silymarin, Milk Thistle Herb

silymarin, Milk Thistle Health Benefits, Side Effects

Silymarin a chemical compound found in milk thistle has been found to help protect the liver from damage..(more)
silymarin fruit

What is Milk thistle? Milk thistle or silymarin is a flowering plant valued for beneficial compound called silymarin that is found to offer health benefits to the liver....(more)

Silymarin Preparation Silymarin is extracted from the seeds (fruit) of the milk thistle plant and prepared as capsules, extracts, powders, and tinctures...(more)

What is Milk Thistle (Silimarin)

Scientific Name : Silybum marianum

Other names: Silymarin, Marian Thistle, Mediterranean Thistle, Mary Thistle, Holy Thistle, Silybum Marianum

milk thistle

Milk thistle Plant description

Milk thistle, Mary thistle or silymarin (Silybum marianum) is a herbaceous annual or biennial flowering plant of the daisy family (Asteraceae). Silymarin or Milk thistle is native to North Africa, Middle East and  Southern Europe but has long been naturalized in North and South America. The name "milk thistle" is derived from the milky white sap that comes from the leaves and stems when crushed or broken. Milk Thistle or silymarin has value in herbal medicine for its activity in the treatment and protection against liver disease and has now being commercially marketed as liver supplement.

Milk thistle or silymarin can grow up to 2 meters in height, having an overall conical shape with a base of around 1.5 meter wide. Milk thistle or silymarin has a hollow trunk while the stems are groove and somewhat cottony.

Milk thistle or silymarin has leaves that are oblong to lanceolate in shape with spiny edges. Milk thistle leaves are shiny green, either lobate or pinnate, with milk-white veins.

Milk thistle or silymarin flowers are red and purple in color that have heads that are about 5 to 12 cm long and wide. Milk thistle blooms in June to August in the Northern Hemisphere while in Southern Hemisphere it blooms in December to February

Milk Thistle, Silymarin Constituents

Silymarin consists primarily of 3 flavanolignans, silychristin (silichristin), silybin (silibinin), and sylichristin B, and silidianin.

Milk thistle also contains other flavanolignans: dehydrosilybin, 3-desoxysilichristin, deoxysilydianin (silymonin), siliandrin, silybinome, silyhermin, and neosilyhermin.

Other constituents of milk thistle include taxifolin, apigenin, silybonol, linoleic and oleic acids, palmitic, myristic, and stearic acids, betaine hydrochloride, histamine and triamine, It also include lanostane triterpene, marianine, and the triterepene glycosides, marianosides A and B.

Silymarin Availability, preparation and Use

silymarin is available in most grocery and vegetable stores. Buy silymarin fruits that are fresh, young, tender and firm. You will know it is fresh if it can easily be snapped in two. The best silymarin variety is the green color.

If you have to store silymarin for later preparation, do not wash as it will become slimy, put in a paper bag and refrigerate – do not freeze. silymarin is best consumed within 3 days.

To maintain the best nutritional value of silymarin, it is suggested not to overcook it.

Silymarin, Milk Thistle Health Benefits

Silymarin in Treatment of Viral Hepatitis, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C
In a study published in”Journal of Viral Hepatitis, 2005; Silymarin treatment of viral hepatitis: a systematic review” Milk thistle or silymarin extracts have been explored for treatment of chronic viral hepatitis, although there is remarkable decrease in serum transaminases, however, its overall efficacy remains unknown.

Silymarin in treatment of Liver Cirrhosis
In a randomized controlled trial of silymarin treatment in patients with cirrhosis of the liver as published in the Journal of Hepatology, 1989, preliminary studies suggest milk thistle or silymarin supplements may be beneficial for liver cirrhosis most especially for alcoholic cirrhosis. The study suggests that there is an improvement in liver function,

Silymarin’s Protective Activity against Liver Damage
In a report entitled “Silymarin protects liver against toxic effects of anti-tuberculosis drugs in experimental animals” published in “Nutrition and Metabolism, 2006”, it suggests that milk thistle may protect the liver against toxicity from anti-tubercolosis drugs in experimental animals. In other related studies, Milk thistle or silymarin compounds can protect the liver from other harmful chemicals such as alcohol and other drugs.  Silymarin has a good safety record and in only rare case reports of gastrointestinal disturbances and allergic skin rashes have been published. In Europe, milk thistle is reportedly administered to patients when they are given medications known to cause liver problems.

Silymarin Improves the LDL to HDL ratio of blood cholesterol level
In a study entitled “Effect of silymarin on serum cholesterol levels in rats” published in “Acta Universitatis Palackianae Olomucensis Facultatis Medicae; 1998”, it was reported administered silymarin, a mixture of flavonolignans extracted from the seeds of Silybum marianum, possesses a hypocholesterolemic effect in rats fed high cholesterol diet enriched with fat. Silymarin has also been found to mildly increase the HDL cholesterol level.

Silymarin as Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus with liver disease
In a study entitled “Effect of silymarin in diabetes mellitus patients with liver diseases” published in “Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics”, It is reported that silymarin has good effect in the restoration of liver function and also established efficacy in controlling blood glucose level in diabetes patients with liver diseases. The study further recommends that silymarin may be a breakthrough as a new approach to protect other organs in addition to liver.

Silymarin : Anti cancer, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-metastic Activity
In a report entitled “Multi targeted therapy of cancer by silymarin” published in “Cancer Letters, 2008”, Silymarin, a flavonolignan from milk thistle (Silybum marianum) plant, is used for the protection against various liver conditions in both clinical settings and experimental models. In this review, it was summarized the recent investigations and mechanistic studies regarding possible molecular targets of silymarin for cancer prevention. Silymarin also showed anti-inflammatory as well as anti-metastatic activity. Further, the protective effects of silymarin and its major active constituent, silibinin, studied in various tissues, suggest a clinical application in cancer patients as an adjunct to established therapies, to prevent or reduce chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy-induced toxicity.

Milk Thistle, Silymarin Uses and Dosage

How Milk Thistle Is Used

Silymarin, is extracted from the seeds (fruit) of the milk thistle plant, it is believed to be the biologically active part of the herb. The seeds are used to prepare capsules, extracts, powders, and tinctures. Standardized silymarin capsules are considered better such as the 21st Century brand from Amazon that has higher recommended rating than the other brands.

Milk Thistle Dosing

Based on clinical trials and data, safe dosage for milk thistle is at 420mg/day of silymarin standardized to 70% - 80%. Up to 41 months.

Milk Thistle, Silymarin Side Effects and Cautions

In clinical studies, extracts of silymarin from milk thistle has no toxic compounds and is well tolerated and is considered safe with no serious side effects.

However, there are some reports that some of silymarin side effects may include gastrointestinal disorders including indigestion, gas, diarrhea and may also cause  headache, itching and heartburn.

Another milk thistle side effect is that it can cause allergic reactions to people allergic to plants of the same family, namely: ragweed, chrysanthemum, marigold, and daisy.

Milk thistle or silymarin side effect may also be its ability to lower blood sugar levels.  Caution is advised for people with diabetes or hypoglycemia, or people taking medicine or supplements that controls blood sugar levels.

There are insufficient studies to suggest that use of silymarin or milk thistle is safe and offers no side effects for pregnant or nursing women. Caution is advised.

Milk thistle has been found to have estrogen like effect. It may cause side effects for people suffering from estrogen related diseases such those who have uterine fibroids, endometriosis, cancer of the breast and ovary and others.

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