The liver is important due to its role in bile production, energy production, vitamin storage, and the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Nutrients absorbed from the intestine are delivered to the liver along with the absorbed toxins (including alcohol, drugs and pharmaceuticals). This makes the liver vulnerable to damage.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) has been known to be of benefit to the liver since ancient times. It is native to the area around the Mediterranean Sea. The herb is antioxidant and hepatoprotective (protecting the liver) from toxins such as ethanol and environmental pollutants.
Silymarin, the most active ingredient of milk thistle, increases liver production of glutathione and production of protein in liver cells. Silymarin is a bioflavonoid with low bioavailability and poor intestinal absorption. A combination of milk thistle and phosphatidylcholine (called milk thistle phytosome) has been designed for better absorption.
Numerous studies have shown that silymarin increases survival in patients with cirrhosis due to alcoholism. It blocks the entry of toxins into the interior of liver cells and helps regenerate them. It also helps reduce liver swelling. In one study, 170 cirrhosis patients were treated with 140 mg. of silymarin three times daily for 41 months. There was significant improvement, especially in those with alcoholic cirrhosis. However, another review of 13 studies of treatment of alcoholic, hepatitis B and hepatitis C liver disease patients did not show any improvement.
A study of guinea pigs given alcohol to study liver fibrosis revealed that vitamin C was even more effective than milk thistle at reducing the markers of liver damage. The use of alcohol reduces levels of glutathione and other enzymes, but the use of silymarin and vitamin C for 12 weeks normalized the levels. Discontinuing use of alcohol was shown to improve liver recovery.
People with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) are improved by silymarin with improvement seen after 6 months of treatment. Silymarin works against certain cancers, is antiviral, and reduces ultraviolet radiation effects, preventing sun damage to the skin.
CONCLUSION: Abundant research shows that silymarin improves liver disease, but some studies disagree. No evidence of toxicity is seen even at high doses. Silymarin treatment improves alcoholic cirrhosis and nonalcoholic liver disease, but does not alter mortality rates. Other effects of silymarin include antiviral effects and prevention of sun damage to the skin.
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Rainbow Grocery sells the following products: Milk thistle, milk thistle phytosome, silymarin, and vitamin C.
Summary 968. nutrientmedicine