Milk Thistle for Liver Health

Silybum marianum (milk thistle) has been used for centuries as an herbal medicine for the treatment of liver disease. Its use for liver disorders dates back to Pliny the Elder, a Roman naturalist, who described milk thistle as being "excellent for carrying off bile." Milk thistle is an annual or biennial plant indigenous to Europe and is also found in some parts of North America and Australia. It grows in rocky soils to a height of three to ten feet with an erect stem that bears large, alternating, prickly-edged leaves.

The common name, milk thistle, is derived from the "milky white" veins on the leaves, which, when broken open, yield a milky sap. Flowering season is from June to August, and each stem bears a single, large, purple flower ending in sharp spines. The fruit portion of the plant is glossy brown or gray with spots. Silybum marianum contains silymarin, which is composed of the flavanolignans silybin, silydianin, and silychristine, with silybin being the most biologically active. Silymarin is found in highest concentrations in the fruit portion of the plant but is also found in the leaves and seeds. The seeds also contain betaine, trimethylglycine and essential fatty acids, which may contribute to silymarin's hepatoprotective and anti-inflammatory effects.

Hundreds of studies have been conducted
Literally hundreds of research studies, mostly in Europe, have confirmed the remarkable ability of milk thistle to protect the liver against virtually all types of damage: from accidental exposure to chemical pollutants, toxic side effects of medications, liver diseases like hepatitis and even the self inflicted damage from overindulgence of rich food and alcohol.

The United States National Library of Medicine has catalogued morethan 300 scientific studies of milk thistle and its active compounds in their medicine database.

Evidence of Benefit
Milk thistle is extraordinarily useful in the treatment of liver diseases such as alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver poisoning, and viral hepatitis. Milk thistle is one of the few herbs that have no real pharmaceutical equivalent. It also regulates the digestion of fats, helps stabilize blood sugars and cholesterol, reduces inflammation of the intestine, and promotes the excretion of certain hormones. Studies have found that milk thistle has other benefits as well, ranging from the prevention of altitude sickness to the prevention of side effects in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

Acne, constipation, Chron's disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Milk thistle increases the production of bile, a fluid created in the liver that helps break down fats in the small intestine. Increasing the flow of bile helps remove (via the stool) the testosterone by-products that cause acne, protects the intestinal lining in Chron’s disease, and relieves constipation, including constipation in irritable bowel syndrome.

Alcoholism, cirrhosis, and hepatitis. Silymarin, an extract of milk thistle, acts on the membranes of the liver cells, preventing the entry of virus toxins and other toxic compounds and thus preventing damage to the cells. It also dramatically improves liver regeneration in hepatitis, cirrhosis, mushroom poisoning, and other diseases of the liver.

Arteriosclerosis, gallstones, varicosities and/or hemorrhoids, high cholesterol, and iron overload. By stimulating protein synthesis in the liver, milk thistle lowers total cholesterol and helps the liver convert low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad" cholesterol) into high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good" cholesterol). Of equal importance, milk thistle prevents cholesterol that has been excreted into the bile from being reabsorbed into the body, and the milk thistle component, silibinin, stops the oxidation of LDL cholesterol into a form that creates plaques in the lining of artery walls. This prevents cholesterol from gathering into artery-clogging plaques on arterial walls, which slows arteriosclerosis. In addition, milk thistle lowers the cholesterol content of bile, which reduces the chances of gallstone formation.

Cancer. Some breast cancers (as well as other forms of cancer) are stimulated by the hormone estrogen. Laboratory studies find that silybin, a chemical found in milk thistle, completes for the receptor sites that would receive estrogen in these kinds of cancer cells. Scientists at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, have found that silymarin stops the growth of breast cancer cells, both within tumors, and, more important, before anchoring themselves in other organs of the body.

Mice given milk thistle compound silibinin in a very large dose (equivalent to 30 grams, or approximately 1 ounce, for a 110 pound adult) were completely shielded from kidney damage during treatment with the cancer chemotherapy agent cisplatin (Platinol). Another study found that in addition to protecting the kidneys from damage by either cisplatin or doxorubicin, silybin increases the cancer-fighting effectiveness of the two drugs. Tests also indicate that silibinin protects against the toxic effects of cisplatin and isofamide therapy without diminishing their effects on testicular cancers.

Milk thistle acts against liver cancer by protecting specialized immune cells in the liver known as Kuppfer cells. These cells engulf bacteria, toxins, and other foreign matter coming into the liver, and also play a role in destroying cancer cells that have entered blood circulation as a first step in spreading to other parts of the body. Silibinin in milk thistle protects the Kuppfer cells from inflammatory reactions without interfering with the action of an immune-system chemical called tumor necrosis factor alpha, which accelerates the destruction of cancer cells by the immune system. Although recovery from liver cancer is exceedingly rare, there is at least one report of milk thistle leading to recovery.

Scientists at the Center of Cancer Causation and Prevention in Denver, Colorado, have reported that one of the components of milk thistle, silibinin, causes differentiation of prostate cancer cells, inducing them to return to a normal life cycle. This effect is independent of the action of genes that "patrol" for and destroy cancer cells and may slow the growth of the rare but deadly strains of prostate cancer that do not respond to hormone therapy.

Diabetes. Chronic liver damage sometimes results in a form of diabetes in which the liver is no longer able to respond to insulin. This condition, known as insulin resistance, is very difficult to treat. In a double-blind study of sixty patients who had both alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver and diabetes, twelve months of treatment with a daily dosage of silymarin resulted in significantly lowered fasting blood-glucose levels, with less glucose spillover into the urine and lower proportions of glycosylated hemoglobin, a measurement of the "stickiness" of red blood cells caused by elevated blood sugars.

Milk thistle can fight diabetes in other ways. Insulin not only transports glucose into muscle cells, but also transports fatty acids into fat cells. Silymarin stimulates the liver so that it can take excessive amounts of insulin out of the bloodstream in people with type 2 diabetes or diabetes arising from alcoholic damage to the liver. By regulating the amount of insulin in circulation, silymarin treatment counters weight gain stimulated by excessive amounts of insulin in the bloodstream. In addition, animal studies indicate that milk thistle
extract can reduce ketoacidosis, a complication of prolonged, uncontrolled diabetes in which the body is forced to use fats rather than glucose for fuel, producing severe, toxic effects on the central nervous system.

Ovarian cysts and seizure disorders. Milk thistle can help protect the liver against the toxic effects of many prescription medications used to treat ovarian cysts and seizure disorders.

Parkinson's disease. Milk thistle maintains the body's supply of the antioxidant glutathione, which helps slow the progress of the disease. The herb also lessens constipation and heartburn, digestive problems that commonly occur in people with Parkinson's disease.

Psoriasis. Naturopathic physicians report that milk thistle reduces the frequency of psoriasis outbreaks. Because psoriasis is associated with toxins in the blood, Silymarin (with its detoxifying action) can be useful in the treatment of this condition. Silymarin also reduces the body's production of substances (called leukotrienes) known to worsen
psoriasis.

The Many Benefits of using Milk Thistle
Beyond the treatment of liver disorders, everyday care of the liver lays a cornerstone for total body health. Naturopaths and others, who look
beneath the symptoms of an illness to its underlying cause, often discover that the liver has had a role to play. This is true across a vast
range of different ailments from headaches to PMS.

Milk thistle can be taken as a preventive measure, particularly if a person eats chemically processed foods, is exposed regularly to foreign
compounds that require detoxification, has a known liver disease or family history of liver disease, or drinks alcohol regularly. Milk Thistle
can also aid in the detoxification process during healing crisis.

Milk Thistle is highly effective as an antioxidant herb, particularly with its ability to protect the liver from free radical damage. Its component
Silymarin is at least ten times more potent as an antioxidant than Vitamin E.

The liver has an influence over every inch of the human body and it is vital that this organ be allowed to perform its many roles with
efficiency because:

So, a healthy liver is important for everyone but especially those who:

Are there any side effects or interactions?
Milk thistle extract is virtually devoid of any side effects and may be used by most people. Since silymarin stimulates liver and gallbladder
activity, it may have a mild, transient laxative effect in some people. This will usually cease within two to three days.

Milk thistle has been reportedly used by pregnant and breast-feeding women; in fact, it has been recommended as a treatment for itching
due to poor gallbladder function during pregnancy. Although Milk Thistle is an extremely safe herb and food, it is recommended that if
pregnant or lactating, you should consult with your physician before using (due to lack of data). There have been very few clinical tests on
milk thistle or any herb for women during pregnancy.

Milk Thistle aids detoxification by supporting and protecting the liver. Pollutants, toxic medications and exposure to infectious organisms
underscore the need for liver protection. The liver has the responsibility of filtering out toxins, activating and breaking down
hormones, activating some B vitamins and the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates. When the liver is over-worked and not functioning
properly, all parts of the body are affected. Take good care of your liver by avoiding skin care and food products that contain pesticides
and toxic materials. Avoid chemical exposure whenever possible and support your liver with SFHF Milk Thistle Combo. A healthy,
functioning liver is a basis to achieving good health. Milk thistle offers a reliable and safe solution.

St. Francis Herb Farm, Inc.. (SFHF) is dedicated to providing natural remedies made from Certified Organic and Wildcrafted Herbs, and promoting sustainable agriculture and conscientious harvesting and processing. SFHF has been carefully manufacturing medicinal herbs for over 20 years. Nestled in the sweet pine woods and rich, earthy flatlands of Ontario's Ottawa Valley, SFHF is dedicated to producing only the best quality products from 100% natural ingredients and has earned an outstanding reputation with naturopathic doctors, healthcare practitioners and natural health food stores alike.
Through education and research, SFHF is helping people rediscover the wisdom of using natural remedies for complete healing. With the help of clinical research and their relationship with supportive naturopathic doctors, SFHF is able to continually broaden the healing spectrum of their products and investigate new formulas, processes and concepts that enhance healing capabilities, and increase the reliability of services, including product development. SFHF's goal is to support people on their journey to wholistic health by providing them with pure, simple, and effective natural products they can trust.
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SFHF products on sale this month:

Canadian Bitters Combo Digestion, Cholesterol
Milk Thistle Combo Liver Congestion (Detoxification) and Rebuilding
EchinaSeal Combo Echinacea Combo, Bacterial Infections, Colds, Flu & Immunity
Astragalus Combo Immunity, Viral Infections, Counter the effects of Radiation