What is Milk Thistle?
Milk thistle (Latin name: Silybum marianum) is a flowering plant, native to Europe but can now be found worlwide. The fruits and seeds of milk thistle contains the most concentrated active ingredient that has protective effects on the liver.
Active Ingredient in Milk Thistle Silymarin, the primary compound in milk thistle, is a group of flavonoids (antioxidants) that includes silybin, isosilybin, silydianin and silychristin. Silybin is the most active component and makes up 50-70% of silymarin.
Properties of Milk Thistle
- liver regenerating
- anti-lipid peroxidative
Traditional Uses of Milk Thistle
Milk thistle extract has been used for 2000 years as a traditional herbal remedy for liver diseases.
Current Uses of Milk Thistle
1. Protect liver against toxins
Silymarin prevents toxins from entering cells and stimulates synthesis of enzymes that enhance detoxification. As an antioxidant, silymarin protects the cell membranes from free radical damage.
2. Treatment of chronic liver diseases
Milk thistle extract is used to treat alcoholic liver diseases, liver cirrhosis, viral hepatitis and toxin induced liver diseases. It promotes protein synthesis, helps in regenerating liver tissue, controls inflammation and prevents glutathione (potent antioxidant) depletion.
3. Supportive treatment of Amanita phalloides poisoning
Silibinin, the active flavonoid of silymarin, is used as an antidote for deathcap mushroom (Amanita phalloides) poisoning. It is suggested silibinin may protect the liver by: – inhibiting the binding of mushroom poison to liver cell membranes – inhibiting TNF- alpha (proinflammatory cytokine) release in the injured liver – stimulating protein synthesis and thereby, enhancing liver regeneration.
Potential Use For Cancer Treatment
In cell culture and animal studies, silibinin’s anti-cancer efficacy has been shown in various organs/tissue origin such as prostate, bladder, skin, lung, colon, breast, kidney, etc. Silibinin can reduce tumor cell proliferation, angiogenesis and metastases. It induces cancer cell apoptosis and cell cycle arrest. This suggests that silibinin can potentially be used as an adjunct therapy to conventional cancer therapies and to prevent/reduce toxicity associated with chemotherapy and radiation.
Side Effects of Milk Thistle
Side effects are rare. They include mild gastrointestinal distress or allergic reactions. Serious toxicity is rarely reported.
Milk Thistle For Dogs
In animals, milk thistle extract protects and reduces liver injury caused a variety of toxins such as acetaminophen, aflatoxin, carbon tetrachloride, radiation, iron overload, phenylhydrazine, alcohol, cold ischaemia and Amanita phalloides. It may be beneficial for treating liver toxicity, chronic liver diseases and hepatobiliary disease due to suppression of biliary flow.
Best Milk Thistle Supplement
Silibin alone is poorly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, quickly metabolised and rapidly excreted in bile and urine, thus resulting in its limited bioavailability. It is combined with phosphatidylcholine to increase bioavailability.
When buying milk thistle extract supplement for your dog, look for a formulation of silibin complexed with phosphatidylcholine such as Denamarin (available here). Studies have shown that silybin-phosphatidylcholine complex in Denamarin is more rapidly absorbed, reaching levels up to 4 times more than that seen in standardized milk thistle extracts (silymarin) and thereby providing significant liver protection.
Denamarin is formulated in tablets and chewable tablets.
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