If there’s one organ in your body that’s overworked and underappreciated, it’s your liver. It is basically your body’s processing plant, receiving and filtering about 30% of the body’s blood every single minute.
Being the site for most metabolic processes in the body, it sends nutrients to areas that need them, removes toxins, processes fats and so much more.
Because of the chemical-laden world we live in, our livers are under attack every day. They can get bogged down and congested pretty easily, which is why it’s so important to support your liver every way possible.
Milk thistle is just the tool for the job.
Read on to learn the many benefits of milk thistle plus how you can use milk thistle to support and cleanse your liver.
Also called silymarin, milk thistle is a flower-producing herb that is somewhat related to the daisy family. It is believed to be native to Mediterranean countries, but nowadays it can be found in most areas of the world.
It is scientifically known as Silybum marianum, though you may have seen it go by another name as it has many. These include holy thistle, blessed milk thistle, lady’s thistle, Mary thistle, Scotch thistle and more.
Milk thistle is essentially a mixture of flavonoids that have been extracted from the seeds of the milk thistle plant.
Its primary constituent is silybin though there are additional isomers of silybin such as silicristin and silidianin.
When it comes to the liver, there are many actions of milk thistle that are beneficial, many of which have been extensively studied. For instance, milk thistle is a potent antioxidant, a membrane stabilizing agent, protector against chemical injury to tissues and a highly effective detox agent for the liver.
To better understand the benefits of milk thistle for liver support, let’s take a closer look at its mechanisms of action. A total of 6 flavonolignans contribute to its hepatoprotective effects, which are really quite interesting.
One of the most documented actions of silymarin and silybin is its powerful antioxidant effect. One 2015 study looked at this closer and concluded that the antioxidant properties of milk thistle are through the following ways:
Milk thistle supports free radical scavenging, preventing these reactive species of oxygen and nitrogen from damaging the cells of the liver. They also chelate free iron and copper ions, especially in the gut.
Since your liver is a major site of metabolic activities, it is a hot spot for free radical production. By scavenging these free radicals, milk thistle helps protect the cells of the liver.
Besides scavenging for the already formed free radicals, milk thistle also prevents the formation of these products in the first place by inhibiting certain reactive oxygen species (ROS)-producing enzymes. In this way, it improves the integrity of your mitochondria - aka the powerhouse of the cell.
Milk thistle also maintains an optimal balance of redox reactions in the cell by activating several antioxidant enzymes and non-enzymatic antioxidants. This action is probably the main driving force of the antioxidant properties of milk thistle.
Proteins are often referred to as body-building foods. This is because they help in tissue repair and wound healing processes. Milk thistle has been proven in some studies to cause increased hepatocyte synthesis of proteins. Thanks to this action, the liver is better able to regenerate if damaged.
This protein synthesis is also helpful in cases of certain liver diseases. For example, alcohol is the most common cause of liver damage as it leads to a condition known as liver cirrhosis. Cirrhosis causes inflammation, which can destroy liver cells. If cirrhosis has not progressed to its end stage, milk thistle can help in liver tissue regeneration through its action of protein synthesis.
Silibinin is the component of milk thistle that has greater antitumor activity. A study that focused on anticancer activities in human clinical trials revealed the following key molecular mechanisms of milk thistle:
Silymarin and silibinin potentially modulates the imbalance between cell survival and cell death by interfering with the expression of cell cycle regulators and the proteins involved in apoptosis (the natural cycle of cellular death).
By inhibiting certain growth factors, milk thistle can help in decreasing the progression of tumors. This is helpful especially in tumors that originate from or metastasize to the liver. In this way, silymarin sustains the life of a liver affected by cancer.
Milk thistle has been proven in some studies to stimulate the immune response in vitro by increasing the proliferation of lymphocytes. These cells of the immune system are our primary defense mechanisms, especially in viral hepatitis. They help in initiating immune responses against any viral infection affecting the liver, making milk thistle a powerful way to protect the liver against such infections.
Milk thistle increases the levels of glutathione in the liver, which is known as your body’s “Master antioxidant.” The boost that milk thistle provides is very helpful, especially in drug toxicities such as acetaminophen overdose, which depletes glutathione. The liver is also considered the detoxification center of the body. Many studies suggest that silymarin is a potent liver cleanser, actively supporting the removal of toxins.
The simple answer? A “dirty” or congested liver translates into a sickly body.
The liver is intricately involved in so many functions that problems here produce problems all throughout your body.
Just a few of its vital functions include producing bile (critical for proper digestion) as well as metabolizing fats, proteins and carbohydrates to produce energy. The liver also stores glucose, vitamins and minerals. Some proteins such as albumin and clotting factors are also produced in the liver.
Of all these, the main job of the liver is to filter the blood carrying nutrients from your gastrointestinal tract before the nutrients are distributed to the rest of the body. Cleansing your liver is important to keep these processes running in sync with the physiological needs of the rest of your body.
Milk thistle is largely considered safe when taken by mouth. There have been some cases diarrhea, nausea, gas and headache, but these cases are rare.
Additionally, certain components of milk thistle can lower blood sugar levels by augmenting the action of insulin. As a result, it may aggravate hypoglycemia symptoms if you have Diabetes.
For most people, milk thistle provides a safe, effective way to protect your body’s hardest working organ - the liver. Milk thistle is available in bulk powder form or as capsules and tinctures.
Recognizing milk thistle’s value and the need for proper liver support, we created our Organic Liver Love tincture with this powerful liver-supportive herb.
We also combined it with herbs that work synergistically to boost its effects, including chicory root, dandelion root, artichoke leaf and more.
If you’re looking for a fast, convenient way to support your liver naturally with milk thistle, try our Organic Liver Love today!