The Milk Thistle herb is rated highly in herbalists circles, but how is it viewed by western medicine? Here's the view of a registered nurse ...
by Dime Alexi, a registered nurse and a free-lance writer whose specialties include health issues
One of the more notable plants in an herbalist's arsenal is the milk thistle herb, which is of Mediterranean origin. It has been in use for 2,000 years as a cure for many ailments although it is only in modern times when the herb's most beneficial and most active compound - silymarin - was identified. Nowadays, milk thistle products proliferate in the North American and European markets.
The question then is this: Is it worth your time to milk the health benefits of milk thistle? Yes, you must always ask yourself the question of whether a certain herb is suitable in your case as not all natural products are good for everybody.
This should be so despite the aggressive marketing efforts of many manufacturers to push their nutritional supplements into the hands of consumers. So, always make sure to check the nutritional supplements information on the product label as the first step in verifying the product's suitability where you are concerned.
Take note that many promoters of the milk thistle herb will use all possible praises for the plant. You may even begin to believe that milk thistle is Mother Nature's best gift to mankind since the invention of, well, sliced bread, because of the numerous almost-miraculous healing properties attributed to it. Well, don't as you will become a victim of a savvy spin doctor.
Instead, you must look at the objective scientific evidence surrounding milk thistle. According to the highly respected Mayo Clinic, milk thistle has a passing grade in two claims but a failing grade of sorts in other aspects. So, let's look at these grades for the milk thistle herb:
Cirrhosis patients can benefit from the use of milk thistle supplements as adjunct treatment. Its main function is in the improvement of liver function. The Mayo Clinic gave milk thistle a B grade in relation to cirrhosis, which means that there is good scientific evidence to back up its use.
Chronic liver disease also responds positively to milk thistle although, as is the case with cirrhosis, the Mayo Clinic gave the herb a B grade. Laboratory tests have shown improvement in liver test results after consumption of milk thistle.
For other diseases, however, there are no clear, reliable and objective scientific evidence for the use of milk thistle herb. Mayo Clinic gave the herb's efficacy for these symptoms as a C grade, said illnesses of which include acute viral hepatitis, amanita mushroom poisoning, cancer, diabetes in people with liver disease, liver damage from toxins and drugs, dyspepsia, high cholesterol levels and menopausal symptoms.
Basically, this means that if you take milk thistle as adjunct treatment for any of the abovementioned health conditions, you are doing so at your own volition and at your own risk. Keep in mind that not everybody will respond positively to milk thistle as it does have its fair share of side effects.
But if you do decide to take milk thistle herb, experts suggest taking 230-600 milligrams of silymarin per day. Children under 18 years old as well as pregnant and lactating mothers are not recommended the use of milk thistle as its effects on these sectors of the population has yet to be studied. For adults, you can always milk its benefits even if most of it are anecdotal in nature.
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