Bold Action Required to Defeat Second Wave of COVID-19

As health officials continue to expect a second wave of COVID-19 this fall, spreading information about how to prevent it is becoming crucial. One of the most important strategies in this regard is to optimize your vitamin D level. Vitamin D not only helps regulate immune function and prevent respiratory illnesses in general, but mounting data analyses show clear parallels between vitamin D levels and the risk of infection, severity and mortality from COVID-19 as well. While U.S. authorities are still trying to debunk (and even instill fear) of vitamin D supplementation, British and Scottish authorities appear to be embracing a more sensible approach. The British Frontline Immune Support Team, founded "to make available some of the best quality immune supportive products … to help keep those on the NHS (UK National Health Service) frontline resilient and strong," is already providing health care workers with free nutritional supplements known to bolster and regulate immune function. This includes liposomal vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc. As noted on frontlineimmunesupport.com, the group's fundraiser page:1 "Immune supportive packs are sent directly to each individual NHS healthcare worker who signs up for this initiative — and they receive all products for FREE. We currently have hundreds of NHS staff already signed up ready to go; and with your contributions we can supply and reach thousands more." The Frontline Immune Support Team point out that vitamin D:2 "… plays a critical role in your immune defense system, both in reducing flu-like days of illness if your blood level is sufficient, and in helping your immune system respond when under viral attack. It speeds up recovery from pneumonia. Two in five adults have a level of vitamin D below 25nmol/l, especially in late winter months such as February and March, that is likely to almost double their risk of flu. A vitamin D level above 100 nmol/l correlates with the lowest numbers of flu-like days. The moral of the story is to get your level up as quickly as possible." Public Health Scotland and the British NHS are also assessing the evidence to determine whether vitamin D should be prescribed to in-hospital patients and as a prevention to high-risk groups.3 Vitamin D Level Correlates With Risk of Respiratory Infection Clinical trials using vitamin D against COVID-19 are currently underway,4 but we don't need to wait for results to know that vitamin D optimization is a good idea. SARS-CoV-2 is an enveloped virus, which means it's more difficult for your immune system to identify and destroy it. Vitamin D could almost be thought of as a designer drug for helping the body to handle viral respiratory infections. It boosts the ability of cells to kill and resist viruses and simultaneously dampens down harmful inflammation, which is one of the big problems with Covid. — Adrian Martineau, professor of respiratory infection and immunity. However, as noted by The Frontline Support Team, we already know higher vitamin D levels are inversely associated with infection by many other enveloped viruses, including dengue, hepatitis, herpes, HIV, rotavirus, respiratory syncytial virus and influenza.5,6 Vitamin D also strengthens cellular junctions, thereby making it more difficult for viruses to gain entry through your eyes, ears, lungs and mucus membranes. This in turn makes the infection less likely to migrate down into your lungs.7 Importantly, vitamin D also strengthens the adaptive arm of your immune system, and its ability to produce antibodies.8 According to a June 17, 2020, report by The Guardian:9 "Public health officials are urgently reviewing the potential ability of vitamin D to reduce the risk of coronavirus. It comes amid growing concern over the disproportionate number of black, Asian and minority ethnic people contracting and dying from the disease, including a reported10 94% of all doctors killed by the virus … The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) began this work last month and is considering recent evidence on vitamin D and acute respiratory tract infection in the general population. Evidence will be considered on specific population groups, including those of different ages and BAME [black, Asian, minority ethnic] groups. In a parallel development, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is conducting a 'rapid' evidence review on vitamin D 'in the context of Covid-19' with support from Public Health England (PHE)." Vitamin D — 'Designer Drug' Against Viral Infections Adrian Martineau, a professor of respiratory infection and immunity at Queen Mary University of London, is currently leading the "Covidence UK Study,"11 an effort to collect data about how vitamin D deficiency impacts your COVID-19 risk. If you live in the UK, you can sign up for the Covidence UK study here. Martineau tell

Bold Action Required to Defeat Second Wave of COVID-19

As health officials continue to expect a second wave of COVID-19 this fall, spreading information about how to prevent it is becoming crucial. One of the most important strategies in this regard is to optimize your vitamin D level.

Vitamin D not only helps regulate immune function and prevent respiratory illnesses in general, but mounting data analyses show clear parallels between vitamin D levels and the risk of infection, severity and mortality from COVID-19 as well.

While U.S. authorities are still trying to debunk (and even instill fear) of vitamin D supplementation, British and Scottish authorities appear to be embracing a more sensible approach.

The British Frontline Immune Support Team, founded "to make available some of the best quality immune supportive products … to help keep those on the NHS (UK National Health Service) frontline resilient and strong," is already providing health care workers with free nutritional supplements known to bolster and regulate immune function.

This includes liposomal vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc. As noted on frontlineimmunesupport.com, the group's fundraiser page:1

"Immune supportive packs are sent directly to each individual NHS healthcare worker who signs up for this initiative — and they receive all products for FREE. We currently have hundreds of NHS staff already signed up ready to go; and with your contributions we can supply and reach thousands more."

The Frontline Immune Support Team point out that vitamin D:2

"… plays a critical role in your immune defense system, both in reducing flu-like days of illness if your blood level is sufficient, and in helping your immune system respond when under viral attack. It speeds up recovery from pneumonia.

Two in five adults have a level of vitamin D below 25nmol/l, especially in late winter months such as February and March, that is likely to almost double their risk of flu. A vitamin D level above 100 nmol/l correlates with the lowest numbers of flu-like days. The moral of the story is to get your level up as quickly as possible."

Public Health Scotland and the British NHS are also assessing the evidence to determine whether vitamin D should be prescribed to in-hospital patients and as a prevention to high-risk groups.3

Vitamin D Level Correlates With Risk of Respiratory Infection

Clinical trials using vitamin D against COVID-19 are currently underway,4 but we don't need to wait for results to know that vitamin D optimization is a good idea. SARS-CoV-2 is an enveloped virus, which means it's more difficult for your immune system to identify and destroy it.

However, as noted by The Frontline Support Team, we already know higher vitamin D levels are inversely associated with infection by many other enveloped viruses, including dengue, hepatitis, herpes, HIV, rotavirus, respiratory syncytial virus and influenza.5,6

Vitamin D also strengthens cellular junctions, thereby making it more difficult for viruses to gain entry through your eyes, ears, lungs and mucus membranes. This in turn makes the infection less likely to migrate down into your lungs.7 Importantly, vitamin D also strengthens the adaptive arm of your immune system, and its ability to produce antibodies.8 According to a June 17, 2020, report by The Guardian:9

"Public health officials are urgently reviewing the potential ability of vitamin D to reduce the risk of coronavirus. It comes amid growing concern over the disproportionate number of black, Asian and minority ethnic people contracting and dying from the disease, including a reported10 94% of all doctors killed by the virus …

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) began this work last month and is considering recent evidence on vitamin D and acute respiratory tract infection in the general population. Evidence will be considered on specific population groups, including those of different ages and BAME [black, Asian, minority ethnic] groups.

In a parallel development, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is conducting a 'rapid' evidence review on vitamin D 'in the context of Covid-19' with support from Public Health England (PHE)."

Vitamin D — 'Designer Drug' Against Viral Infections

Adrian Martineau, a professor of respiratory infection and immunity at Queen Mary University of London, is currently leading the "Covidence UK Study,"11 an effort to collect data about how vitamin D deficiency impacts your COVID-19 risk. If you live in the UK, you can sign up for the Covidence UK study here.

Martineau tells The Guardian that COVID-19 deaths among black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff within the NHS raises important questions about vitamin D status.12

"Vitamin D could almost be thought of as a designer drug for helping the body to handle viral respiratory infections. It boosts the ability of cells to kill and resist viruses and simultaneously dampens down harmful inflammation, which is one of the big problems with Covid," he told the paper.

Why People of Color Are at Increased Risk

There's a simple reason why BAME groups are more susceptible to COVID-19. Darker skin requires far more sun exposure to produce adequate vitamin D, so much so that dark-skinned individuals living north of the equator are virtually guaranteed to be chronically deficient.

According to data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 2005 and 2006, and published in 2018, 82.1% of black American adults and 62.9% of Hispanic adults are deficient in vitamin D.13 As noted in that paper, lower melanin levels are protective of vitamin D deficiency, and the darker your skin, the more likely you are of having a low vitamin D level.

The good news is that this predisposition is easily and inexpensively remedied. The Frontline Support Team has made good strides toward protecting health care workers, so far supplying about 750 NHS frontline staff with free supplement packs. But the general public also needs it, too. At bare minimum, the public needs the information.

Scotland Issues Guidance on Vitamin D

In Scotland, government COVID-19 guidance now includes taking a daily vitamin D supplement. As reported by the Scotland Herald:14

"Official Scottish Government guidance issued on June 3 states that everyone, including children, 'should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.'

However, it is 'specifically recommended' to all pregnant and breastfeeding women; infants and children under five years old; people from minority ethnic groups with dark skin such as those of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian origin, who require more sun exposure to make as much vitamin D; and people who are confined indoors."

US Ignores Vitamin D Impact

In stark contrast, U.S. health agencies appear to have little interest in helping the public support their immune system through appropriate nutrition, but would rather have you rely on drugs and vaccines.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health recommends15 getting your vitamin D from food and beverages only, despite the fact that dietary intake of vitamin D is insufficient to reach and maintain the level required to prevent viral illnesses and other chronic diseases.

That said, some health experts are speaking out. Among them is former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, who wrote an opinion piece for Fox News in which he suggests vitamin D may reduce COVID-19 mortality rates, especially in those who are deficient.16

He goes on to say supplementation has reduced the "risk of respiratory infections, regulates cytokine production and can limit the risk of other viruses such as influenza." Much of the damage from COVID-19 occurs with a "cytokine storm," during which the body's inflammatory system goes into high gear, damaging organs and increasing mortality rates. He writes:17

"We can do lots of things to improve our resistance to infection. These include getting regular physical activity, getting enough sleep, stopping smoking and other tobacco use, and, for people living with diabetes, getting it under control.

Taking a multivitamin that includes Vitamin D, or a Vitamin D supplement, probably can't hurt, and it might help. As we continue to work to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, anything we can do to strengthen our resistance is a step in the right direction."

Similarly, Dr. John C. Umhau, a public health specialist at the NIH, has argued that vitamin D is one of the "most studied and most important host factor impacting survival from COVID-19."18 He also points out that "A government-sponsored research strategy to address this issue has not been developed, as officials explained that there was no mandate to explore an alternative to the existing vaccination program."

Considering the hazards inherent in fast-tracking a COVID-19 vaccine, and seeing how previous attempts at creating a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine have all failed, putting all of the public health eggs in the vaccine basket is questionable in the extreme.

What Science Says About Vitamin D

By now, there's a very long list of scientific evidences pointing toward vitamin D optimization as being a crucial component for preventing another spike in COVID-19 deaths.

In the video above, Ivor Cummins, chief program officer for Irish Heart Disease Awareness, explains how higher levels of vitamin D may reduce your risk of negative outcomes from COVID-19. Studies supporting this view include but are not limited to the following:

A scientific review19 in the journal Nutrients concluded vitamin D can reduce the risk of infection by lowering the rate at which the virus replicates and reduce the pro-inflammatory cytokines that damage the lungs, leading to pneumonia. Vitamin D also helps increase concentrations of anti-inflammatory cytokines that may help protect the lungs. The researchers recommended those at risk take:

"… 10,000 IU/d of vitamin D3 for a few weeks to rapidly raise 25(OH)D concentrations, followed by 5000 IU/d. The goal should be to raise 25(OH)D concentrations above 40–60 ng/mL (100–150 nmol/L)."

Vitamin D is an important component in the prevention and treatment of influenza20 and upper respiratory tract infections21 — While vitamin D does not appear to have a direct effect on the virus itself, it strengthens immune function, thus allowing the host body to combat the virus more effectively.22

As detailed in "Vitamin D Prevents Infections," research shows high-dose vitamin D supplementation lowers the risk of respiratory illnesses and lung infections in the elderly by 40%. As noted by an author of that study, "Vitamin D can improve the immune system's ability to fight infections because it bolsters the first line of defense of the immune system."

Importantly, vitamin D also suppresses inflammatory processes. Taken together, this might make vitamin D quite useful against COVID-19, because while robust immune function is required for your body to combat the virus, an overactivated immune system is also responsible for the cytokine storm we see in COVID-19 infection that can lead to death. As noted by pulmonologist Dr. Roger Seheult in the video below:

"What we want is a smart immune system — an immune system that takes care of the virus but doesn't put us into an inflammatory condition that could put us on a ventilator."

Research23 published in 2009 suggests fatality rates during the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic were influenced by season, with greater numbers of people dying during the winter (when vitamin D levels are at their lowest) than the summer. According to the authors:24

"Substantial correlations were found for associations of July UVB dose with case fatality rates and rates of pneumonia as a complication of influenza. Similar results were found for wintertime UVB.

Vitamin D upregulates production of human cathelicidin, LL-37, which has both antimicrobial and antiendotoxin activities. Vitamin D also reduces the production of proinflammatory cytokines, which could also explain some of the benefit of vitamin D since H1N1 infection gives rise to a cytokine storm."

Research25 published in 2017 — a meta-analysis of 25 randomized controlled trials — confirmed that vitamin D supplementation helps protect against acute respiratory infections.

Importantly, this analysis also discovered daily or weekly supplementation of vitamin D had the greatest protective effect in those with the lowest vitamin D levels.26 In other words, large, infrequent bolus doses do not work well.

Those with severe vitamin D deficiency who took a daily or weekly supplement cut their respiratory infection risk in half, whereas the acute administration of high bolus doses of vitamin D had no significant impact on infection risk.

Data analysis27 by GrassrootsHealth shows people with a vitamin D level of at least 40 ng/mL reduced their risk of colds by 15% and flu by 41%, compared to those with a level below 20 ng/mL.

Findings from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA)28,29 suggest vitamin D deficiency could have serious implications for COVID-19. The researchers recommend adults over 50 take a vitamin D supplement year-round (not just in winter) if they don't get enough sun exposure to optimize their levels.

According to the vitamin D review paper30 "Evidence That Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Death," published in the journal Nutrients, April 2, 2020:

"Through several mechanisms, vitamin D can reduce risk of infections. Those mechanisms include inducing cathelicidins and defensins that can lower viral replication rates and reducing concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokines that produce the inflammation that injures the lining of the lungs, leading to pneumonia, as well as increasing concentrations of anti-inflammatory cytokines …

To reduce the risk of infection, it is recommended that people at risk of influenza and/or COVID-19 consider taking 10,000 IU/d of vitamin D3 for a few weeks to rapidly raise 25(OH)D concentrations, followed by 5000 IU/d.

The goal should be to raise 25(OH)D concentrations above 40–60 ng/mL (100–150 nmol/L). For treatment of people who become infected with COVID-19, higher vitamin D3 doses might be useful."

A GrassrootsHealth review of an observational study involving 212 COVID-19 patients in Southeast Asia identified a correlation between vitamin D levels and disease severity. Those with the mildest disease had the highest vitamin D levels, and vice versa.

In the initial study group of 212 patients (see Table 1 below), 55 had normal vitamin D levels, which was defined as greater than 30 ng/ml; 80 had insufficient levels of 21 to 29 ng/ml and 77 had deficient levels of less than 20 ng/ml.

According to the research done by GrassrootsHealth, 40 ng/mL is the lower edge of optimal, with 60 ng/mL to 80 ng/mL being ideal for health and disease prevention. Despite that, the benefit of having a vitamin D level above 30 ng/mL was clear.

In a study31,32 that looked at data from 780 COVID-19 patients in Indonesia, those with a vitamin D level between 20 ng/mL and 30 ng/mL had a sevenfold higher risk of death than those with a level above 30 ng/mL. Having a level below 20 ng/mL was associated with a 12 times higher risk of death.

Research33,34 posted on the preprint server MedRxiv June 10, 2020, reports a combination of vitamin D3, B12 and magnesium inhibited the progression of COVID-19 in patients over the age of 50, resulting in "a significant reduction in proportion of patients with clinical deterioration requiring oxygen support and/or intensive care support."

Check Your Level Before You Start Downing Supplements

On the upside, news about vitamin D appears to be reaching the masses. According to Foodnavigator-Asia, sales of the Japanese FANCL brand of vitamin D were 2018% higher in April 2020 compared to April 2019.35 While that's a good sign, it's important to remember to get your vitamin D level tested before you start supplementing.

The reason for this is because you cannot rely on blanket dosing recommendations. The crucial factor here is your blood level, not the dose, as the dose you need is dependent on several individual factors, including your baseline blood level.

Data from GrassrootsHealth's D*Action studies suggest the optimal level for health and disease prevention is between 60 ng/mL and 80 ng/mL, while the cutoff for sufficiency appears to be around 40 ng/mL. In Europe, the measurements you're looking for are 150 to 200 nmol/L and 100 nmol/L respectively.

I recently published a comprehensive vitamin D report in which I detail vitamin D's mechanisms of action and how to ensure optimal levels. I recommend downloading and sharing that report with everyone you know. A quick summary of the key steps is as follows:

1. First, measure your vitamin D level — One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways of measuring your vitamin D level is to participate in the GrassrootsHealth's personalized nutrition project, which includes a vitamin D testing kit.

Once you know what your blood level is, you can assess the dose needed to maintain or improve your level. If you cannot get enough vitamin D from the sun (you can use the DMinder app36 to see how much vitamin D your body can make depending on your location and other individual factors), then you'll need an oral supplement.

2. Assess your individualized vitamin D dosage — To do that, you can either use the chart below, or use GrassrootsHealth's Vitamin D*calculator. To convert ng/mL into the European measurement (nmol/L), simply multiply the ng/mL measurement by 2.5. To calculate how much vitamin D you may be getting from regular sun exposure in addition to your supplemental intake, use the DMinder app.37

Vitamin D Serum Level

3. Retest in three to six months — Lastly, you'll need to remeasure your vitamin D level in three to six months, to evaluate how your sun exposure and/or supplement dose is working for you.

dr. mercola's report

>>>>> Click Here <<<<<

Take Your Vitamin D With Magnesium and K2

As previously detailed in "Magnesium and K2 Optimize Your Vitamin D Supplementation," it's strongly recommended to take magnesium and K2 concomitant with oral vitamin D. Data from nearly 3,000 individuals reveal you need 244% more oral vitamin D if you're not also taking magnesium and vitamin K2!38

What this means in practical terms is that if you take all three supplements in combination, you need far less oral vitamin D in order to achieve a healthy vitamin D level.

Vitamin D Dose-Response

Help Us Spread the Word!

Remember, while vitamin D is important for everyone, key target populations are the elderly and people of color. It's now beyond evident that COVID-19 affects the elderly far more severely, on average, than younger individuals, and those living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities seem to be at an extraordinarily increased risk of dying from COVID-19.

Add to that the increased hospitalization rate and mortality among people of color, and it should be easy to see that targeting these two groups with commonsense strategies such as vitamin D optimization can, and most likely will, have a tremendous impact on COVID-19 mortality rates in the future. As Robert Brown with the McCarrison Society, a nutrition think tank, told the Scotland Herald:39

"The biological pathways by which vitamin D can help reduce severity of Covid-19 are well established and the real-life evidence from within this pandemic is growing. What's needed now is for government to be bold and act now to mitigate the risk of a second wave returning in the winter."

That said, don't let government's failure to address vitamin D to stop you from taking control of your own health. Vitamin D supplements are inexpensive and readily available, as are vitamin K2 and magnesium. If we can get the word out, we are likely to significantly quell any reemergence of COVID-19, and eliminate most of the racial disparities we see among patients with severe illness.

Source : Mercola More   

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Milk Thistle: Multiple Benefits but Not a Good Garden Plant

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a member of the asteraceae family and has a large purple flower.1 It comes from the Mediterranean region, but after having been introduced to other parts of the world, it's become naturalized in South America, North America and Southern Australia. The plants can grow up to 5 feet tall and are covered in spines. They have a long history of being used as an edible, medicinal plant. The earliest record of milk thistle was made by Dioscorides, who thought it helped snake bite.2 Pliny the Elder wrote about its use in supporting liver health. In the following decades, others also wrote about using milk thistle, including herbalist Nicholas Culpepper and late-19th century physicians Harvey Wickes Felter and John Uri Lloyd. Native Americans used the plant to treat skin conditions and boils. Homeopathic practitioners have used the seeds to treat liver conditions such as jaundice, as well as varicose veins and gallstones. In Germany, herbal medications are used and researched under the guidance of the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices Commission E, which is often referred to as the German Commission E.3 The group "recommends it [silymarin] for treatment of toxin-induced liver problems and liver cirrhosis, and as a supportive treatment for chronic diseases of the liver."4 Basics of Milk Thistle Benefits The largest bioactive components in milk thistle are flavonolignans.5 These compounds can modulate cell-signaling pathways and reduce inflammation. The active component in milk thistle is silymarin, which is a group of flavonolignans that work together and can be isolated from the seeds.6 Silymarin has several components, including antioxidants and several other biological properties, which are derived from the seeds.7 They include silybins A and B, isosilybin A and B, silychristin (silichristin) and silydiamin. When combined, silybins A and B are called silibinin.8 The terms milk thistle and silymarin have been used interchangeably, although this is technically inaccurate. Lab studies have shown that silymarin can stimulate detoxification and regeneration of liver tissue. In fact, silymarin's effect on the liver is so great that some researchers have called it "the most potential drug to treat almost all kind of liver diseases."9 Silyman's Role in Cancer Milk thistle stabilizes cellular membranes and inhibits the growth of certain cancers. In some instances, it has been found to potentially increase the effectiveness of specific chemotherapeutic drugs while protecting the liver.10 Since those drugs can also be toxic to the liver, finding a way to protect liver function while under chemotherapy can help improve a patient's health.11 Scientists also have found that silymarin can help protect the liver from oxidative stress driven by reactive oxygen species and cytokines. In one study12 with children being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, researchers divided the participants into two groups. One received silymarin in three divided doses for one week after each dose of methotrexate, and the second received a placebo. Before the research began, there was no significant difference in the children's liver and renal function. After chemotherapy, the group receiving silymarin showed improved liver and kidney function. Silibinin is one component of silymarin. It has demonstrated significant effects against a variety of malignancies. In one study,13 it showed the ability to down-regulate two pathways to suppress the growth of cancer cells. In another lab study,14 cells from estrogen-dependent breast carcinoma were cultured and treated with silymarin, doxorubicin or a combination of doxorubicin and silymarin. Researchers found that silymarin had a synergistic effect on doxorubicin, a chemotherapeutic agent used in breast cancer.15 But, that doesn't mean silymarin should be taken automatically as an adjunct to all cancer treatment, as it can negatively interact with some chemotherapy agents. For example, since silymarin has estrogenic effects, it can counteract hormone inhibitors given for hormone-receptive breast cancer.16 So, always check with your physician first, if you want to use silymarin in conjunction with your cancer treatment. Currently, milk thistle can be purchased as a dietary supplement. However, Siteman Cancer Center warns that taking the supplement may introduce a few adverse side effects. For example, some side effects can include anorexia, gastrointestinal disturbances and nausea.17 And, as mentioned, use caution with Western medicine chemotherapeutic agents. Milk Thistle Supports Liver Health and Repair In lab studies and animal models, silymarin has demonstrated the ability to prevent or reduce liver injury after exposure to certain toxins, including acetaminophen and Amanita phalloides, a type of poisonous fungus.18 However, in human studies on milk thistle's benefit to your liver, some data have been inconclusive. For ex

Milk Thistle: Multiple Benefits but Not a Good Garden Plant

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a member of the asteraceae family and has a large purple flower.1 It comes from the Mediterranean region, but after having been introduced to other parts of the world, it's become naturalized in South America, North America and Southern Australia.

The plants can grow up to 5 feet tall and are covered in spines. They have a long history of being used as an edible, medicinal plant. The earliest record of milk thistle was made by Dioscorides, who thought it helped snake bite.2 Pliny the Elder wrote about its use in supporting liver health.

In the following decades, others also wrote about using milk thistle, including herbalist Nicholas Culpepper and late-19th century physicians Harvey Wickes Felter and John Uri Lloyd. Native Americans used the plant to treat skin conditions and boils. Homeopathic practitioners have used the seeds to treat liver conditions such as jaundice, as well as varicose veins and gallstones.

In Germany, herbal medications are used and researched under the guidance of the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices Commission E, which is often referred to as the German Commission E.3 The group "recommends it [silymarin] for treatment of toxin-induced liver problems and liver cirrhosis, and as a supportive treatment for chronic diseases of the liver."4

Basics of Milk Thistle Benefits

The largest bioactive components in milk thistle are flavonolignans.5 These compounds can modulate cell-signaling pathways and reduce inflammation. The active component in milk thistle is silymarin, which is a group of flavonolignans that work together and can be isolated from the seeds.6

Silymarin has several components, including antioxidants and several other biological properties, which are derived from the seeds.7 They include silybins A and B, isosilybin A and B, silychristin (silichristin) and silydiamin. When combined, silybins A and B are called silibinin.8

The terms milk thistle and silymarin have been used interchangeably, although this is technically inaccurate. Lab studies have shown that silymarin can stimulate detoxification and regeneration of liver tissue. In fact, silymarin's effect on the liver is so great that some researchers have called it "the most potential drug to treat almost all kind of liver diseases."9

Silyman's Role in Cancer

Milk thistle stabilizes cellular membranes and inhibits the growth of certain cancers. In some instances, it has been found to potentially increase the effectiveness of specific chemotherapeutic drugs while protecting the liver.10 Since those drugs can also be toxic to the liver, finding a way to protect liver function while under chemotherapy can help improve a patient's health.11

Scientists also have found that silymarin can help protect the liver from oxidative stress driven by reactive oxygen species and cytokines. In one study12 with children being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, researchers divided the participants into two groups. One received silymarin in three divided doses for one week after each dose of methotrexate, and the second received a placebo.

Before the research began, there was no significant difference in the children's liver and renal function. After chemotherapy, the group receiving silymarin showed improved liver and kidney function.

Silibinin is one component of silymarin. It has demonstrated significant effects against a variety of malignancies. In one study,13 it showed the ability to down-regulate two pathways to suppress the growth of cancer cells.

In another lab study,14 cells from estrogen-dependent breast carcinoma were cultured and treated with silymarin, doxorubicin or a combination of doxorubicin and silymarin. Researchers found that silymarin had a synergistic effect on doxorubicin, a chemotherapeutic agent used in breast cancer.15

But, that doesn't mean silymarin should be taken automatically as an adjunct to all cancer treatment, as it can negatively interact with some chemotherapy agents. For example, since silymarin has estrogenic effects, it can counteract hormone inhibitors given for hormone-receptive breast cancer.16 So, always check with your physician first, if you want to use silymarin in conjunction with your cancer treatment.

Currently, milk thistle can be purchased as a dietary supplement. However, Siteman Cancer Center warns that taking the supplement may introduce a few adverse side effects. For example, some side effects can include anorexia, gastrointestinal disturbances and nausea.17 And, as mentioned, use caution with Western medicine chemotherapeutic agents.

Milk Thistle Supports Liver Health and Repair

In lab studies and animal models, silymarin has demonstrated the ability to prevent or reduce liver injury after exposure to certain toxins, including acetaminophen and Amanita phalloides, a type of poisonous fungus.18 However, in human studies on milk thistle's benefit to your liver, some data have been inconclusive.

For example, some studies found no benefits to support milk thistle's use for chronic hepatitis C or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). On the other hand, in at least one animal study,19 researchers combined taurine and silymarin and found that, together, they could effectively reduce both lipid accumulation in the liver and insulin resistance.

And, antiviral activity has been documented with the intravenous use of silibinin against hepatitis C. In one case report of an individual who was infected with both hepatitis C and HIV, two weeks of silibinin administered intraveneously cleared both hepatitis C and HIV.20

The Caspian Journal of Internal Medicine21 also writes that silymarin has an effect against nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a more advanced form of NAFLD. It can also help alleviate cirrhosis of the liver and boost liver function.22

Data published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences support the finding that treatment with silymarin plus vitamin E could help patients with NAFLD. The study team concluded:23

"Silymarin can be an alternative valid therapeutic option particularly when other drugs are not indicated or have failed or as a complementary treatment associated with other therapeutic programs."

Silymarin Is Hepatoprotective Against Certain Poisons

Silymarin has demonstrated the ability to protect the liver against acute alcohol poisoning (alcohol-induced hepatotoxicity) in a study involving animals.24 As already mentioned, it may also offer some hope to those who accidentally eat the amanita mushroom, also known as the death cap.25

To give you an idea of just how deadly the death cap mushroom is, just one can kill a healthy adult and its compounds are extremely stable.26 This means soaking, cooking or drying does not remove the poison from the mushroom. Symptoms start six to 16 hours after eating, depending upon how much was consumed and the health of the person who ate it.

Symptoms begin with stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea that continues for one to two days. In the following two to three days the person appears as if they've recovered. After this is the terminal phase, in which the stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea are accompanied by evidence of liver damage, which then leads to death.

But, even so, a review in Lancet Oncology suggests that silymarin given intravenously may very well save your life if you ingest this mushroom:27

"A review of more than 2000 patients exposed to amanita mushrooms in Europe and North America suggested that intravenous silybinin was the most effective therapy available against this toxin."

More Health Benefits of Milk Thistle

Milk thistle can also increase milk production in lactating mothers.28 In the past, silymarin has been used to improve milk production in dairy cows. With humans, one research group undertook a study to evaluate the effect it may have on postpartum women.29 Fifty healthy women were enrolled and given silymarin for 63 days. At the end of the study the researchers found that milk production had increased by 85.94%.

This was much higher than the group receiving the placebo, who increased milk production by 32.09%. None of the participants dropped out during the study and no women reported unwanted side effects.

Milk thistle is also a bacteria-fighter: Data have shown that it may inhibit bacterial growth and biofilm formation.30 In one study published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology,31 researchers evaluated the effects of silymarin and found it could reduce biofilm viability and that it had antibacterial activity against standard bacterial strains.

Researchers believe milk thistle's anti-inflammatory effects may be in part due to a two-phase process, similar to that used by curcumin and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is an antioxidant found in green tea.32 In the first phase there is an increase in the expression of genes associated with cellular stress. The second phase involves a longer suppression of gene expression and inhibition of inflammatory signaling pathways.

Silymarin can also activate AMP activated protein kinase (AMPK), which is an enzyme sometimes called the "metabolic master switch."33 This is because AMPK plays an important role in regulating metabolism.

Silymarin can also inhibit mammalian target of rapamycin (mTor), which is beneficial since activation increases your risk of cancer. Historically, milk thistle had been used to treat those who had mental health conditions. Recently, it has been found silymarin has neuroprotective effects and may help address memory loss triggered by oxidative stress.34

Effects on Neurological System and Blood Sugar

Animal models have been used to test the effects of silymarin on Alzheimer's disease,35Parkinson's disease36 and cerebral ischemia.37 In each study the researchers found that the test animals benefited from using supplementation to reduce the effects of the condition.

Unfortunately, there are few, if any, studies on whether silymarin might also be useful for other neurological diseases such as Hungtington's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and multiple sclerosis.38

The compound has known effects on blood sugar.39 Taking it daily can lower hemoglobin A1c levels, which means that for people with Type 2 diabetes and taking insulin, extra care has to be taken because it can cause your blood sugar to drop too low.

Take Care if You Plant Milk Thistle at Home

Before you consider planting milk thistle in your backyard, be forewarned: It's a highly invasive, quickly-spreading weed. You may not mind having it all over your yard, but it is no respecter of boundaries. This means it'll likely end up in your neighbor's yard as well.

Milk thistle is also toxic to livestock, so don't plant it outside if you have grazing animals nearby. It has adapted to growing just about anywhere, even in poor-quality soil. Ideally, the seeds should be planted in an area that gets full sun. Once the flowers have started to dry, they'll be ready for harvest.40

Cut the flowers from the plant and place them in a paper bag. Store the bag in a dry place to allow the flower heads to dry. Once you're certain all the moisture is gone, shake the bag to separate the seeds from the flower head.41 The seeds are best kept in a dry, airtight container. Only remove them when you're ready to use them.

There are several ways to incorporate milk thistle seeds into your food. They can be powdered in a coffee grinder and sprinkled on salads, added to smoothies or raw juice. You can also use the seeds to make your own tea. You'll find a recipe for milk thistle tea in my past article "Magnificent Milk Thistle."

Source : Mercola More   

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