The healing power of milk thistle
The prickly milk thistle has been used in the treatment of various liver problems for more than 2000 years, and many of the earliest healers were well acquainted with this valuable plant. The milk thistle is actually a member of the sunflower family, even though it features flowers of purple instead of yellow. The milk thistle plant has the ability to stimulate the flow of bile from the liver. It is this bile stimulation that is thought to account for the effectiveness of milk thistle in treating ailments of the liver and aiding digestion.
Modern research into the properties of milk thistle
Modern studies have backed up the findings of these ancient doctors, and have substantiated the fact that milk thistle does indeed help to protect the liver from damage, and even has the ability to heal damage that has already been done. In Europe today, many doctors consider the milk thistle plant a preferred treatment for liver disorders from cirrhosis to hepatitis.
Milk thistle appears throughout the world, including many parts of North America, both as cultivated plants and as wild varieties. Many scientific sources will refer to milk thistle by its scientific name, silybum marianum, or by its active compounds, known collectively as silymarin. There are concentrated stores of silymarni found in the black fruit of the plant, and those fruits are typically harvested at the end of summer.
Other uses of milk thistle
Even though milk thistle is most closely associated with treating ailments of the liver and digestive system, it has shown promise in treating a number of other ailments as well. Some of these ailments include such things as gallstones, high cholesterol, allergies and even skin cancer. Milk thistle is known to be a powerful antioxidant, and it is those antioxidant properties which may be responsible for the protective and healing effects of the herb.
Modern medicine uses an injectible form of milk thistle as a powerful antidote for those who have consumed poisonous mushrooms, and the extract has even been studied for possible use in minimizing the liver damage which often results from chemotherapy. It is thought that milk thistle has the ability to speed to elimination of toxins from the body, due to its effect on the liver and bile secretion.
Milk thistle is available in a wide variety of preparations, including tablets, soft gels, capsules and tinctures. Those using milk thistle to treat liver ailments are often advised to take a standardized extract of 400 to 600 mg every day, taken in three equal doses.
Milk thistle tea
While there are a number of recipes for teas made with milk thistle, most are far too weak to have significant health effects. Teas contain only trace amounts of silymarin, due to the inability of the substance to dissolve well in water. Products made from the leaf of the milk thistle are also of no medicinal value.
When buying milk thistle extracts, either at the local health food store or over the internet, it is important to look for standardized extracts, and to purchase products only from established and repeatable companies who use industry standard manufacturing processes. Good manufacturing processes are vital to maintaining and enhancing the healing power of milk thistle.