Milk Thistle: Benefits, Sources, Deficiency

In the present times, it is found all over the world – however, if you traced back and attempted to discover its humble origins, you would find that the plant originally hailed from South America – then reached parts of Europe, and subsequently Asia.

Scientifically referred to as Silybum marianum, this annual plant can be recognized through its shiny, pale green leaves and flowers that tend to be either of red or purple color. Scotch thistle (as it is also known) acts as a source for the extract Silymarin, which is a flavonoid.

The extract is famous among herbalists and practitioners of alternative medicine, who prescribe it to cure liver disorders.

Benefits of Milk Thistle

The presence of antihepatotoxic properties in the extract is responsible for aiding it in its most traditional use – protecting the liver cells against toxins.

However, its uses have extended far beyond just that – the extract is provided in order to treat cirrhosis, jaundice and hepatitis. Apart from this, it is also used in cases of cerebral edema, poisoning by amanitas and in acute hepatitis therapy.

Other manners in which it helps the liver are through its antioxidant properties – the liver is responsible for cleansing the blood. Milk thistle helps in this process by cleansing and detoxifying the liver, allowing it to function at its best. 

Apart from this, it helps protect the body from being on an overload of iron. Certain studies have also indicated that it may partly help with the damage caused to the liver because of excess alcohol.

When combined with traditional forms of treatment, milk thistle may help alleviate type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that there is a drop in the blood sugar levels of those who are suffering from type 2 diabetes, if they regularly consume milk thistle along with their other medication. 

Apart from this, the extract also improves insulin resistance – which is a very important factor in type 2 diabetes. (The improvement has been more significant in the event that the individual has also been ailing from cirrhosis.) 

Another manner in which milk thistle helps diabetics is by lowering the LDL cholesterol (‘Bad’

cholesterol) levels.

The benefits of milk thistle do not stop here. They aid in the reduction in the amount of damage caused to cells due to chemotherapy and radiation (if the person has been suffering from prostate, breast or cervical cancer).

It is also effective in the treatment of congestion in the kidneys, spleen and pelvic region. As milk thistle works as a natural chelating agent of iron, it is being used in the treatment process of blood disorders such as thalassemia.

Apart from this, it has a soothing and moisturizing effect on the mucous membrane, dry skin, bladder irritation – and can help cleanse impurities in the skin.

Studies have shown that if researched further, milk thistle may help with treating age-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s. Further research is also being conducted regarding its contribution to treating OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder).

Sources of Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is known by various other names, all of which refer to the same herb – and there are no known substitutes available for it. However, there is a choice regarding the form in which it is consumed – it can either be consumed with tea or in the form of a supplement.

Deficiencies of Milk Thistle

As milk thistle extract plays an important role in the efficient functioning of the liver, deficiency may lead to liver dysfunctions like jaundice, inflammation of kidneys and bladder, anaemia, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

However, not many studies have been conducted regarding the same – and as milk thistle is not an essential nutrient, it is possible that the symptoms experienced were due to another cause that reflected upon the body.


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