Milk Thistle Benefits, Uses And Side Effects

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Milk Thistle benefits for health are not much commonly known. However, you would be astonished to know about Milk Thistle benefits for liver, skin and more. Let's have a look!

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a powerful herb known for its liver cleansing, immunity boosting and blood sugar control benefits. Owing to its endless benefits, it forms a part of complementary medicine since over 2000 years especially in the European countries. 

Due to its strong ability to cure and prevent a large number of liver problems and other diseases with minimal side effects, it is often termed as the ‘liver herb’. The herb is named after the milky substance extracted from its leaves upon being crushed. Milk thistle is also called as ‘दुग्ध रोम’ in Hindi

Milk Thistle Benefits

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Milk Thistle Benefits & Uses
 
A. Treatment of Liver problems:
Milk Thistle seeds are used since ages for helping maintain the liver health and protect it from the harmful effects of toxins including alcohol, harmful drugs, pollutants and other diseases. The most common liver problems for which it is recommended most often include
  1.  Alcoholic Liver cirrhosis 
  2. Fatty liver or non-alcoholic fatty liver
  3. Hepatic Fibrosis or Fibrosis of liver
  4. Liver Cirrhosis
  5. Jaundice
  6. Conditions where it is necessary to use medicines or drugs that are toxic to the liver 
  7. Regular Alcohol abuse
  8. Liver toxicity caused due to use of steroids 
  9. Acute Viral Hepatitis. It also helps the body fight against infections during low immunity levels 
  10. Chronic Active Hepatitis
 
How Milk Thistle Helps in Liver Problems and Cause Liver Detox?
Silymarin is a bioflavinoid complex present in milk thistle which prevents various toxic substances from entering the liver cells hindering their absorption, delaying the damage and destruction of its cells. As a result, the injury to liver is minimized and recovery process of these cells is fastened. Milk thistle is also known to be a storehouse of the powerful protein ‘Glutathione’ which contains three extremely essential amino acids in our body. Glutathione present in silymarin renders its immune boosting, hepatoprotective and cancer preventing prowess. 
 
Milk Thistle Benefits for Diabetes

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B. Milk Thistle for Diabetes and Blood Sugar Control 
A recent review of a large number clinical trials was published in the Journal of Diabetes Research in June 2016 which showed that milk thistle has demonstrated a significant effect on lowering blood sugar levels as well the glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels in the blood. These well documented benefits of regulation of blood sugar level amongst diabetics also in turn helps delay the progession of numerous complications of diabetes such as diabetic nephropathy (diabetic kidney disease), diabetic neuropathy, diabetic retinopathy and others. 
 
C. Milk Thistle Benefits for Weight Loss 
Though the research on its direct effect on weight loss is still in its preliminary stages, it is frequently used as a supplement in many weight loss plans due to the below-mentioned properties:
  1. Its ability to maintain liver health and boost metabolism
  2. Besides maintaining liver health, its ability to regulate and maintain steady blood sugar levels prevents insulin resistance and aiding in weight loss. 
  3. With silymarin (the bioflavonoid complex of Milk thistle) possessing proven anti-inflammatory and rich antioxidant properties, its helps in faster muscle recovery post-work out
  4. Silymarin is also known to help increase the solubility of bile - the juice of liver and gall bladder. Proper digestion of food and fat metabolism are maintained when bile is healthy. This benefit of silymarin also helps prevent gall stones and maintains the health of gall bladder. 
  5. Researchers have also demonstrated that silybin present in milk thistle (silymarin) is known to reduce the size of fat cells on the body thus making it easier to burn these deposits.

D. Milk Thistle for Glowing Skin and Hair 
The rich antioxidant content present in it helps prevents the accumulation of free radicals beneath skin. This in turn prevents oxidative damage to the skin cells and delays aging The liver and colon cleansing effect of Milk thistle prevents the accumulation of toxins in the body thus also making the skin more radiant. It is known to possess a demulcent property wherein it forms a protective layer on healthy cells.
 
This property prevents the skin cells from getting damaged from external pollutants, harmful UVB radiations and heat. It is for these benefits that this herb also makes a great supplement to treat damaged hair and prevent hair loss.
 
E. Milk thistle may help prevent cancers as it scavenges free radicals and eliminates toxins.
 
F. Few studies conducted over the past decade have demonstrated that it lowers the bad cholesterol levels amongst diabetics. As a result, it is known to be good for heart. 
 
G. Milk thistle is also seen to help in digestion and prevent gastric cramps, bloating and stomach discomfort. This herb also has a mild laxative effect due to which it helps in bowel movements and ease elimination.
 
H. Milk Thistle for Hangover: Whether this herb helps a hangover is still debatable and an area where little research has been done. While it has been observed that heavy or chronic alcoholics do experience the liver protecting effects with the use of milk thistle, it may not have any benefits for moderate drinkers. This is because milk thistle interferes with the alcohol digestive enzyme (MEOS) produced amongst heavy drinkers. However, it does not interfere with ADH (alcohol dehydrogenase) – the alcohol digestive enzyme found in the liver of light or moderate drinkers. 
 
I. The rich antioxidant content of this 'liver herb' also helps prevent damage to nerves and cells during chemotherapy and radiotherapy
Milk Thistle Benefits

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Milk Thistle Dosage
Milk thistle is taken orally and commonly available in the form of supplement capsules, powders and tinctures. It is also available in combination with other herb extracts and teas. 
 
Dosage: The most commonly advised dose of milk thistle in a healthy adult is in the form of 1 capsule 2-3 times a day half an hour before a meal. However it is recommended to consult your health care provider or dietitian in order to know the right dosage for you. A well-balanced diet along with physical activity is essential to achieve optimum benefits. Researches have shown that it is safe to have this herb up to 41months
 
Side Effects of Milk Thistle
It is always advisable to consult your physician or healthcare provider before your begin taking Milk thistle.
 
The most commonly known side effects of Milk thistle include:
  1. Allergy: If you have a known allergy or reaction to daisy or sunflower plants, you should avoid taking it. 
  2. Woman who are breastfeeding or pregnant should  also avoid milk thistle
  3. It has been seen that this herb demonstrates similar effects as the female hormone estrogen. Women with uterus-related problems such as endometriosis or fibroids should, therefore, avoid its consumption. This also includes those who are suffering from ovarian, breast or uterine cancers.
  4. For those on anti-diabetic medications should always consult their physician before starting it as it has a significant effect on blood sugar. 
  5. Clinical trials conducted over the past few years also recommend avoiding the use of Milk Thistle amongst those using 'Warfarin' like blood thinners. 
What Does Milk Thistle Contain?
Milk thistle contains Silymarin – a bioflavonoid complex made up of 3 main types of bioflavonoids named as Silybin(also called as Silibinin), Silydianin and Silychristin. 
 
Amongst these 3 bioflavonoids, silymarin contains up to 50-70% silybin and most of its medicinal properties are attributed to silybin. Besides these 3 bioflavonoids, Milk thistle contains Vitamin E, proteins, sterols and other few ingredients. 

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