Milk thistle is a flowering, herbaceous plant belonging to the daisy family. It features dense and prickly flower heads with reddish-purple flowers. The plant thrives in Mediterranean countries and has been naturalized in South and North America, Central Europe, and Southern Australia.
Note: The Right Flowers is not a medical site. Knowledge of and information about the therapeutic benefits and applications of flowers, while known through the ages, does not constitute medical advice. If you are having health issues, you should consult with a physician.]
Milk thistle has a long history as a natural remedy used to treat a wide range of health conditions including liver problems, type 2 diabetes, and cholesterol-related problems. Basically, the main active ingredient in this plant is silymarin.
During the first century, Pliny the Elder reported that the plant was commonly used to support liver health. Nicholas Culpeper, the English herbalist also claimed that it was effective for supporting normal liver functioning. At the turn of the 20th century, Eclectic physicians often used it to maintain optimal functioning of the liver.
So, what is milk thistle good for?
Supports liver health
Milk thistle is known for treating liver problems. A 2016 study showed that extracts from the plant alleviated liver damage in mice. Further research is needed to confirm whether milk thistle is beneficial to human liver just as it is good in mice.
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During the 2016 study, researchers found that silymarin, the active ingredient acts, has antioxidant properties and is ideal for lowering the production of free radicals. Scientists suggest that it probably works by creating a detoxifying effect, which explains why milk thistle alleviates liver problems.
Milk thistle has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds which are ideal for neuroprotection as a person ages. This explains why the plant has been used for more than 2,000 years to mitigate the effects of neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases which cause a decline in mental ability.
In animal and test-tube studies, silymarin seems to have protective effects against oxidative damage to brain cells which stalls mental decline. In addition, studies indicate that milk thistle is able to reduce the concentration of amyloid plaques in the brains of animals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid plaques are clusters of sticky amyloid proteins that accumulate between nerve cells due to aging and affect the ability of cells to interact with each other.
Enhances cancer treatment
Emerging evidence seems to suggest that the antioxidant effects of silymarin have anticancer properties. These are likely to be helpful to people undergoing cancer therapy which tends to have nasty after-effects. In addition, these properties hold the promise of enhancing chemotherapy, making it more effective against cancers.
Milk thistle seems to hold a lot of potential as a complementary remedy for various conditions including liver problems, diabetes, and cancer. However, more research is required to define and understand the full clinical effects of this beneficial herb.