Milk thistle, also known as Silybum marianum within the scientific community, has been used for hundreds of years in order to primarily treat liver, kidney or gall bladder ailments. Although it is native to the Mediterranean region, it is now found in all parts of the world. Milk thistle, which is a plant that can reach up to ten feet in height, actually gets its name from the milky white sap obtained from the leaves when they are squashed.
Research has long ago demonstrated how valuable its most significant flavonoid, named silymarin, can be to the human liver. Back in 1986, milk thistle was finally approved for treating liver diseases. It is now regularly employed in cases related to alcoholic hepatitis, alcoholic fatty liver, cirrhosis, liver poisoning or viral hepatitis. It has also been shown to protect the liver from toxins created by medications such as acetaminophens, which are non-aspirin pain suppressors.
Whether you enjoy having occasional alcoholic beverages or regularly indulge in them, it's important that you know how milk thistle can protect your liver. Alcohol consumption makes the liver work very hard by trying to relieve the body of this unwanted substance in order to regain much needed homeostasis. Thankfully, silymarin helps repair liver cell damage from alcohol, or any other toxins for that matter, by increasing protein synthesis.
In at least five of the studies reported by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, tests showed it was possible to greatly improve liver functions in patients suffering from milder forms of alcoholic liver diseases. Unfortunately, it wasn't as effective with those afflicted by more serious conditions such as is the case with cirrhosis, characterized by permanent scarring and non-reversible damage.
Milk thistle considered for the treatment of hepatotoxicity in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia
Milk thistle has often been used in the past to contain chemotherapy-associated hepatotoxicity but with recent clinical research, its effectiveness was further confirmed. A total of fifty children suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia were randomly given either milk thistle or a simple placebo to evaluate the liver's response. On average, the milk thistle led towards lower toxicity levels within the children's livers, while not disturbing the chemotherapy agents in the process. More tests are needed in order to identify the most reliable doses, as well as the preferable length of treatments.
Some initial laboratory results make researchers believe that milk thistle's flavonoids may also have anti-cancer potential. Silymarin, with its strong antioxidant properties, has demonstrated the ability to restrain the growth of human prostate, cervical and breast cancer cells. More tests are required in order to confirm its effectiveness and safety.
Last but not least, a study conducted on animals revealed that silymarin was able to reduce bad cholesterol levels just as much as a drug called probucol, often prescribed to generate the same desired effects. Besides preventing higher toxicity within the body, silymarin also seemed capable of increasing HDL, or good cholesterol, levels.
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