Everything you need to know about the properties and uses of milk thistle
In recent years, milk thistle has become very popular among people interested in a healthy lifestyle.
This is not surprising given all the beneficial health aspects associated with supplementing this plant daily.
The effect of milk thistle on the liver is especially appreciated.
What is milk thistle?
Milk thistle is a small Mediterranean plant belonging to the Asteraceae family. Currently, as a result of human activity,
it can be found not only in the original area of occurrence, but also in many other regions of the world. In Europe,
it is used as a cultivated plant with characteristic white spots on the leaves.
Milk thistle has been used in herbal medicine for centuries. The fruits of this plant are mainly used in the production of medicinal mixtures.
In the kitchen, its leaves are used as an addition to salads. In the production of moisturizing cosmetics, oil from its seeds is used.
Ground milk thistle is one of the forms of supplementation of this plant available on the market.
It is made by pulverizing the seeds, the part of the plant with the greatest accumulation of bioactive ingredients.
Ground milk thistle - pro-health properties
Scientific research clearly shows that a complex of chemical compounds commonly referred to as silymarin is responsible for the health-promoting properties of milk thistle. More than half of this complex is made up of a flavonoid called silybin. Other substances include: isolsylibin, silycristin, silidianin and taxifolin. The content of silymarin in the seeds is estimated at about 2-3%.
According to scientific research, ground milk thistle, and more specifically the silymarin it contains, has a strong antioxidant effect. The ability to neutralize free radicals is especially noticeable in hepatocytes, i.e. cells that build the liver. This is why milk thistle has been used in the treatment of many diseases of this organ, including non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. The publications also indicate the stimulating properties of silymarin in relation to the proliferation of healthy liver cells and its regeneration. Moreover, scientific sources emphasize the anti-inflammatory, antiviral and detoxifying activity of this complex of compounds from milk thistle.
Taking into account many scientific reports and studies, it is said that milk thistle has a very strong hepatoprotective effect. It can protect the liver against toxic factors, support its functioning and regeneration.
There are also studies pointing to the potential immunomodulatory properties of silymarin. It turns out that this compound may increase the level of T lymphocytes and interleukins, and lower the level of all types of immunoglobulins. This is a strong premise to claim that supplementation with ground milk thistle may improve immunity.
A lot of research has also focused on the anti-cancer properties of milk thistle. It has been shown that extracts from this plant inhibit the reproduction of cancer cells in the case of prostate, bladder, ovary, lung and breast cancer. Similar reports concern, inter alia, oral cavity and skin cancers.
Scientific publications also indicate the potential use of milk thistle in the treatment of memory disorders. There are studies confirming the neuroprotective effects of silymarin on the central nervous system.
Scientists are also studying the effects of milk thistle supplementation on blood glucose levels. There are grounds for claiming that this plant maintains plasma sugar levels constant, making it a potential good remedy for preventing the development of type II diabetes.
How does milk thistle work in the human body?
According to scientific research, milk thistle has a protective effect on liver cells and inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells. This activity of compounds contained in Mediterranean seeds is based on several different processes and properties.
Scientific publications indicate that the protection of healthy liver cells and the prevention of their abnormal changes is mainly due to the antioxidant properties of silymarin, especially the silybin contained in it.
The second mechanism indicated by scientists is the mechanical prevention of toxins from entering cells. The chemicals in milk thistle bind to the membrane receptors of liver cells, preventing harmful substances from acting on hepatocytes.
Furthermore, scientific papers also describe the anti-inflammatory effects of milk thistle. The active compounds contained in it inhibit the migration of neutrophils and the synthesis of leukotrienes and prostaglandins. This has a limiting effect on the formation of inflammation.
Silymarin also inhibits the proliferation of stellate cells and transforming them into myofibroblasts. Ultimately, this leads to a reduction in the fibrotic processes that take place in the liver.
Ground milk thistle, how to use - dosage and contraindications to the use of milk thistle
Ground milk thistle is an easy and natural form of silymarin supplementation. The powder can be consumed immediately after spreading it in a small amount of drink or added to dishes, cocktails or desserts. There are even studies that confirm the possibility of adding milk thistle to home-made bread. Due to the natural origin of the raw material, it is not possible to accurately determine the amount of silymarin contained in the finished product. For this reason, it is also difficult to take one specific dose that matches the needs of each organism. However, it is assumed that the recommended dose is 2-3 teaspoons of ground milk thistle per day.
It is noteworthy that the active substances in milk thistle may interact with other medications. Research shows that the silymarin contained in the seeds of this plant directly affects the functions of the liver. This organ is the primary breakdown site for all drugs. For this reason, the supplementation of milk thistle in any form by people taking other medications must be consulted with a doctor. People with diabetes should also be careful about milk thistle. The substances contained in the seeds can cause an undesirable drop in sugar levels in diabetics.
In general, however, milk thistle is considered a safe supplement. Most people can consume it without worrying about any side effects.