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Milk Thistle: Protection for the Liver
©By Dori Cranmore R.N.
The liver is the largest organ inside the body with an amazing number of essential functions to perform. The liver transforms toxic compounds into non-toxic substances, filters blood from the intestines, produces bile, mixes essential nutrients, inactivates disease causing microorganisms, regulates glucose levels, stores fat-soluble vitamins, activates and deactivates hormones, provides a significant amount of the body’s heat and energy, helps regulates cholesterol and many other functions. How amazing!
Unfortunately when the liver becomes damaged or congested, it can adversely affect these functions causing a deterioration of one’s health. Poor liver function can directly affect metabolic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, thyroid dysfunction, and obesity. The most common cause of liver damage is fat accumulation in the liver known as a fatty liver. If it is left untreated it can progress to liver inflammation, fibrosis, hepatitis and cirrhosis. The American Liver Foundation estimates that over 50% of the population age 50+ has a “fatty liver”.
The liver is vitally important to good health so we must protect it. Milk Thistle or Silybum marianum, has been used throughout the world for 2000 years and is one of the most commonly prescribed herbs. There have been over 200 clinical studies over the last 30 years demonstrating the liver-protective activity of Milk Thistle. The main active ingredient is Silymarin and it is frequently referred to as this.
Currently, more than ever, the liver is up against multiple enemies constantly attacking it. Toxins such as environmental pollution, man made chemicals (60,000+), processed foods, synthetic medications, viruses and disease are forever trying to interfere with the livers functions.
Milk Thistle not only protects the liver against toxic damage but it also increases the production of new healthy liver cells to replace damaged cells. Studies have shown that the herb helps increase intracellular concentration of glutathione by 35%. Glutathione is a major antioxidant used to detoxify drugs such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), hormones and chemicals. Tissue depletion of glutathione is typically induced by moderate to heavy alcohol consumption.
It has the ability to protect the body from medication-induced liver damage and may also help psoriasis by reducing levels of circulating endotoxins. It has also been well indicated in patients with cancer who are under-going chemotherapy.
This herb has been known to prevent the build up of plaque in the arteries which cause hardening of the arteries. It contains vitamins A, B-complex, C and minerals including iron.
Milk Thistle has demonstrated no signs of toxicity, no restrictions on long-term use and no known contraindications or interactions with medications or ailments. Most references determine it safe for use during pregnancy and nursing but some still say it should not be used, however without clinical studies to back their reasoning. Many midwifes use it for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy with excellent results. It has been said that if you have a ragweed allergy to avoid Milk Thistle as it may cause a rash.
I was told by Dr Hugo Rodier MD, that by the time blood levels are elevated the body is already 50% malfunctioning somewhere. Just because the blood levels are “normal” doesn’t always mean we are “fine”. The body gives us warning signals, as symptoms, of underlying causes and we need to continue to protect the body from damage. Some signs of decreased liver function are general tiredness, fatigue, digestive upsets, constipation, allergies, chemical sensitivities and jaundice.

Dori Cranmore is a Registered Nurse, Herb Specialist and owner of All About Herbs Inc. Wasilla 376-8327. Call for your personalized consultation.