Milk thistle for the liver: how it works and how to apply

The Importance of Liver Health

The liver is one of the most important and multitasking organs in our body. It plays a key role in many bodily functions:

Detoxification: The liver is actively involved in the process of cleansing the body of toxins. It converts and neutralizes many harmful substances that we get from food, air, medicines, etc.

Metabolism: The liver plays an important role in the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, converting them into the energy necessary for the functioning of the body.

Production of biologically active substances: the liver produces many important substances, including blood proteins, bile (necessary for the digestion of fats), blood clotting factors, and many others.

Participation in the immune system: the liver participates in the processes of immune defense, filtering the blood from pathogenic microorganisms.

The Importance of Liver Care

Liver care is important for maintaining overall health and well-being:

  • Disease prevention: Proper liver care helps prevent the development of many diseases.
  • Maintaining the health of the body: Since the liver plays an important role in many processes, taking care of the health of the liver contributes to the overall health of the body.
  • Lifespan: A healthy liver can improve the quality and longevity of life, preventing the development of serious diseases.

Liver care includes a healthy lifestyle, including proper nutrition, moderate exercise, giving up bad habits (alcohol, tobacco), as well as regular medical examinations for early detection of possible problems.

What is Milk Thistle?

All about milk thistle: benefits and contraindications

Milk thistle is a valuable plant that has unique properties that have a beneficial effect on liver function.

Milk thistle contains a large amount of nutrients that will help in cleansing and maintaining the health of the body. The active ingredients in milk thistle are a group of plant compounds known collectively as silymarin.

Below are some of its beneficial properties:

  • Liver protection: Milk thistle is one of the most well-known plants that helps protect and repair the liver. Studies have shown improvements in liver function in people with liver disease who have taken milk thistle supplements, suggesting that it may help reduce inflammation and liver damage.
  • Detoxification: Milk thistle helps eliminate toxins from the body, supporting liver function and improving metabolic processes. Milk thistle is also used to protect the liver from toxins such as amatoxin, which is produced by the toadstool fungus and is deadly if ingested.
  • Digestive Support: Can improve digestion by promoting the production of bile, which helps in the digestion of fats.
  • Antioxidant effects: The silymarin in milk thistle has a powerful antioxidant effect that helps protect the body from free radicals. Although more research is needed, there is evidence that milk thistle reduces liver damage caused by free radicals, which are formed when the liver metabolizes toxic substances.
  • Immune System Support: Can strengthen the immune system by increasing the body’s resistance to various infections.

Biochemical composition of milk thistle

The ability of milk thistle to affect the functioning of the liver is due to its rich biochemical composition. It contains silymarin , a complex of flavonolignans, which has a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect. Milk thistle also contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, amino acids, minerals and B vitamins, which are necessary for normal liver function.

History of the use of milk thistle for the liver

Milk thistle has been used for centuries in folk medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including liver problems. Its benefits and unique properties have been known since ancient times.

The medicinal properties of milk thistle have been known since ancient times, when it was used to treat diseases of the liver and gallbladder, as well as for various poisonings, including snake and insect bites, mushrooms and alcohol. The first to describe the beneficial properties of the plant was Theophrastus. Later (I century AD) they are mentioned by the Greek physician Dioscorides and Pliny the Elder, who considered this plant “an excellent means for draining bile.”

The use of milk thistle as a medicine is systematically mentioned by many prominent scientists of the Middle Ages and later.

However, the real scientific breakthrough in the study of the medicinal properties of milk thistle in liver diseases occurred relatively recently – in the middle of the last century, when scientific research on milk thistle began. Silymarin turned out to be especially valuable (the main biologically active substances of milk thistle fruits are flavonolignans, known collectively as silymarin, the main components of this complex are silybin, or silibinin). This substance has a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect, helps to restore liver cells and protects them from the harmful effects of toxins and free radicals.

Today, milk thistle is widely used in traditional and complementary medicine to support liver health, and it can be found in the form of a tea, capsule, powder, or extract.

The mechanism of action of milk thistle on the liver

Silymarin has several mechanisms of action. First, it enhances the stability of the cell membranes of liver cells, preventing the penetration of toxins into them. Secondly, it stimulates liver regeneration, accelerating the process of cell renewal. And finally, it has an antioxidant effect, protecting the liver from free radicals that can cause damage to the liver.

Indications for use of milk thistle

Milk thistle is usually recommended for the following conditions and diseases:

  1. Hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver induced by alcohol, drugs or toxins (confirmed by clinical studies).
  2. Presented in pharmacopoeias and systems of traditional medicine – dyspepsia (disruption of the normal activity of the stomach and intestines), gallstones.
  3. Described in folk medicine, but not confirmed by experimental or clinical studies, are amenorrhea, constipation, diabetes mellitus, hay fever, uterine bleeding, varicose veins.

Symptoms and signs indicating the need for milk thistle

It is important to remember that many liver problems in the initial stages can occur without obvious symptoms. However, there are certain signs and symptoms that may indicate liver problems and, accordingly, the potential need for milk thistle:

  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Dark color of urine.
  • Discomfort in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen.
  • Yellowness of the skin and sclera.
  • Discolored stools.
  • Swelling.

If you have any of these symptoms, be sure to see your doctor. Don’t forget that self-medication can be dangerous and it’s important to get professional medical advice before starting milk thistle or any other dietary supplement.

It is important to understand that milk thistle is a supportive agent and cannot replace complex medical treatment. It can be useful as an adjunct to your main treatment, but you should always consult your doctor before using it, especially if you have a chronic condition or are taking other medications.

How to apply milk thistle for the liver

Milk thistle is used in various forms: oil pressed from seeds, meal, alcohol and water extracts, herbal tea based on milk thistle fruits, milk thistle syrup. The dosage and duration of treatment are determined individually, but it is important to remember that the effectiveness of milk thistle is manifested with prolonged use.

For example, milk thistle fruits are recommended for adults. 1 teaspoon of fruit is poured with 1 cup of boiling water, infused for 10-20 minutes and filtered. Take warm, in small sips, 1 glass 3 times a day: in the morning on an empty stomach, at lunch 30 minutes before meals and at night before bedtime.

Milk thistle meal can be used to make tincture. To do this, pour 1 teaspoon of meal with 100 ml of boiling water and let it brew for 30 minutes. Drink 1 tablespoon 20 minutes before meals 1 time per day for 14 days.

Capsules Vioheals milk thistle forte is recommended for adults to use 1 capsule 3 times a day with meals, washed down with a glass of water. The course of admission is 1 month.

Side effects and contraindications

Despite its beneficial properties, milk thistle can cause side effects. At the first sign of malaise, stop using the plant and consult a doctor.

Milk thistle is contraindicated in children, during pregnancy and lactation, as well as in case of individual intolerance.

Conclusion

Milk thistle is a valuable source of active substances that can support the functioning of the liver and help it cope with the toxic load. Its use should be regular and long-term to achieve the best results.

Frequently Asked Questions

Milk thistle how to take?

The dosage of milk thistle may vary depending on the form of the drug and the purpose of administration. It is usually taken orally before meals. It is important to always follow the instructions for use and not exceed the recommended dosage.

What is the best milk thistle to take?

Milk thistle is available in various forms: capsules, tablets, seed powder, tea, tinctures and extracts. The choice of form depends on your preferences and the purpose of admission. It is important to buy products from reliable manufacturers to guarantee the quality of the product.

How long to take milk thistle?

The time of taking milk thistlemay vary depending on the purpose of administration and the individual characteristics of the body. Usually, the course of admission is from several weeks to several months. The duration of admission and breaks between courses should be discussed with the health care provider (doctor).

Literature:

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  2. Abenavoli L, Capasso R, Milic N, Capasso F. Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future. Phytother Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):1423-32. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3207. PMID: 20564545.
  3. Federico A, Dallio M, Loguercio C. Silymarin/Silybin and Chronic Liver Disease: A Marriage of Many Years. Molecules. 2017 Jan 24;22(2):191. doi: 10.3390/molecules22020191. PMID: 28125040; PMCID: PMC6155865.
  4. Ferenci P, Dragosics B, Dittrich H, Frank H, Benda L, Lochs H, Meryn S, Base W, Schneider B. Randomized controlled trial of silymarin treatment in patients with cirrhosis of the liver. J Hepatol. 1989 Jul;9(1):105-13. doi: 10.1016/0168-8278(89)90083-4. PMID: 2671116.
  5. Aller R, Izaola O, Gómez S, Tafur C, González G, Berroa E, Mora N, González JM, de Luis DA. Effect of silymarin plus vitamin E in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. A randomized clinical pilot study. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2015 Aug;19(16):3118-24. PMID: 26367736.

Author: Natalia Kandybey, Candidate of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Quality Director of the Pharmaceutical Factory “Viola”