Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum )
This herb has been known as a traditional liver tonic for centuries and more than 100 scientific research papers and a symposia have been produced on its liver healing properties, Reference Aust. Journal Medical Herbalism Vol 4 (1), 1992. Milk Thistle is also known as Silybum marianum, Silymarin or St Mary's Thistle. Milk Thistle has multiple actions; these are liver-protective, liver-regenerative, anti-hypoglycaemic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Milk Thistle can be used with benefit in the following conditions:
bile stagnation (cholestasis)
alcohol and chemical induced fatty liver
Clinical and laboratory studies and tissue examinations, both in humans and animals have found Milk Thistle to have beneficial effects in treating all of the above.
Milk Thistle has been found to reduce toxic fatty degeneration of the liver.
In 1969, the renowned phalloidine experiment was carried out by the researchers Vogel and Temme, Reference Arzneim Forsch 1969; 19:613-615. During this test, St Milk Thistle was proven to be liver protective. Phalloidine is extremely toxic to the liver. Milk Thistle can block its toxic effects, which indicates that it has powerful liver-protective capability.
Not only is this remarkable herb liver protective, it has also been found to help liver cells (hepatocytes) repair and regenerate themselves after they have been damaged. Milk Thistle contains a flavone which protects some of the intracellular components of liver cells (mitochondria and microsomes) from lipid peroxidation; this protective effect was 10 times more powerful than that of vitamin E.
The powerful detoxification enzymes in the liver that break down drugs and toxic chemicals are called the cytochrome P450 enzymes. These enzymes are improved by one of the components of Milk Thistle called silibinin.
A 3-month study following 67 patients with chronic hepatitis, toxic liver damage and biliary inflammation found that Milk Thistle greatly helped their liver disease. Reference: Talalaj S. A research paper--Silybum marianum. Sydney: NHAA, 1985.
The same study found that patients with alcoholic cirrhosis had a significantly higher survival rate if treated with Milk Thistle.