Milk Thistle Extract is basically made from the hard fruit achene (achene refers to a seed surrounded by a wall such as that of the sunflower) of the Silybum marianum plant, a species of an annual or biennial plant of the Asteraceae family. It is originally a native of Southeast Europe to Asia but can now be found throughout the world. The name Milk Thistle is derived from the milky sap that comes out of the leaves of the plant when they are broken. The plant’s use can be dated back thousands of years ago as a treatment for liver and gallbladder problems.
As a food source, Milk Thistle has several purposes. Its leaves are trimmed of prickles and boiled to be used as a spinach substitute. They can also be added raw with the flowers to salads. The roots of the plant may be eaten raw or boiled and buttered or par-boiled and roasted. The spiny bracts on the flower head are boiled up and eaten like globe artichoke. The stems on the other hand, can be soaked overnight to remove the bitterness and then stewed while the hard fruit is roasted as a coffee alternative. In addition to that, Milk Thistle was also used as a spring tonic due to scarcity of green vegetables after winter. (2)
Traditionally, Milk Thistle Extract has been used as an antidote for poisonous mushrooms. When an individual accidently consumes the ‘deathcap’ mushroom, toxic effects occur immediately. Now when milk thistle is consumed within 10 minutes after ingestion of the mushroom, toxicity can be completely prevented. If milk thistle is consumed 24 hours thereafter, liver damage would be lessened.
But, what is inside the Milk Thistle plant that gives us its health benefits? Basically, the primary active compound that may be attributed to Milk Thistle’s effects is Sylimarin. Sylimarin belongs to the flavonoid group composed silidianin, silicristin, and silibinin, each of which has its own benefit that leads to Sylimarin’s use. Now, Sylimarin works as an antioxidant that targets toxins and free radicals that could harm the body. It has been said that Sylimarin’s antioxidant activity is at least 10 times more potent than Vitamin E. Sylimarin also increases glutathione activity in the liver, wherein glutathione is responsible for detoxifying various hormones, drugs and chemicals. Moreover, Sylimarin helps the liver repair itself by growing new cells. This is through stimulating protein synthesis in the liver, which then results in the production of new liver cells. Most extracts are standardized to 70% to 80% of the active ingredient Sylimarin. (2) (3)
Because of Sylimarin’s effect on the liver, Milk Thistle has been used to repair and prevent liver damage caused by chemicals and environmental toxins. It also has applications for jaundice, chronic inflammatory liver disease, liver cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis. Moreover, Milk Thistle Extract has also been used for allergies, diabetes, depression, hangover, increasing breast milk flow, malaria, menstrual flow, uterine complaints, prostate cancer, and diseases of the spleen. Also, it is used for melancholia, loss of appetite, heartburn, dyspepsia, and gallbladder complaints. Women also use this extract to increase milk secretion.
In addition to that, the Vogel Milk Thistle Complex contains Dandelion, Artichoke, Peppermint and Boldo. It is considered a liver tonic and detoxification remedy for hangover and fat embolism. Generally, the adult dose is 15 to 20 drops, administered two times daily, in water. Signs and symptoms of liver problems include lethargy, anemia, problem skin, metallic taste in the mouth, bad periods, weight gain around the abdomen, and difficulties with temperature regulation When cleansing the liver, avoid alcohol, coffee, dairy products, refined sugar, and fatty, fried foods.
Researchers show that when Milk Thistle is used in combination with antihistamines, the symptoms of allergic rhinitis are significantly reduced as compared to taking antihistamines alone. The extract can also be combined with other herbs to reduce the severity of acid reflux, nausea and vomiting, cramping, and stomach pain.
Taking sylimarin with regular diabetes treatment can help regulate normal blood sugar levels, can reduce total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL bad cholesterol levels. It can even help treat kidney diseases in people with diabetes. Moreover, some researchers suggest that Milk Thistle Extract may help increase hemoglobin levels (protein in the blood responsible for carrying oxygen), for people having hemodialysis.
1. Proper Milk Thistle Extract dosage and frequency
As for any drug or supplement you are taking in, it very important to know the proper dosage, frequency and administration for you to attain the effects that you wanted. So as with Milk Thistle Extract, how much of it does our body really need? For treating seasonal allergies such as allergic rhinitis, a dose of 140 mg may be administered three times daily. For treating dyspepsia or upset stomach, a specific combination product containing milk thistle and several other herbs may be used in a dose of 1 mL, three times daily. For supplementation of Milk Thistle Extract and treatment of other disease, it is best to consult your doctor for proper dosage. (3)
When starting with any new drug or supplement, it would be best to start off with the lowest possible dose to see how you respond and then gradually increasing it over time. You might also want to consider consulting your doctor or healthcare provider first since a person’s condition and health status may play a role.
2. Milk Thistle Extract safety and side effects
The use of herbs such as Milk Thistle Extract has been considered safe to use and is well tolerated. However, some side effects have been reported such as nausea and vomiting, stomach upset, diarrhea, intestinal gas, bloating, fullness or pain and rashes from touching milk thistle plants (1) (3).
3. Precautions and Contraindications to Milk Thistle Extract use
Some people may not be suitable to use Milk Thistle Extract since their condition may affect the efficacy of the supplement and may cause harm to them.
Pregnant and lactating mothers should not use Milk Thistle Extract since there have not been any evidences to prove its safety among this specific population. People who have allergy to ragweed and related plants are also contraindicated to use Milk Thistle Extract. It is because the herb may cause an allergic reaction to people who are sensitive to the Asteraceae or Compositae plant family. This includes avocados, daisies and ragweed. In worse cases, allergic reactions may lead to anaphylactic shock. On the other hand, Milk Thistle has certain chemicals in it that may lower blood sugar levels in people with Diabetes. Because of this, great precaution should be emphasized and dosing adjustments should be made. (3)
If you are a woman suffering from hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids, refrain from using Milk Thistle Extract. This is because the plant may act like an estrogen and using it may worsen the individual’s condition. However, the more commonly used milk thistle seed extract do not seem to act like estrogen. (3)
4. Drug interactions to Milk Thistle Extract
A number of drugs and supplements have been found to interact with Milk Thistle Extract. This includes medications changed by the liver such as Glucuronidated drugs and CYP2C9 substrates. (3)
In addition to that, other medications that could interact with Milk Thistle Extract include, but are not limited to: • Antipsychotics such as haloperidol and chlorpromazine • Phenytoin (Dilantin) for seizures • Halothane for general anesthesia • Birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy • Antiplatelet and anticoagulant drugs such as clopidogrel and warfarin • Anti-anxiety drugs such as diazepam and lorazepam • Allergy drugs such as fexofenadine (Allegra) • Drugs for high cholesterol such as the Statins • Some cancer drugs (1) (3)
You can purchase Milk Thistle Extract online. Drug is available over the counter and thus, does not need any prescription from your doctor.
Supplements are sold in 200 mg capsule and each 200 mg milk thistle condensed extract contains approximately 140 mg Silymarin. Some herbal medicine manufacturers make products that contain the leaves so be sure that your milk thistle is made from the hard fruit of the plant. In relation to that, researchers have proven that the active compound, Sylimarin is contained in the fruit which contains the seed, and not in the leaves.
Buy Milk Thistle Extract now and experience its various health benefits.References:
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