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Health and FitnessMedicalWomen's Interests

Milk Thistle- A Herbal Supplement

Herbs have been used for treating and curing many illnesses and diseases since the dawn of time. Although they haven’t been proven scientifically to treat any of the illnesses but due to strong word of mouth and centuries old traditions, it cemented in us that herbs have various benefits. One such amazing herbal lactation supplement is Milk thistle and this article will be a tell-all about this very sought-after herb that has been around for centuries and is still relevant in these modern times. Its shape and form might have been altered in the form of tablets, teas, powder supplements or capsules but the effect remains the same.

What is Milk Thistle?

The scientific name of milk thistle is Silybum marianum, it is native to the Mediterranean region but it has also been found in European regions and in the USA. Milk thistle is a tall plant which has very distinctive and distinguishing purple flowers with white veins. It has thorny spikes with striped green leaves and prickly spines. Milk thistle’s active ingredient is silymarin, which is rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. It can be used in treating various health problems like live and gallbladder disorders, prevent and treat cancer, promote lactation, flush out toxins, reduce cholesterol, manage acne and control blood sugar levels.

But milk thistle is most famously known as a galactagogue- a supplement, food, drink or herb that promotes breast milk production in nursing mothers. Many breast milk supplements, teas, foods and drinks have been made with milk thistle as the key ingredient. People often confuse blessed thistle with milk thistle as the same herb but they’re in fact two different herbs, the only common thing between them is that they both are herbal lactation supplements. Milk thistle is an herb that will protect and prevent you from various problems, so let’s see how else can we benefit from it.

  1. Guards your Liver

One of the most recognized usage of milk thistle other than being an herbal lactation supplement is its liver health promoting effects. Many studies and researches show that people who are suffering from liver diseases have shown improvement in the liver function after taking milk thistle supplements. Milk thistle helps in reducing the inflammation in the liver and also protects it against toxins like amatoxin. It’s also found that having milk thistle can also increase the life expectancy of some with cirrhosis. Although more studies are needed at length to further determine the correct dosage and length of the treatment for now, we have enough evidence to include this herb in our daily lives.

  1. Helps is Limiting the Cancer Spread

Due to its heavy concentration of silymarin, an ingredient potent with antioxidants, it may help in limiting the spread of cancer by killing the cancer cell or making them weak and inactive. Studies also show that milk thistle can significantly reduce the awful side effects of chemotherapy and may even boost the effects of it. There is a lot of conjecture around it but surely there’s no harm in trying.

  1. It Promotes Healthy Bones

Our bones need support over the years as they become weak and fragile especially in postmenopausal women. Osteoporosis is another disease that can cause the bones to break off easily even with minor falls or accidents. Milk thistle can stimulate mineralization in bones and can be effective in bone restoration or in delaying their decay. Bone decay is usually caused by the deficiency of estrogen but there is no direct link between estrogen and milk thistle, even then it’s safe to conclude that this herb does in fact support bone health.

  1. Reduces Acne and Promotes Healthy Skin

When the body is inflamed the skin produces acne, which isn’t particularly dangerous but it sure can leave some ugly scars that can take a toll on anyone’s confidence and make them very conscious. Milk thistle has anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants that can cool down the inflammation and help in getting glowy, smooth skin.

  1. Controls Blood Sugar Levels

Milk thistle is very useful in regulating the blood sugar levels in type-2 diabetic patients as it decreases blood sugar levels and reduces insulin resistance. Milk thistle can also be taken as a precautionary herbal supplement in order to reduce the risk of getting diabetes. Due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory traits, milk thistle can play a vital role in the management of diabetes.

Milk Thistle and Breastfeeding

Milk thistle is also known as Saint Mary’s Thistle or Our Lady’s thistle, as the white veins in the plant represent breastmilk. Women all over Europe and India couldn’t help raving about the effects of milk thistle as a breast milk supplement. Although more research and studies are needed to be carried out in order to prove the results scientifically, for now we have evidence that the plant based estrogen has helped in boosting the milk supply in cows and also mothers from different generation have been advised to use this herb in order to increase milk supply in the most natural way.

Is it Safe to Use?

Milk thistle is an herb that doesn’t have any side effects when taken by mouth in any form whatsoever. The 1% people who have actually faced any side effects were mostly gut related like diarrhea, nausea or bloating. But some people are advised to be cautious when taking this herb like pregnant women, those allergic to this specific plant, people with low blood sugar levels, and those with special conditions like hormone sensitivity, breast cancer etc.

How to Use Milk Thistle?

Milk thistle is found in the form of teas that can be drunk 2-3 three times, it can also be found in the form of capsules, soft gels, powder and liquid extract at various food stores. The dosage must be taken strictly according to the package. You can also use the milk thistle plant in foods after removing its spines.

Summary

Milk thistle is an herb that can be a great complementary therapy which can aid other treatments and boost health. Even though it’s not a scientifically proven medicine it sure has clinical benefits in defined doses.

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