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What is Silymarin?

Milk thistle originally is from Europe, but now it also is grown in the United States. Milk thistle's scientific name is Silybum marianum. The milk thistle ingredient that experts believe is responsible for milk thistle's medicinal qualities is called silymarin. Silymarin is also found in the fruits and vegetables.

How does it work?
Milk thistle provides hepatocellular protection by stabilizing hepatic cell membranes. It alter the structure of the outer cell membrane of the hepatocytes in such a way as to prevent the penetration of the liver toxins into interior of the cell. The stimulation effect on nucleolar polymerase A results in an increase in ribosomal protein synthesis, and thus increase the regenerative ability of the liver and the formation of new hepatocytes. Other actions include interruption of enterohepatic recirculation of toxins and regeneration of damaged hepatocytes.

Benefits of silymarin on Liver:
Much of Milk Thistle's protective effect is due to the flavonoid complex silymarin, which acts as a powerful antioxidant, combining with and thus neutralizing harmful free radicals that result from normal metabolic processes and from the breakdown of toxic substances. At least 10 times as potent as vitamin E, silymarin also helps increase levels of two additional antioxidants, glutathione and superoxide dismutase (SOD).

A laboratory study showed that silymarin may increase glutathione content in the liver and intestines by up to 50 percent. Silymarin also increases the activity of SOD in erythrocytes (red blood cells) and lymphocytes (white blood cells) formed in the lymphatic tissue in patients with liver disease.Because silymarin is a potent antioxidant in the stomach and intestines, it may also have a role to play in treating inflammatory conditions such as colitis and ulcers.

Benefits of Silymarin on Kidneys:
Silybin has also been tested in animals for its ability to protect the kidney from damage due to drugs such as the chemotherapeutic agent cisplatin. Results of this research were promising and should be confirmed by clinical studies in humans.

Silybin reduces oxidative damage to kidney cells in vitro. In rats, silybin prevented cisplatin induced nephrotoxicity, but did not prevent cyclosporine-induced glomerular damage except for lipid peroxidation.

Benefits of silymarin for Acne:
Milk Thistle is also a Demulcent, meaning that it soothes and moistens the mucus membranes, kidney and bladder irritations and inflammations in general.

Being a demulcent, it also greatly softens and moistens the skin. Patients with skin problems ranging from acne to severe eczema have reported a clearing of skin impurities, healing of redness and inflammation, a dramatic softening and moistening of dry, cracking skin, and a noticeable glow and radiance to the skin quality.

Benefits of silymarin for Diabetes:
Improved Liver function leads to improved Diabetes Control.
The liver is the first and most important tissue involved with insulin utilization. In secondary diabetes due to liver damage, insulin resistance in particularly pronounced. The reduction in lipid per oxidation produced by silymarin can lead to improved metabolic control and a reduced requirement for endogenous insulin in such patients, as demonstrated by this investigation conducted in Italy.

A homogeneous group of 60 patients with diabetes caused by liver cirrhosis who were being traded with insulin were randomly assigned to receive silymarin 600 mg/day or no silymarin for 6 months; all were receiving insulin therapy and had elevated endogenous insulin secretion suggestive on insulin resistance. Additional criteria for inclusion were; age between 45 and 70 year; insulin therapy stable for at least 2 years; negative markers for hepatitis A, B and C; alcohol abstinence for at least 2 years; liver cirrhosis determined on biopsy no earlier than 4 years previously; and class 2 according to the Child classification of cirrhosis. Ranges of measurements were conducted to assess metabolic control, serum lipid levels and liver function throughout the treatment period.

The only difference between the patient groups in this study was silymarin treatment. The clinical benefits of silymarin observed probably involve restoration of the plasma membrane of liver cells and an increase in insulin receptor sensitivity, as a result of a reduction in lipoperoxidation of liver cell membranes. The results we obtained after 6 months of treatment indicate that we should administer silymarin for longer periods in order to identify the end point of the biochemical amelioration caused by the treatment.

Other Benefits:
Blood lipids:
silymarin may inhibit hepatic synthesis of cholesterol and reduce blood lipids, as shown in vitro, animal studies, and human trials.

Deathcap Poisoning:
In Amanita mushroom poisoning, silybinin appears to dramatically reduce death rates, which are typically from 30 to 50%, down to less than 10%.13 This mushroom destroys the liver if left untreated. In conditions like this one, it isn't ethical to perform double-blind studies. However, Milk Thistle seems to be so dramatically effective that its value is not disputed.

As an antioxidant, silymarin can protect the pancreas against certain forms of damage. In a controlled trial of human diabetics, patients experienced decreases in blood glucose and insulin requirements.

Milk Thistle and The Bowels:
Milk Thistle is a gentle and mild laxative due to its ability to increase bile secretion and flow in the intestinal tract. This herb can have actions ranging from lubrication and softening of the stools to a mild laxative effect, to actually balancing individuals that alternate between diarrhea and constipation. (In patients with stools that alternate between constipation and diarrhea, Oriental Medicine would most likely suspect liver involvement.)

This formula has been seen to improve bowel regularity and stool consistency in individuals with this type of alternating presentation. This is due to the astringent nature of the Dandelion Root combined with the softening and moistening nature of the Milk Thistle).

Solaray's Milk Thistle

Enzymatic's Simply Milk Thistle

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