Milk thistle for natural liver support
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum), also known as St. Mary’s thistle, has been used for over 2,000 years as a herbal remedy for a variety of ailments, particularly those relating to the liver and gallbladder.1 It’s still recognized as a natural liver tonic today and found to have a number of health benefits.
The liver is a hard-working and vital organ with a number of important functions. Among its principle roles, the liver:2
- Acts as a ‘filter’ for the body, removing chemicals, metabolic waste and other toxins by neutralizing them and converting them into less harmful substances. Toxins may be breathed in, consumed or produced as by-products of normal body processes.
- Produces bile, which is stored in the gallbladder and used to breakdown fats and to absorb fat soluble vitamins including vitamins A, D, E and K.
- Converts carbohydrates into glucose for instant energy and converts glucose into its storable form as glycogen.
- Supports the production of body proteins such as hormones, which are needed for various functions.
Milk thistle has been found to have a number of effects on normal liver health and function including:
- Enhances normal liver activities
- Provides hepatoprotective properties (helps protect liver cells). The liver is constantly exposed to all manner of toxic substances and may be susceptible to injury.
- Supports the regeneration of the liver
- Sustains the detoxification capacity of the liver
- Maintains liver and gallbladder health
- Provides antioxidant effects
- Exerts anti-inflammatory effects
The major constituent of milk thistle, which is believed to be responsible for these liver effects, is silymarin. This compound is actually a mixture of substances called flavonolignans including silybin A, silybin B, silydianin and silychristin.1 A good quality milk thistle supplement will show in the ingredients list how much flavonolignans are in each dose.
When should I take milk thistle?
A milk thistle supplement may be beneficial for those who wish to protect their liver, enhance liver function and obtain daily support for this vital organ. By enhancing normal liver activities, including the production of bile, milk thistle may also benefit normal digestion. Look for a high strength formula, which has been standardized for silymarin content for the best results.
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Published February 24, 2015
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