What is Milk Thistle?
Milk Thistle or by its scientific name Silybummarianum is a popular flowering herbal medicine that is common in Mediterranean countries. It is also called Wand of God’s Grace, Christ’s Crown, Heal Thistle, Holy Thistle and Venus Thistle. The ragweed and daisy family related plant has been long used by the Romans as a medicine especially in the cure of liver diseases. The Europeans were the first to recognize its usefulness as medicine.
From the plant’s name, the active compounds found are silibin, silydianin and silychristin. These three are flavonoid-like. Aside from the Milk Thistle’s seed, other forms available are its liquid extract and powdered extract. Silymarin can be difficult to dissolve in water.
Milk Thistle plants can grow a height of 12 feet. Its color is vivid purple. It has a milk sap. Its dark leaves are prickly and shiny. It also has milk saps.
Other names of milk thistle are CardoLechoso, CarduiMariaeHerba, Blessed Milk Thistle, ArtichautSauvage, CarduiMariaeFructus, Carduusmarianus, Chardon Marbré, Chardon Argenté, Lait de Notre-Dame, Marian Thistle, Legalon, Our Lady’s Thistle, St. Mary Thistle, ShuiFeiJi, Silybe de Marie, Silybummarianum, Silibinin, and Épine Blanche.
What is Milk Thistle used for?
The Europeans have long used the different parts of Milk thistle for treating ailments. New researches and studies conducted have proved its effectiveness, some contradict them and some found other uses. Among the known uses of Milk thistles are:
- Liver Diseases like: gallbladder diseases, cirrhosis, hepatitis, jaundice
It is thought that the herbal plant has hepato-protective compounds and it helps regenerate the liver cells. It also helps keep the liver clean with its anti-oxidant effect.
- Cancer: Prostate, Breast and Cervical. Other researcher that had been conducted say that Milk thistle components silymarin and silibinin can help fight cancer.
- Diabetes mellitus type 2. Blood sugar level has been noted to decrease with Milk thistle consumption. It can also help reduce cholesterol level. Moreover, insulin resistance has been observed to improve with the herbal plant. Nonetheless, this does not mean that it can treat diabetes mellitus 2 per se. The decrease in cholesterol level also helps decrease the possibility of heart diseases.
- Milk thistle can help with some skin problems like Psoriasis
- Inflammation. Certain enzymes can be inhibited by Milk thistle that can help in reducing inflammation.
Common Milk thistle side effects
Normally, milk thistle is likely safe for most people to use especially when it is taken for approximately 41 months. But in some cases, it can cause some mild and some serious side effects.
Here are some of the common side effects that any person might experience;
- Laxative effects
- Intestinal gas
- Loss of appetite
- Fullness or pain
- Stomach upset
Rarely, it can also lead to serious side effect such as severe allergic reaction. Any person who is allergic to ragweed and other related plants (belongs to Asteraceae/Compositae plant family) might also experience anaphylactic shock if milk thistle is taken. Other plants that belong to this family are marigolds, chrysanthemums, daisies, and other more. The person should immediately seek medical attention if he or she experiences the symptoms of allergic reaction which includes rashes; swelling of tongue, lips, or face; difficulty of breathing, and closing of the throat.
Milk Thistle Side Effects on Children
So far, there are still not much of studies that show how safe milk thistle can be used in children. For children, liver problems are a serious condition that needs to be diagnosed as immediately as possible by the physician.
Children can also experience both the mild and serious side effects that are mentioned above that is why it is advisable to seek first your child’s physician before taking any herbal medicine such as this.
Milk Thistle Side Effects on Men
Actually, gender has nothing to do with any side effect that a person may experience. All the side effects listed above can be experienced byall men that are taking milk thistle supplements. To avoid any interaction, it is important to take caution when taking milk thistle alongside with other herbal medicines. Make sure to always take herbs with the supervision and permission of a healthcare provider.
Another caution to remember is that for men who have a history of prostate cancer, milk thistle should not be used.
Milk Thistle Side Effects on Women
Women who are taking milk thistle can also experience the side effects that are given above such as diarrhea, nausea, indigestion, and loss of appetite.
If the woman has a history of hormone-related cancers such as ovarian cancer, breast cancer, or uterine cancer, avoid taking milk thistle. Extracts from this herbal plant can have the same action as the hormone called estrogen.
The hormone-related cancers mentioned might progress into its worsening condition once the area involved is exposed to estrogen that is why milk thistle is prohibited.
Endometriosis and uterine fibroids are other conditions wherein milk thistle should not be use.
Milk Thistle Side Effects on Pregnant Women
Currently, further studies are still needed to show the possible effect of the use of milk thistle on pregnant women. But for now, it is suggested to stay on the safe side by avoiding the use of milk thistle both during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Milk Thistle Side Effects on Elderly
All the side effects, either mild or serious, can be experienced by the elderly population. But on the positive note, milk thistle is a good liver cleanser for older people. It lessens their risk of having any liver problems and improves the body’s overall blood circulation. As a result, the elderly can have better mobility and improved memory function.
Milk thistle can also be used by the elderly as herbal supportive treatment for their long-term illnesses or age-related health problems. This can be useful in reducing some of the side effects of pharmaceutical medicines. Also, it can be useful in promoting smooth and effective functioning of the internal organs of the person’s body.