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Milk Thistle

(Silybum eburneum /marianum /adans)

 milk thistle

‘Milk thistle’ can be any one of a number or related species (Silybum sp.). All are woody annual or biennial plants belonging to the daisy family (Asteraceae). The seeds of these plants contain a compound called silymarin, which is actually a mixture of similar active components (silybinins and other flavonolignans).

Silymarin is a powerful antioxidant, but its main herbal use is for liver support. It has been used in herbal remedies throughout Europe for centuries, and some limited clinical research has confirmed that it is biologically active and had theraputic effects on some liver diseases such as hepatitis and cirrhosis. One study that did not find any evidence for therapeutic effects used very low doses. It is difficult to explain why doses known to be below any usable threshold would be chosen, unless it was to ‘prove’ that silymarin is ineffective.

As usual, because it is unlikely that a patentable drug could be derived from this natural remedy, there is very little impetus to carry out the research that could potentially save thousands of lives.

Milk thistle generally has few side effects. Occasionally, people report a laxative effect, upset stomach, diarrhea or bloating. Milk thistle can produce allergic reactions in people who are allergic to plants in the same family (for example, ragweed, chrysanthemum, marigold, and daisy).



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