As Americans living in an industrialized nation, we are inevitably exposed to many harsh toxins every day. Luckily, our bodies are naturally able to cope with exposure to most toxins. All of the toxins we ingest are filtered through the liver, which basically keeps the bad stuff from entering the bloodstream. However, if the toxins are more than our livers can handle, liver cells are destroyed, liver function can decline, and the entire liver can eventually shut down. Without our livers, we cannot survive. So why do we subject our bodies to chemical substances that could substantially shorten our lives?
Because, whether we are conscious of it or not, many of these toxins are prevalent everywhere we go. Environmental chemi- cals, air pollutants, pesticides, auto exhaust, prescription and nonprescription drugs, and alcohol are all hazardous contami- nants that can be detrimental to our health when introduced to our bodies.
Alcohol is our livers’ number one enemy and it is responsible for 80 percent of all liver disease in the United States and other Western countries. Other common drugs that can damage our livers include cholesterol-lowering medications, acetamino- phen (Advil and Tylenol), and antidepressants.
You may have concerns about potential liver damage, especially if you drink more alcohol than you should. So, if the damage is done, how can we fix it? Is there a natural homeopathic remedy that can actually reverse liver damage? Yes, there is!
Your liver-repairing remedy is milk thistle.
Milk thistle (silybum marianum), also referred to as the Marian thistle, St. Mary’s thistle, or Our Lady’s thistle, is a weed belong- ing to the Asteraceae family. It is a thistle topped by a prickly purplish flower containing small hard fruits that resemble seeds, packed with silymarin, a potent flavonoid complex with pharmacological benefits to the liver. Silymarin prevents toxins from breaking through cell membranes and entering the cells where they could otherwise cause damage. It even neutralizes toxic substances that do manage to penetrate cells. Because of this complex, milk thistle helps rebuild damaged liver cells, actually returning them to functional health. It works as an antioxidant complex that prevents damage to healthy liver cells and stimulates regeneration of damaged liver cells.
Milk thistle has been used as a hepatic folk medicine for cen- turies. The earliest people to use and write about milk thistle were first-century Greek and Roman naturalists. The herb was further recommended by doctors from the Middle Ages well into the nineteenth century.
After falling out of favor in the twentieth century, milk thistle’s reputation as a liver-protecting homeopath was revived only in recent years. 1970’s German researchers at the University of Munich were able to validate its reputation as a hepatic folk medicine by conducting a series of studies on rats. The studies showed that feeding rats a slow-acting liver-destroying chemical killed 100 percent of the rats in 130 days, but when the rats simultaneously received an intake of milk thistle, 70 percent of them survived.
Another interesting example of how scientists know milk thistle certainly works is that it saved the lives of many people who were poisoned by the deadly amanita mushroom, or the “death cap.” In 1981, a German researcher named Dr. G. Vogel of the University of Munich conducted a study on 49 patients who had all been poisoned by the mushroom. Ordinarily the death rate from the amanita mushroom is 30 to 40 percent. The patients were all given daily injections of milk thistle’s active chemicals, and the death rate dropped to zero. Not a single patient in the study died!
Since the 70’s, more than 200 studies suggest that milk thistle is an effective homeopathic therapy for various liver diseases, and it has been shown to help heal forms of hepatitis and slow down progression of the disease cirrhosis. Cirrhosis causes about 30,000 deaths in the United States annually, and it is a disease for which few pharmaceutical drugs do any good at all.
Milk thistle is shown to soften the liver-damaging effects of many drugs, and it even appears protective against the liver toxicity of acetaminophen.
Milk thistle is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe, but it is also naturalized in California and the eastern United States. The extract usually comes as a pill or capsule and is recommended in doses from 200 mg to 400 mg daily. Less than one percent of users experience mild side effects, such as upset stomach. In severe cases of liver damage, improvements such as a reduction in enzymes and liver size are often noticeable in just five to eight days of taking milk thistle.
Milk thistle can be especially great for those working around hazardous chemicals, and even those who just want to do something restorative for their bodies (and their livers) as they age. Milk thistle has great potential for use in complementary and alternative treatments to improve your health.
1. Milk Thistle: Effects on Liver Disease and Cirrhosis and Clinical Adverse Effects. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2000. Web 27 Apr. 2012. <http://www. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK33282/#A30177>
2. Carper, Jean. Miracle Cures. New York: HarperCollins Pub- lishers, Inc., 1997. Print.
3. Tyler, Varro E. The Honest Herbal: A Sensible Guide to the Use of Herbs and Related Remedies. Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1993. Print.