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Milk thistle has been used in medicine for over 2,000 years and it is still used nowadays. Milk thistle is also known as Silybum marianum. A lot of health problems are treated with the use of this plant but the ones that are treated usually are certain difficulties with liver, kidney and gall bladder. Scientists have tested certain substances which can be found in this plant for the protection of liver. A flavonoid named silymarin is especially powerful in keeping the liver safe from the dangerous effects of certain toxins.

What is milk thistle

Milk thistle is a plant that is used in medicine for several reasons. Not only the parts of the plant that are located above ground are used but seeds as well. The seeds are actually used more often. The plant originally comes from the Mediterranean region but can nowadays be found all over the world. However, it cannot grow in every habitat, only where there is a lot of sun and not a lot of rain. The stems that branch at the top of the plant can even grow as high as 11 feet. The leaf of the plant is pretty wide and the veins that are seen are white in color. The color of the flowers is purple. The fruit that grows on this plant is brown and shinny and small in size. The spreading of milk thistle happens extremely quickly and it does not take even a year for the plant to mature. Even though this plant is used in treating various conditions of the liver that occurred due to various chemicals, certain mushroom poisoning, jaundice, chronic inflammation liver disease, cirrhosis of liver and even chronic hepatitis the researchers still have no strong evidence that claims that milk thistle is effective in treating any of them. Apart from liver problems, milk thistle is also often used when a person is suffering from dyspepsia, gallbladder problems and when he or she does not have the appetite that he or she is supposed to have. Some even believe that this plant is effective in treating diabetes, hangover, certain conditions of the spleen, prostate cancer, malaria, depression and uterine complaints even though there is no proof that there are any benefits from the milk thistle when it is used for the treatment of these conditions. Women in some parts of the world use this plant to influence breast milk flow and start menstrual flow.

Milk thistle can also be consumed as a food in form of salads. Both the leaves and the flowers are used and can effectively replace spinach. The seeds can be used for coffee when they are roasted.

Benefits of milk thistle

Even though this plant is being used in the treatment of a lot of condition, there is still no strong evidence that it is effective in quite a few of them. However, milk thistle is strongly believed to be effective in treating heartburn but when it is used in combination with a couple of other herbs. The products that contain milk thistle usually contain peppermint leaf, German chamomile, caraway, licorice, angelica and lemon balm. These products can treat acid reflux, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting if they are used for one month.

A certain ingredient in milk thistle is used for the lowering of blood sugar levels in diabetes patients. The ingredient is called silymarin and the products that are used for diabetes contain more than 75% of it. Apart from these two conditions with at least some evidence of effectiveness, milk thistle is also believed to be effective in treating other conditions. Overconsumption of alcohol leads to liver disease and some experts believe that this plant is beneficial in this situation. Liver disease that occurred due to exposure to industrial poisons like toluene and xylene can be treated with the use of milk thistle, according to some researches. Certain chemicals in milk thistle are thought to be good for hepatitis B and C patients but the studies showed no improvement in survival when milk thistle was administrated. A number of other conditions including swelling of the lungs and spleen disorders are thought that they can be treated with the use of milk thistle but there is not enough evidence.

Milk thistle is not safe for the adults only in some rare cases. However, there are certain side effects that can occur when this plant is taken. Laxative effects are the ones that are seen most often but nausea, diarrhea, indigestion, intestinal gas, bloating and loss of appetite can occur as well.

Pregnant women and those who are breast-feeding need to talk to the doctor before thinking of taking milk thistle as little research is done in this field. Several forms exist in which this plant is available. The ones that are used most often are capsules of standardized dried herbs. Liquid extract, tincture and silymarin phosphatidylcholine complex are the other forms of milk thistle.

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