Search Term: " Thisilyn "
July 12, 2005 09:52 AM
HISTORY or Milk Thistle
Natural substances which afford us protection from toxins and potential carcinogens have recently come to the fore front of scientific attention. Compounds known as antioxidants, which can help minimize the damaging effects of chemical stru c t u res called free radicals, are extensively used today. One of these protectant substances is not as familiar to most people as vitamin C or beta-carotene. It is an herb called Milk Thistle and it has some extraordinary protective properties. Milk Thistle, also known as Silymarin has enjoyed a long history of use in European folk medicine. Centuries ago, Romans recognized the value of this herb for liver impairments. They routinely used the seeds and roots of the plant to restore and rejuvenate a diseased liver. Pliny the Elder, an ancient Roman, re c o rded how the juice of Milk Thistle, when mixed with honey was used for carrying off bile. Dioscorides extolled the virtues of Milk Thistle as an effective protectant against snake bites. The genus silybum is a member of the thistle tribe of the daisy family. Two species of the plant exist and both are native to southern Europe and Eurasia. Plants which grow in the Southern United States actually have more potent seeds than their European and Asian counterparts. Milk Thistle is a stout and sturdy looking plant, which can grow up to 12 feet tall. The flower heads can expand to six inches in diameter and are a vivid purple color. They usually bloom from June to August. Very sharp spines cover the heads. The leaves are comprised of hairless, milky bands, and when young, are quite tender. Historically, the seed of Milk Thistle was used as a cholagogue which stimulated the flow of bile. The seed was also used to treat jaundice, dyspepsia, lack of appetite and other stomach disorders. Homeopathic uses included:
peritonitis, coughs, varicose veins and uterine congestion. While tonics were sometimes made from the leaves of Milk Thistle, the most valuable part of the plant was contained in its seeds.
Milk Thistle is also known as Marian Thistle, Wild Artichoke, Variegated Thistle or St. Mary’s Thistle. Reference to Milk Thistle as “Vi rgin Mary” stems from its white milky veins. Legends explained that these veins were created when Mary’s milk fell on the thistle. Subsequently, a connection between the herb and lactation arose, which has no scientific basis for its claims. Milk Thistle is frequently confused with Blessed Thistle, which does act to stimulate the production of mother’s milk. Gerarde, a practicing herbalist in 1597, said that Milk Thistle was one of the best remedies for melancholy (liver related) diseases. In 1650, Culpeper wrote of its ability to remove obstructions in the liver and spleen. In 1755, Von Haller recorded that he used Milk Thistle for a variety of liver disorders. Subsequently, Milk Thistle became a staple agent for the treatment of any kind of liver aliment. European physicians included it in their written materia medica. Unfortunately, for an extended period during the 18th century, the herb was not stressed, however in 1848, Johannes Gottfried Rademacher rediscovered its medicinal merits. He recorded in great detail how Milk Thistle treated a number of liver ailments and spleen disorders. His research was later confirmed in medical literature. In the early 20th century, Milk Thistle was recommended for female problems, colon disorders, liver complaints and gallstones. Almost every significant European pharmaceutical establishment listed Milk Thistle as a valuable treatment. In recent decades, Milk Thistle has been primarily used as a liver tonic and digestive aid. Nursing women who wanted to stimulate the production of their milk used Milk thistle as a traditional tonic. As mentioned earlier, modern day medical science now refutes this particular action of Milk Thistle, however, its benefit to the liver has been confirmed.
German herbalists have routinely used Milk Thistle for treating jaundice, mushroom poisoning and other liver disorders. This therapeutic tradition contributed to modern German research into Milk Thistle, resulting in its use as a widely prescribed phytomedicine for liver disease. Silymarin or Thisilyn, as it is also known, is a relatively new nutrient in the United States. Since 1954, scientists have known the Milk Thistle contained flavonoids, however, it wasn’t until the 1960’s that they discovered the just how unique silymarin is. Silymarin was considered an entirely new class of chemical compound, and its therapeutic properties continue to impress the scientific community.
July 12, 2005 09:48 AM
NOTE: Most health food stores stock this herb under the name of Milk Thistle, however, it may also be found as Thisilyn, Silymarin or Silybum
STORAGE: Keep in a dark container in a cool, dry environment.
RECOMMENDED USAGE: Because Silymarin is not very water soluble, decoctions are not as effective as extracts and powder forms of Milk Thistle. The advantages of bound silymarin should be investigated. Obtaining the best results with Milk Thistle depends on taking higher dosages three times daily before meals. For bound silymarin, dosages are less. In cases where poisoning or alcoholism is severe, dosages may be increased without toxicity, side effects or allergic reactions. Alcohol based extracts are not recommended. The best forms of Milk Thistle are guaranteed to contain 80% silymarin.
NOTE: A new form of silymarin has recently become available, which may be even more absorbable than other types. It is silymarin that has been bound to phosphatidycholine. Apparently this binding makes silymarin compounds more clinically effective in the body.
SAFETY: No contraindications are associated with this herb even in substantial dosages. Milk Thistle has been extensively used in Europe and numerous studies have shown very little if no toxicity. Taking silymarin can p roduce looser stools, although the effect is not that common. At high dosages, it may be desireable to add a source of fiber to the diet to prevent loose stools or digestive tract irritation. Suggested fibers include: psyllium, oat bran or pectin. Long term use of Milk Thistle poses no problem because of its non-toxicity. The long-term safety and advisability of the use of Milk Thistle extracts in pregnant or nursing women has not been established.