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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The World Hits Sobering Coronavirus Milestones: 500,000 Dead and 10 Million Confirmed Cases

The world surpassed two sobering coronavirus milestones Sunday—500,000 confirmed deaths, 10 million confirmed cases—and hit another high mark for daily new infections

The World Hits Sobering Coronavirus Milestones: 500,000 Dead and 10 Million Confirmed Cases

(ROME) — The world surpassed two sobering coronavirus milestones Sunday — 500,000 confirmed deaths, 10 million confirmed cases — and hit another high mark for daily new infections as governments that attempted reopenings continued to backtrack and warn that worse news could be yet to come.

“COVID-19 has taken a very swift and very dangerous turn in Texas over just the past few weeks,” said Gov. Greg Abbott, who allowed businesses to start reopening in early May but on Friday shut down bars and limited restaurant dining amid a spike in cases.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom rolled back reopenings of bars in seven counties, including Los Angeles. He ordered them to close immediately and urged eight other counties to issue local health orders mandating the same.

More Florida beaches will be closing again to avoid further spread of the new coronavirus as officials try to tamp down on large gatherings amid a spike in COVID-19 cases. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said interactions among young people are driving the surge.

“Caution was thrown to the wind and so we are where we are,” DeSantis said.

South Africa’s health minister warned that the country’s current surge of cases is expected to rapidly increase in the coming weeks and push hospitals to the limit. Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize said the current rise in infections has come from people who “moved back into the workplace.

New clusters of cases at a Swiss nightclub and in the central English city of Leicester showed that the virus was still circulating widely in Europe, though not with the rapidly growing infection rate seen in parts of the U.S., Latin America and India.

Poland and France, meanwhile, attempted a step toward normalcy as they held elections that had been delayed by the virus.

Wearing mandatory masks, social distancing in lines and carrying their own pens to sign voting registers, French voters cast ballots in a second round of municipal elections. Poles also wore masks and used hand sanitizer, and some in virus-hit areas were told to mail in their ballots.

“I didn’t go and vote the first time around because I am elderly and I got scared,” said Fanny Barouh as she voted in a Paris school.

In Texas, Abbott appeared with Vice President Mike Pence, who cut campaign events from upcoming visits to Florida and Arizona because of rising virus cases in those states.

Pence praised Abbott for both his decision to reopen the state, and to roll back the reopening plans.

“You flattened the curve here in Texas … but about two weeks ago something changed,” Pence said.

Pence urged people to wear masks when unable to practice social distancing. He and Abbott wore face masks as they entered and left the room, taking them off while speaking to reporters.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, meanwhile, defended the fact that President Donald Trump has rarely worn a mask in public, saying he doesn’t have to follow his own administration’s guidance because as a leader of the free world he’s tested regularly and is in “very different circumstances than the rest of us.”

Addressing spikes in reported coronavirus cases in some states, Azar said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that people “have to take ownership” of their own behaviors by social distancing and wearing masks if possible.

A reported tally Sunday from Johns Hopkins University researchers said the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic had topped 500,00.

About 1 in 4 of those deaths – more than 125,000 – have been reported in the U.S. The country with the next highest death toll is Brazil, with more than 57,000, or about 1 in 9.

The true death toll from the virus, which first emerged in China late last year, is widely believed to be significantly higher. Experts say that especially early on, many victims died of COVID-19 without being tested for it.

To date, more than 10 million confirmed cases have been reported globally. About a quarter of them have been reported in the U.S.

The World Health Organization announced another daily record in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases across the world – topping over 189,000 in a single 24-hour period. The tally eclipses the previous record a week earlier at over 183,000 cases, showing case counts continue to progress worldwide.

Overall the U.S. still has far and away the most total cases. At more than 2,450,000 – roughly twice that of Brazil. The number of actual cases worldwide is much higher.

New York, once the nation’s pandemic epicenter, is now “on the exact opposite end,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in an interview with “Meet the Press.”

The state reported five new virus deaths Saturday, its lowest reported daily death toll since March 15. During the state’s peak pandemic in April, nearly 800 people were dying every day. New York still leads the nation in COVID-19 deaths with nearly 25,000.

In the state of Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee put a hold on plans to move counties to the fourth phase of his reopening plan as cases continue to increase. But in Hawaii, the city of Honolulu announced that campgrounds will reopen for the first time in three months with limited permits to ensure social distancing.

Britain’s government, meanwhile, is considering whether a local lockdown is needed for the central English city of Leicester amid reports about a spike in COVID-19 among its Asian community. It would be Britain’s first local lockdown.

“We have seen flare-ups across the country in recent weeks,” Home Secretary Priti Patel told the BBC on Sunday.

Polish voters were casting ballots, in person and by mail, for a presidential election that was supposed to have taken place in May but was chaotically postponed amid the pandemic. President Andrzej Duda, a 48-year-old conservative backed by the nationalist ruling Law and Justice party, is running against 10 other candidates as he seeks a second five-year term.

Iwona Goge, 79, was encouraged to see so many people voting in Warsaw.

“It’s bad. Poland is terribly divided and people are getting discouraged,” she said.

French voters were choosing mayors and municipal councilors in Paris and 5,000 towns and cities in a second round of municipal elections held under strict hygiene rules. Key battlegrounds include Paris, where the next mayor will preside over the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Italy was honoring its dead later Sunday with an evening Requiem concert in hard-hit Bergamo province. The ceremony in the onetime epicenter of the European outbreak came a day after Italy registered the lowest daily tally of COVID-19 deaths in nearly four months: eight.

European leaders were taking no chances in tamping down new clusters. German authorities renewed a lockdown in a western region of about 500,000 people after about 1,300 slaughterhouse workers tested positive.

Africa’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 continued to climb to a new high of more than 371,000, including 9,484 deaths, according to figures released Sunday by the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

___

Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

Source : Time More   

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