The liver is one of the most critical organs essential to human health. It serves more than 300 functions in the body to detoxify against chemical and environmental intrusions, and it promotes metabolic function as well. Silymarin is commonly known as milk thistle, and new science is emerging to validate the healing potential of this powerful plant. Publishing in the journal Hepatitis Monthly, researchers provide solid evidence that natural milk thistle extracts can halt and even reverse the effects of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), an affliction affecting as much as a third of the adult population. Supplementation with milk thistle will dramatically lower the risks associated with fatty liver disease, atherosclerosis and cognitive dysfunction.
NAFLD is a significant health concern that is growing at an unprecedented rate due to the obesity and diabetes epidemic currently gripping most western societies. The condition is caused in part by excess accumulation of fats (triglycerides) in the cellular matrix of the liver that results in suboptimal function of the organ. Left unchecked, the disease can result in cell injury and damage, in inflammation and ultimately in cirrhosis as the liver becomes less able to perform the multitude of tasks essential to life. Researchers found that the plant extract has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and becomes concentrated in hepatic tissue soon after ingestion. They found that silymarin promotes liver tissue regeneration by supporting multiple critical metabolic functions: these include lower oxidized LDL cholesterol levels, regulation of membrane permeability and stability and prevention of the deposition of collagen fibers, which lead to cirrhosis. In addition, milk thistle inhibits the absorption of many toxins, effectively preventing them from entering circulation through the bloodstream.
Silymarin is known to be a powerful cellular antioxidant with specific properties that can prevent excess oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Oxidized LDL cholesterol particles are sticky and become lodged in the delicate endothelial layer of coronary artery vessels where they combine with other blood-borne compounds to form plaque. Natural milk thistle extracts (570 mg per day) have proven effective to lower risk factors that promote arterial hardening.
Milk thistle has been used as a chemo preventive agent in the fight against certain cancer lines, most notably metastatic cancers of the prostate. Silymarin interferes with cancer growth and immortality, and it exhibits anti-inflammatory and anti-metastatic activity (prevents cancer spread). Extracts of milk thistle have also been used as an agent in the war against numerous malignancies including those of the liver, colon and skin.
Our body is continually under assault from a barrage of more than 70,000 chemicals and 900 drugs known to induce liver damage. Milk thistle supplementation provides an effective tool to protect and heal our primary filtration organ, the liver. Silymarin is also proving to be an important tool that can naturally lower cancer risk, while providing critical support for the heart and prostate.
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