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Milk Thistle is a medicinal plant that has been used for over 2,000 years to treat digestive, liver and gallbladder conditions. Research has shown Milk Thistle has a protective effect on the liver. The active ingredient in Milk Thistle (MT) is silymarin, which can be extracted from the seeds of the plant.
Research conducted in the U.S. and Europe, shows MT to support the health of the liver by promoting the growth of liver cells, protecting the cells from damage, and inhibiting inflammation. In European hospitals, MT is the only antidote for Amanita mushroom (the red-white cap) poisoning. It is a recommended treatment for liver damage caused by toxins or cirrhosis. In the U.S., there have been promising results in small studies using a standardized extract of MT to treat alcohol-related liver disease. Milk Thistle is also being studied to determine if it offers any protective benefit for the liver during chemotherapy or radiation treatment for different cancers.
As an herbal medicine, MT is available as capsule, extract, powder and tincture. To support healthy liver function, the most common preparation is tea or an extract. Check with your wellness practitioner to determine the appropriate amount of tea or extract for your needs. Some people may be allergic to MT if they are allergic to plants such as ragweed and marigold. If you are being treated for cancer, liver disease or any other health condition, consult with your doctor before taking any herbal supplement.
Smart Publications. Silymarin: A Potent Antioxidant, Liver Protector, and Anti-Cancer Agent. Accessed on January 12, 2016. http://www.smart-publications.com/articles/silymarin-a-potent-antioxidant-liver-protector-and-anti-cancer-agent#fn-195-20
Johnson, R.L., S. Foster, Low Dog, T. and Kiefer, D. “Milk Thistle” in National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World’s Most Effective Healing Plants. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2012. 167-169.
Herb Wisdom. Milk Thistle Benefits. Accessed on 1/4/2016. http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-milk-thistle.html
Mars, Bridgitte & Fiedler, Chrystle. Home Reference Guide to Holistic Health & Healing. (Beverly, MA: Fair Winds Press. 2015.), 192.
National Center for Complementary & Integrative Health. Milk Thistle. Accessed on 1/4/2016. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/milkthistle/ataglance.htm
Medline Plus. Milk Thistle. Accessed on 1/4/2016. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/138.html
National Cancer Institute. Milk Thistle Information for Health Professionals. Accessed on 1/4/2016. http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/milk-thistle-pdq