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What Are the Benefits of Milk Thistle for the Liver?

Patrick Lynch
Patrick Lynch

Milk thistle for the liver has been providing benefits to people for thousands of years. It is effective because it helps prevent toxins from entering the liver. Milk thistle contains silymarin, which is the most important ingredient. Silymarin blocks and removes toxins and also helps regenerate damaged tissue. Milk thistle is most commonly used in Europe to treat alcohol damaged livers, but it is effective against all harmful toxins that could cause liver problems.

The benefits of milk thistle for the liver were written about more than 2,000 years ago by the Roman author Pliny. Milk thistle is part of the daisy family and grows abundantly in Europe, Asia, and certain regions in Australia. Nations like Germany count milk thistle among their most popular herbs.

Milk thistle helps prevent toxins from entering the liver.
Milk thistle helps prevent toxins from entering the liver.

The reason the milk thistle is used is that it protects the liver. When milk thistle is ingested, it improves the vital organ's function, allowing it to detoxify. This is important because the liver is responsible for the majority of the body's detoxification-related functions.

Silymarin, a bioflavonoid complex which stops the liver being damaged by toxins or disease, is the compound that allows milk thistle to protect the liver. The compound is also known to speed up the repair of liver tissue when there has been damage. As silymarin is a flavonoid, it is also an antioxidant which prevents the formation of harmful free radicals.

Milk thistle removes toxins and helps repair damaged tissue in the liver.
Milk thistle removes toxins and helps repair damaged tissue in the liver.

Patients with cirrhosis of the liver have been given silymarin. The study showed that the bioflavonoid significantly reduced the rate of mortality among those who used it. Those who had cirrhosis due to excessive alcohol intake gained the most benefit. The silymarin in milk thistle reduces the toxic effects that alcohol has on the liver.

In Europe, milk thistle is popular and is taken to combat the effects of alcohol overindulgence as well as the environmental toxins that people are exposed to every day. Milk thistle also comes in prescription medicine form and is used to treat chronic hepatitis, acute viral hepatitis, and liver damage due to alcohol. Milk thistle for the liver is less popular in places like the United States, though it is becoming more common in American stores as an over-the-counter medication.

The liver also suffers from the effects of toxins inhaled by people during the course of everyday life. Even prescription medication can potentially damage the liver. The most effective milk thistle for the liver is standardized extract. This is because the most important compounds in milk thistle are isolated during production.

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