Milk Thistle – A Not So Silly Silymarin
Silymarin is found primarily in the seeds of a plant called milk thistle (Silybum Marianum). Milk thistle is native to Europe, but can also be found in the US and South America.
Its fruits and seeds have been used for centuries to treat liver and gallbladder disorders. Silymarin itself is made up of four main components called flavonolignans, of which silybin is the most active.
Benefits Of Milk Thistle
A number of studies have suggested that silymarin protects the liver in different ways. It is thought to be an antioxidant as well as an anti-inflammatory agent. Both silymarin and silybin are said to protect the liver against toxic chemicals by blocking toxins from either entering the cells or moving them out before they cause damage.
There have also been early reports from laboratory experiments that silymarin may reduce the growth of certain types of cancer cells, but further human studies will need to be done to confirm this.
In Europe, if you accidentally eat a dish of Amanita Phalloides, or Death Cap mushrooms, you may be given an intravenous infusion of silybin, as it is used in that region as an antidote fro the deadly liver toxins found in such mushrooms.
Milk thistle is available in many countries as a dietary supplement to improve liver function and to protect against substances that may be harmful to that organ. It is usually taken by mouth in the form of capsules or tablets.
Milk thistle is generally considered safe, with rare incidences of diarrhea, nausea and stomach upset. Mils rashes may be seen at high doses, but this is also rare. At the moment, there is not enough evidence to support the use of milk thistle supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding.