The liver may be the body’s hardest working organ. It does a myriad of functions every day to keep the rest of our body systems running. For instance, it plays an important role in digestion, assimilation, elimination and detoxification. Everyday our bodies accumulate toxins. The body’s preference is to eliminate these as soon as possible provided that the right components are available to the liver to do its job. If not, these toxins remain stored in the body tissues, especially in the liver’s partner organ, the gall bladder.
Unfortunately for most of us living in Westernized cultures, toxin storage is often the case due to the large amount of toxins we are exposed to from outside the body and our lack of plant foods in the average diet which would otherwise help the toxin clearance process. These toxin residues are highly reactive in the general daily chemical “soup” of the body, and can initiate or promote processes that may lead to chronic diseases like arthritis, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Lupus, environmental illness, allergies and immune system dysfunctions as well as speeding the aging process.
Milk thistle, as the name implies, is a member of the thistle family whose seed has long been used in traditional herbalism as a general liver tonic, for liver and gall bladder cleansing, to promote healthy elimination as well as for skin conditions, depression and regulating the menstrual cycle.
Milk thistle has been the subject of a large amount of scientific research over the last 30 years showing it improves toxin clearance by promoting healthy bile functions while its antioxidant activity protects against cell damage from those toxins. This includes protecting the liver and kidneys from damage by such common medications as aspirin, antibiotics and anti-depressants as well as alcohol use. It may also be beneficial for those with liver conditions like cirrhosis and hepatitis. Milk thistle even helps damaged liver cells to regenerate, a process once thought to be impossible!
In scientific studies, milk thistle has demonstrated other types of actions suggesting possible benefits for inflammation and ulcers, chemical sensitivity and allergies, blood sugar regulation and heart disease, psoriasis and water retention. New preliminary evidence has suggested there may also be some future applications for cancer.
As you can see, this versatile herb can play many helpful roles in our daily health regimen as well as being incorporated in our seasonal internal cleansing programs. The liver works so hard for each of us daily, why not give it a break with milk thistle?
Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. Dover, 1931.
Werbach M & M Murray. Botanical Influences on Illness.
Third Line Press, 1994.
Willard T. Wild Rose Scientific Herbal.
Wild Rose College of Natural Healing, 1991.
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