Milk Thistle Helps Liver Function

Milk Thistle is a popular herbal remedy that may be beneficial for those who overindulge in alcohol. One of the biggest dangers of excessive drinking is liver damage. Anything that can help protect against this is welcome. It is not suggested that this herbal remedy is a cure for alcoholic liver disease, but it may lessen the severity of it. The most interesting claim for milk thistle is that it is able to improve liver function.

The Properties of Milk Thistle

Silybum marianum is the more technical name for milk thistle. It has been used for thousands of years for the treatment of liver problems. This plant originated in the southern parts of Europe, but now can be found across the globe. It contains a chemical called silymarin. This flavonoid possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which can be highly beneficial to the liver. It is claimed that silymarin not only protects the liver from toxins but also helps the organ heal from damage that has already occurred.

Milk Thistle and Alcoholics

In western countries, the most common reason for liver disease is overindulgence in alcohol. It is estimated that up to 20% of alcoholics will develop cirrhosis of the liver. This is an advanced stage of alcoholic liver disease and will lead to death unless the individual gives up alcohol. Once scarring of the liver has reached a certain point, there is nothing that can be done to reverse it. The only real treatment for alcoholic cirrhosis is prevention of further deterioration and management of any symptoms.

Some heavy drinkers will take milk thistle regularly in the hope that it will prevent them from developing alcoholic cirrhosis. There are also those individuals who are beginning to experience the early signs of alcoholic liver disease and want to prevent any further deterioration. People who have already developed cirrhosis can turn to this herbal remedy in the hope that it can improve liver function.

The Effectiveness of Milk Thistle

There have been number of research studies that have looked at the effect of milk thistle in treating and preventing alcoholic liver disease. These studies have tended to be small and not sufficient to draw any firm conclusions about the therapeutic value of the plant. The research that supports the use of the plant for liver problems tended to be poorly designed.

There is still good reason to believe that ingredients in the plant can improve liver function. Further research will be needed to determine if milk thistle can prevent the progress of alcoholic liver disease. So far the herb has only proved effective for dealing with a moderate amount of liver damage. It seems to be of little benefit for those with advanced alcoholic liver disease.

Other Potential Benefits of Milk Thistle

As well as its role in helping people with liver problems, there may also be other benefits of milk thistle such as:

* Milk thistle may be useful for lowering the amount of bad cholesterol in the body. This could help reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
* It may help people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels more effectively.
* It could possibly reduce the risk of certain cancers.
* Milk thistle is well known as a treatment for different gall bladder problems.

As with the claims for the beneficial effects of milk thistle on the liver, there is a need for more research into these other potential benefits.

Side-Effects of Milk Thistle

There are a number of potential unwanted side-effects that people may experience while taking milk thistle including:

* Diarrhea
* Nausea
* Bloating
* Allergic reactions. Those individuals who are allergic to ragweed should avoid using milk thistle.
* Interactions with other medications

Pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding are advised against using this type of herbal remedy. It is recommended that anyone considering taking this type of herbal remedy should speak with their medical practitioner first.

How to Use Milk Thistle

The most usual way to consume milk thistle is in capsule form. There are different products on the market that contain the active ingredients and dosage instructions vary. It is important to always buy from a reputable company and to follow the instructions for taking this herbal remedy.