If you or a loved one has ever researched how to support the liver naturally, information about milk thistle likely surfaced repeatedly. While there is plenty of evidence connecting milk thistle use to improvements in liver health, many are unaware of this herbal supplement’s other potential benefits.
For more than 2,000 years, milk thistle has been a respected herbal remedy for a variety of health ailments. A plant native to the Mediterranean region, milk thistle is a member of the asteraceae family, which also includes sunflowers and daisies. Its active ingredient is silymarin, a compound extracted from milk thistle seeds. Silymarin is a flavonoid, which experts believe is behind milk thistle’s many healthful properties – such as protecting and strengthening liver cells, being a potent antioxidant and acting as an antiviral and anti-inflammatory agent.
Milk thistle’s role in supporting and protecting the liver is widely known. Milk thistle:
- Reduces inflammation and scarring in the liver – partly due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Strengthens liver cells – preventing free radical damage.
- Deflects damage by toxins – silymarin inhibits the binding of toxins to liver cell membrane receptors.
- Increases glutathione – a powerful antioxidant that is needed for liver detoxification.
- Encourages new liver cell growth by stimulating protein synthesis.
However, milk thistle’s value to the human body does not end with the liver. This invaluable herb has other desirable characteristics.