Many consider milk thistle a garden or farmland weed they are happy to get rid of it. If only they knew about its possible medicinal role they would not want to spray it with weed killer. The milk element in the plant's names comes from the sap that oozes out when you crush its leaves. The discovery of milk thistle's usefulness in promoting good health is far from a recent discovery. This is another example of natural or traditional medical knowledge that was once widespread until modern medical practices and pharmaceutical drugs came to dominate the health scene.
The use of milk thistle to treat liver problems continues to be its most popular medical application. Jaundice, gallbladder issues, and hepatitis are examples of conditions it relieves. Some scientists took note of claims made about its efficacy so they decided to make some tests. Experiments made with laboratory mice showed that milk thistle reduced liver damage caused by diet. Conventional doctors are still reluctant to accept a role for milk thistle as a prime liver health treatment but they may agree that it can have a supporting role.
Protection of body tissue against damage is one of the ways some scientists think that milk thistle helps to treat liver and other health problems. The thistle has important antioxidant properties. Due to poor diet, bad environmental conditions and other factors, compounds called free radicals may damage body tissue and open the way for infection and disease. The presence of antioxidants in the bloodstream provides tools to resist these attacks. The use of milk thistle strengthens the body's natural protective mechanisms.
Poor choice of diet and lack of exercise are two of the main causes why so many blood tests show too high levels of LLD (bad) cholesterol. These cholesterol buildups in arteries cause potentially life-threatening cardiovascular problems, and they have associations with diabetes. There is no avoiding the need to follow the advice of dieticians and to get more exercise to avoid serious illness, but milk thistle also contributes to this effort to reduce cholesterol to a safe level. Medical studies confirm it is beneficial in this area.
The health dangers from excess weight are at last widely appreciated with growing concerns over child obesity in western countries. In addition to the need to adopt more healthy diets and exercise plans, many more people are asking how natural treatments could help. Milk thistle contains a substance called silymarin that seems to have weight-lowering capabilities. Recent tests on laboratory mice discovered that doses of silymarin bring down weight so there are hopes that it will affect human beings in the same way.
There are many good reasons for believing that milk thistle has skin health benefits. A study made a couple of years ago on laboratory mice found that it reduced skin inflammations. The proven antioxidant qualities of milk thistle should also help to guard the skin against damage. Scientists suspect that substances found in the plant prevent, or at least delay, skin damage that occurs due to aging. Today women are successfully applying milk thistle oil to their skin as a moisturizer but its future use could be much wider.
The way milk thistle can lower cholesterol levels benefits people with diabetes and those who are on the edge of diabetes, but it also has important additional benefits. Evidence that it lowers the body's resistance to insulin is particularly significant in this context. Research done with mice produced results that support claims that extract of milk thistle has a positive impact on insulin resistance. Considering the size of the diabetes problem further research in this area is highly desirable.
An increase in life expectancy comes along with a rise in the numbers suffering from Alzheimer's and other degenerative diseases. A vast amount of research is in progress but for the moment, medical knowledge remains unequal to the challenge. It is easy to appreciate why interest has grown in the use of natural treatments such as milk thistle in these circumstances. Doctors recognize that oxidative stress is one of the possible causes of Alzheimer's disease and milk thistle improves resistance to this stress.
Several studies show how extracts from milk thistle guard against the hepatic damage from a drug overdose. They investigated its potential benefits treating the effects of a paracetamol overdose and the results were encouraging. Overdosing is invariably associated with drug addiction problems by the mass media, but accidental overdosing is at least a serious, and probably a more common challenge that doctors need to treat more effectively. These pharmaceutical drugs are easy to obtain over the shop counter and the dangers of overuse are less well known.
The importance of effective kidney functioning to general health should need little introduction. Research indicates how hepatoprotective properties found in milk thistle could have their uses in kidney disease treatments. Some natural cure experts compare its benefits to the kidneys with those to the liver. One of the areas under investigation is how it could stimulate the repair of damaged cells, and this is of particular importance to kidney dialysis patients.
Asthma does not pose serious risks if people take the medications they need and keep away from smoke-infested and other harmful environments. Nevertheless, a risk element is always present. The silymarin substance in milk thistle reduced the risk of inflammations in the air tubes of asthmatic mice. If the results of this test are a guideline, it seems that milk thistle holds out the promise of relief from asthma symptoms.
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