I love herbs! And I love learning about them and working with them. I feel like it is one area that so many people don’t know much about. And yet the amazing benefits of medicinal herbs can’t be beat! Everyone should be using herbs for much more than just cooking! In fact, many plants that people view as weeds are full of nutrients and compounds that are actually very healing to the body. And I think that it’s important to teach more people about these amazing healing little plants! One herb that I personally use and that is particularly beneficial for your health is Milk Thistle (Silybum Marianum).
It has been well known as a medicinal herb, best known for it’s ability to draw toxins from the body. The seeds of the Milk Thistle plant contain the active compound silymarin. Silymarin is thought to be where the main healing benefits of this plant come from.
So how can milk thistle benefit your health?
1. Helps to detoxify and heal the liver
Milk thistle detoxifies and protects the liver. Approved as a treatment for liver disease in 1986, milk thistle is often used to help with cases of cirrhosis, fatty liver disease and hepatitis. It is used to prevent liver damage from long term use of acetaminophen and acetaminophen toxicity.
2. It’s a powerful antioxidant
Oxidative stress can take a toll on your health. Have you ever cut an apple and watched it turn brown inside once exposed to air? That is because of oxidative stress. While we can’t survive without oxygen, every time we breathe and take in oxygen, our mitochondria create free radicals as a byproduct. These free radicals ravage our cells and can cause damage. Antioxidants combat free radicals, neutralize them and prevent damage. The active component of milk thistle, Silymarin is a powerful antioxidant and can help to combat free radicals in your body. Milk thistle also prevents against the depletion glutathione levels. Glutathione is the master antioxidant in the body, and is important to help prevent disease.
3. Reduces inflammation
Systemic inflammation can actually lead to a host of chronic illness and diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, strokes, thyroid disorders, cancer, chronic pain and more. Besides being a powerful antioxidant, Silymarin also has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Reducing inflammation ultimately helps to reduce chronic illness.
4. Helps to control blood sugar levels
Insulin resistance otherwise known as “pre-diabetes” is a growing problem in the western world. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. It’s job is to help the cells use glucose as a source of energy. Insulin resistance occurs when some of a person’s cells aren’t using insulin in an effective manner. This can ultimately lead to diabetes. Milk thistle may decrease blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance.
5. Protects the brain
Silymarin is the most powerful component of milk thistle. It’s ability to cross the blood brain barrier allows it help protect brain function. It helps to prevent Alzheimer’s disease by obstructing the production of plaque in the brain. The plaque prevents normal communication between neurons. And it contributes to the cognitive decline of dementia and Alzheimer’s. It also protect the brain’s neurons and slows down the aging process.
6. Helps prevent and treat cancer
Some research on Silymarin is now showing that it may be effective at preventing the spread of cancer. In fact silymarin may prevent cancer cells from dividing and reproducing and can reduce the length of time that cancer cells are alive and active.
7. Prevents bone loss
We’ve already looked at the benefits of Silymarin for liver, cancer and inflammation, but a recent study has also looked at the benefit of it in healing bone fractures and preventing bone loss. It is particularly beneficial for post-menopausal women who experience osteoporosis as a result of changing estrogen levels.
There are only a few of the benefits of milk thistle. It has proven to be a powerful herb that has great healing potential. It is generally recognized as safe and has few side effects. Those that have been reported are typically mild and include gastrointestinal issues such as gas, diarrhea and bloating.