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Milk Thistle: The Time-Honored Liver And Gallbladder Remedy

Benefits And Side Effects Of Milk Thistle

milk thistle flower
Milk Thistle Flower

Milk thistle has been used medicinally for over 2000 years, and the famous 17th century herbalist, Nicholas Culpepper (1616 - 1654) used it to treat obstructions of the liver and spleen, and as a remedy for jaundice and gallbladder disorders.

Recent research focuses around milk thistle's medicinal properties in the treatment for liver and gallbladder conditions.

I was diagnosed as having cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder), and I had frequent dull pains beneath my lower right rib which disappear thanks to the milk thistle oil. Amazing!

Milk thistle is a flowering herb native to the Mediterranean region and southwestern Europe. It has a purple flower, sharp spikes and large leaves. The seeds found in the plant contain a flavonoid complex called silymarin. Once the seeds are extracted, the silymarin becomes the biologically active component, which is used to prepare capsules, extracts, powders or tinctures.

Milk thistle has been ingested as a food: the roots and shoots can be eaten raw or boiled; the spiny bracts can be eaten like globe artichokes; and the peeled stems can be soaked and stewed. Some people even eat the leaves in the salad as a substitute for spinach. But I think I'd stick to the capsule form!

Milk thistle works in various ways:
1. As an antioxidant, protecting the liver, gallbladder, and other organs from damaging chemicals called free radicals that we are exposed to from things such as second-hand smoke, stress, or exhaust fumes from cars.

Silymarin has been shown to increase levels of glutathione inside the liver cells. Glutathione is an antioxidant produced by the body to protect cells from free radical damage. Silymarin also keeps new liver cells from being destroyed by toxins.

2. Silymarin protects the liver from harmful toxins and helps treat liver diseases such as Hepatitis B and C. Silymarin cannot CURE cirrhosis, but it can help to improve liver function and prevent further damage.

3. Milk thistle can detoxify poisons such as those found in the Death Cap mushrooms.

4. Milk thistle thins bile (which is stored and concentrated in the liver) and increases its flow, thus helping to cleanse the gallbladder and liver.

Milk thistle is safe to take in capsule form and doses typically range from 140 mg to 300 mg, taken 2 to 3 times daily, based on the silymarin content of the capsule. Milk thistle will not remove or dissolve any gallstones associated with gallbladder disease, but it does detoxify the gallbladder. Side effects are minimal (upset stomach, diarrhea, or allergic reaction), but the benefits seem to outweigh these effects.

As with all types of complementary medicines, however, it is always wise to consult one's physician before using any new remedy. I've found milk thistle to be a positive alternative therapy, and I will continue to use it.

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