herb’s health benefits. Recent evidence reveals that silibinin displays huge potential in reducing bad cholesterol levels in the body. Milk thistle for high cholesterol helps the liver by improving its ability in metabolizing lipids. It regulates lipids in the bloodstream and inhibits cholesterol synthesis. Because silybinin encourages bile production, it excretes the cholesterol that builds up in the bile ducts in the liver. In addition, the increase in bile enhances emulsification, absorption and elimination of dietary fats.
Besides the great benefits of silibinin in lowering cholesterol level in the body, milk thistle also contains tocopherol sterols, which are known to have an effect in the body’s cholesterol level. Plant sterols, which are found in the plant cell membrane, are structurally comparable to the cholesterol in our bodies. The efficacy of plant sterols in reducing blood cholesterol was revealed in the 1950s. Because the body does not readily absorb plant sterols, it is quickly flushed out from the system. However, when they are combined in fat-containing foods such as yogurt and margarine, the body can use them for lowering LDL levels.
In a 2006 study conducted in Czech Republic, milk thistle extract greatly reduced the cholesterol absorption rate in mice under a high cholesterol diet, while significantly causing a reduction in LDL and triglycerides, both harmful forms of cholesterol. The growing prevalence of cases with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is another reason to add milk thistle for high cholesterol in a healthcare routine. In terms of both liver support and cholesterol lowering, only a few drugs cover as many benefits as milk thistle does. Being the most potent component of silymarin extract, silibinin’s ability in protecting liver cells, reducing death of liver cells, inhibiting absorption and production of cholesterol and enhancing the excretion of excess cholesterol, taking silibinin is a wise option for people with both cholesterol and liver concerns.