plant is native to regions of the Mediterranean, it can also be found growing throughout the world from Europe to Asia, and from Africa to North America. This stout thistle usually grows in dry, sunny areas. The stem branches at the top, and it reaches a height of 4 to 10 feet. The leaves are wide compared to other plants of its species and have white blotchy veins.
milk thistle, Mary thistle, holy thistle.
Milk thistle is believed to have protective effects on the liver and improve its function. It is typically used to treat liver cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation), and gallbladder disorders. Treatment claims also include:
* Lowering cholesterol levels
* Reducing insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes who also have cirrhosis
* Reducing the growth of cancer cells in breast, cervical, and prostate cancers
Silymarin, which can be extracted from the seeds (fruit) of the milk thistle plant, is believed to be the biologically active part of the herb. The seeds are used to prepare capsules, extracts, and infusions (strong teas).
Traditional milk thistle extract is made from the seeds, which contain approximately 4-6% silymarin.
The extract consists of about 65-80% silymarin (a flavonolignan complex) and 20-35% fatty acids, including linoleic acid. Silymarin is a complex mixture of polyphenolic molecules, including seven closely related flavonolignans (silybin A, silybin B, isosilybin A, isosilybin B, silychristin, isosilychristin, silydianin) and one flavonoid (taxifolin). Silibinin, a semipurified fraction of silymarin, is primarily a mixture of 2 diasteroisomers, silybin A and silybin B, in a roughly 1:1 ratio. In clinical trials silymarin has typically been administered in amounts ranging from 420-480 mg per day in two to three divided doses. However higher doses have been studied, such as 600 mg daily in the treatment of type II diabetes and 600 or 1200 mg daily in patients chronically infected with hepatitis C virus.. An optimal dosage for milk thistle preparations has not been established.
In clinical trials, milk thistle generally has few side effects. Occasionally, people report a laxative effect, upset stomach, diarrhea, and bloating.
Milk thistle can produce allergic reactions, which tend to be more common among people who are allergic to plants in the same family (for example, ragweed, chrysanthemum, marigold, and daisy).