Milk thistle, or Silybum marianum, is a purple flowering prickly herb you often see growing along highways, in open pastures, crop fields, and undisturbed roadsides. In some states, such as California and Washington, milk thistle has been deemed a noxious weed.
The use of milk thistle as a herbal medicine has a history dating back over 2,000 years. Native to the Mediterranean region but now found throughout the world, milk thistle is one of the most researched plants for liver cleansing and support – but it is so much more. Its main active compound, silymarin, is thought to be responsible for many of its beneficial effects, including liver protection and antioxidant, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Here is what milk thistle can do for you
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – OCD is a common neuropsychiatric condition often treated with prescription medications. Many patients, however, cannot tolerate the side effects of these drugs or the medicines lose their effectiveness after a while. One study found that milk thistle can provide an alternative treatment which has shown to be as effective as Fluoxetine, a drug commonly used to treat OCD.
- Hepatitis C – In the past few years there has been an alarming increase in the number of adults seeking liver transplantations due to hepatitis C. To this day there is no effective treatment for chronic hepatitis C available since interferon and antivirals work only for 30 percent of the patients. Furthermore, a liver transplantation can be very painful, disabling, and extremely costly. But there is hope. Researchers from the Integrative Medical Center of New Mexico successfully treated three hepatitis C patients with alpha lipoic acid, milk thistle (silymarin), and selenium. All three patients avoided liver transplantation and recovered quickly from the life-threatening viral infection.
- Cancer – Multiple scientists have found that silymarin possesses anti-prostate cancer effects. Patients treated with milk thistle and selenium showed a significant reduction in prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Elevated PSA levels may indicate prostate cancer. In 2010, Chinese researchers studied the effect of another flavonoid found in milk thistle, silibinin. Their data revealed that silibinin’s strong anticancer properties inhibited cell growth, invasion, and metastasis of prostate cancer cells. In addition to fighting prostate cancer, milk thistle may also be helpful in the treatment or prevention of colon, colorectal, oral, and skin cancers. Furthermore, it may have beneficial effects against cancer metastasizing and toxicity from cancer drugs. (Related: Milk thistle extract shown to halt lung cancer progression in its tracks.)
- Rosacea – Rosacea is an inflammatory skin condition that can be notoriously difficult to treat. While most patients have never heard about this natural treatment, a combination of milk thistle and MSM(methylsulphonylmethane) has shown some amazing results. Application of a cream containing silymarin (a concentrated extract from milk thistle) and MSM resulted in improved hydration and color of the skin, and reduced redness, itching, and acne.
- Inflammation – Chronic inflammation is the culprit of many of our modern diseases. According to some scientists, silymarin outperforms piroxicam (feldene) and meloxicam (mobic) when it comes to reducing inflammation in patients with knee osteoarthritis.
And these amazing benefits are only the tip of the iceberg. As reported by Natural Blaze, milk thistle has more than 40 different benefits to our health, ranging from repairing the liver and improving digestion to reducing the effect of alcohol and treating diseases such as cancer and diabetes.