While the milk thistle plant is native to regions of the Mediterranean, it can also be found growing throughout the world from Europe to Asia, and from Africa to North America. This stout thistle usually grows in dry, sunny areas. The stem branches at the top, and it reaches a height of 4 to 10 feet. The leaves are wide compared to other plants of its species and have white blotchy veins.
Milk thistle helps relieve the symptoms of hepatitis, cirrhosis, and inflammatory liver conditions. It is one of the most effective herbs known for relieving liver disorders.
Many herbalists and medical practitioners believe that milk thistle can help protect the liver from damage caused by alcohol, chemicals, drugs, diseases, and toxic plants. Milk thistle contains a chemical substance, silymarin, which is purported to protect liver cells in the following ways:
1. Silymarin has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are thought to protect body cells from damage caused by a chemical process called oxidation.
2. Silymarin has anti-inflammatory effects, which keeps liver cells from swelling in response to injury.
3. Silymarin seems to encourage liver cell growth. By changing the outside layer of liver cells, it prevents certain toxins from getting into liver cells.
(Note: Milk thistle extract has been shown to protect the liver from the potentially damaging effect of drugs used to treat schizophrenia and other forms of psychosis. However, one trial found that it did not protect the liver from the potentially harmful effects of the drug Cognex, tacrine hydrochloride, used to treat early-stage Alzheimer's disease.) Milk thistle has also been reported to have some estrogen-like effects that may stimulate the flow of breast milk in women who are breast-feeding infants. It may also be used to start late menstrual periods. Milk thistle's estrogen-like effect may also have some usefulness for men with prostate cancer.
A number of various milk thistle product reviews are available at NutritionalTree.com.
The suggested dose of milk thistle is generally 12 to 15 grams of dried herb (200 to 400 mg silymarin) per day or silymarin-phosphatidylcholine complex 100 to 200 mg two times per day. For liver protection, 120 mg silymarin (about 2 capsules) two times per day. For liver damage from alcohol, drugs, or chemicals, the recommended dosage of silymarin-phosphatidylcholine should be increased from two times per day to three times per day.
Adjust the recommended adult dose to account for the child's weight. Most herbal dosages for adults are calculated on the basis of a 150 lb (70 kg) adult. Therefore, if the child weighs 50 lb (20 to 25 kg), the appropriate dose of milk thistle for this child would be 1/3 of the adult dosage.Side Effects
Very few side effects if any have been associated with milk thistle. Milk thistle is considered safe when you follow the recommended dosage.