Milk Thistle: Health Benefits and Concerns

Milk Thistle: Health Benefits and Concerns

Milk thistle has been used for over a millennium to treat different health conditions and promote general healthiness for the body.  This bitter tasting herb is a great anti-toxin that can also boost protein synthesis, act as a decongestant, and control weight.  Some negative side effects are present in a few people.  Like all natural medicines, it is not regulated by the FDA; nonetheless, it is quite a useful herb if you are not one of the unlucky few to trigger any negative effects.

Six Good Reasons to Use Milk Thistle

 Milk thistle primarily aids the body by boosting the health and functioning of a few key organs.  What follows is a list of six of the most common and useful benefits of this herb.  Always remember when using natural remedies that your doctor should be consulted for any treatment of more serious issues.

Fights Cancer

Silymarin, an antioxidant substance that is commonly used to fight liver disease, has consistently shown that it slows or stops the growth and development of cancerous cells for breast cancer, cervical cancer, and prostate cancer.  However, this has only been tested in a controlled environment, and not in humans.

Promotes a Healthy Gallbladder

One of the more popular milk thistle uses is to make bile more soluble, thus making saturated bile carry cholesterol out of the gallbladder more regularly.  This allows for greater function of the gallbladder and a heavily decreased risk of developing gallstones.  This is also done by the same substance the fights cancer (silymarin).

 

Great for the Liver

Swelling, jaundice, and hepatic pain are just a few of the things that can go wrong in the liver.  Milk thistle seeds contain flavonoids that help protect and rejuvenate the liver.  These flavonoids also boost the immune system and stabilize cells, resulting in a heightened resistance to common illnesses as well as more serious complications.  This can range from something as simple as heartburn to something as serious as hepatitis, cirrhosis, or ot her diseases.

Makes Skin Healthy

Psoriasis and other skin conditions can be dispelled through the use of this herb.  Milk thistle uses its liver-health properties to purge the skin and bloodstream of toxins and waste material.  Thus, while it does not directly help the skin, it does so indirectly by providing a boost in the functions that keep one’s skin safe.

Control Cholesterol

As described above, the function of the gallbladder is increased by silymarin, improving the body’s cholesterol usage.  The same compound affects cholesterol overall by reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increasing levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol significantly.  It works far better than most available drugs, which also typically do not affect good cholesterol in any way.

Fight Obesity

Finally, one of the more applicable daily benefits of milk thistle is that it can be used to combat obesity, which has been declared a worldwide epidemic.  Due to the improvement of functioning of the liver, the metabolic rate at which fat is broken down, expelled, used or stored is greatly increased.  Weight loss, while still requiring some work, will become much, much easier.

What to Watch Out For

 

With all of the fantastic milk thistle benefits, you may be wondering: what does milk thistle do that is bad?  The range of side effects are actually fairly abundant, though they are rare and mostly attributed to allergies.  It is good practice to investigate the side effects, allergy warnings, and drug interactions with any product prior to using it in any amount.  Also, if possible, contact your doctor for more individualized information and advice regarding milk thistle.

More common side effects include loss of appetite, heartburn, bloating, and diarrhea.  Milk thistle is actually used to treat heartburn, but again, different people have different reactions to this plant.  The list of rare (in some cases, extremely rare) side effects include general weakness, feeling lethargic, and impotence.

Allergic reactions associated with this herb include what one might typically expect from plant-based allergies; hives, swelling, rashes, and trouble breathing.  Most allergies, if extreme enough, can always carry the potential to induce anaphylaxis.  As such it is best to start taking milk thistle in very small amounts, and increase the dose gradually to see if any negative reactions occur.

In the event of a negative side effect, greatly reduce your use of milk thistle.  If it is a more serious effect, cease use altogether and seek medical attention immediately.  Some low-end supplements can be chemically altered, resulting in undesirable effects and decreased potency of benefits; as such it is best to either buy from a well-known, trusted supplier, or of course harvest the herb on your own.

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Sagar is co-founder and CTO at Multia, a leading creative agency in Pune. He started his venture when he was 16, he has won numerous international and national web development competitions and has worked on 100+ web, mobile and online marketing projects. He’s a globe-trotter and has traveled to San Francisco, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Dubai, Jakarta and Bali Islands.
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