Using plants for detoxification is an ancient holistic approach towards prevention of diseases, and promotion of wellness. Milk thistle has been used medicinally to heal the liver since the late first century. As medical study advanced, along with the need to find alternative methods to promote a better and healthier life, extensive research was carried on to show that milk thistle may help in liver detoxification. Milk thistle and liver detox is being studied extensively as it maybe an essential aid for diseases where the normal liver functions are hampered.
What is Milk Thistle?
Native to the Mediterranean regions of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, milk thistles are flowering plants of the genus Silybum, and the family Asteraceae. Its scientific name is Silybum marinum. It is called milk thistle because it contains a milky sap, and the leaves are wide with white splash markings. The plant grows to a height of 4-10 feet. It bears red-purple colored flowers and small hard-skinned fruit. The seeds are produced in the flower heads, and are harvested mostly when black in color. One seed head can produce from 100-190 seeds. It is the seed which is full of powerful active component that has caught the attention of many people. These beneficial components can be extracted from its seed (powered) by using hot water at 85°C and 100°C for different components. Milk thistles are very adaptable plants and can grow in most parts of the world.
Functions of the Liver
The liver is the largest gland in the human body. It is responsible for filtering the blood, as all the blood in the body passes through the liver for cleansing. After cleansing, it neutralizes toxins directly, or converts them into fat or water-soluble forms. These toxins are stored in the bile and then passed on into the intestine for elimination. It converts carbohydrates and proteins into fat, and stores it along with vitamin A, D, B12, and copper and iron for later use. The liver helps to synthesize and control triglycerides and cholesterol levels. It also maintains hormone balance, and converts sugar into glycogen and stores it until required. The liver produces hundreds of vital enzymes needed for digestion and other functions. It prevents the blood from clotting while it is in circulation, and produces a clot when we get hurt.
Milk Thistle for Liver Detoxification
As the seeds of milk thistle ripen, they develop the powerful group of compounds called silymarin. Silymarin is a therapeutic group of flavonoids, which includes silibinin, silidianin, and silicristin. Its property of being an antioxidant controls and inhibits free radicals in the body. Free radicals oxidize the cells leading to many health complications like liver cancer, heart diseases, etc. It helps repair liver cells that are damaged by alcohol and other toxic substances, and aids in the treatment of cirrhosis and hepatitis. This plant is a very effective liver cleanser, and it also speeds liver regeneration after it is damaged.
Milk thistle comes in different forms like liquid, capsule, tablet, and tonic. Most preparations contain a standardized quantity of 70-80% of silymarin. People who wish to use this wonder plant, must consult a herbalist as well as his medical health representative before starting its use. This will help him understand its benefits and rule out the side effects, thus ensuring its correct usage for maximum health benefits.