Here is a three-part series on the number one herbal remedy for your liver. Its name is milk thistle and it just might save one of the body’s most critical organs.
All around the world, milk thistle grows in dry and sunny conditions. When fully grown, it reaches a height of four to 10 feet with wide leaves and red-purple flowers.
Also called “Silybum marianum,” the thistle has been a popular treatment for an assortment of diseases (especially liver ailments) since the days of ancient Rome. Around the turn of the 20th century, U.S. doctors began to use seeds from the milk thistle plant to relieve congestion in the liver, kidneys and spleen.
Nowadays, it is used most often as an exclusive medicine for your liver, fighting disease caused by alcohol, viruses, cirrhosis or drugs. The active ingredient for protecting the liver is known as “silymarin.” Silymarin is not a single chemical, but contains a group of like chemicals. When you see milk thistle in the health store, it consists of extracts from the seed of the plant.
Silymarin is the savior here, shown in some studies to protect liver cells from being damaged by alcohol and other toxins, reduce inflammation (a key culprit in hepatitis), and serve as a potent antioxidant. Now, is it effective?
(To learn more about silymarin, read the article A Natural Alzheimer’s Preventer Revealed)
It’s important for everyone to have a basic understanding of liver function tests as well as the various types of liver disease before discussing the effects of milk thistle on these conditions. These tests indicate to a doctor whether or not your liver is damaged. They also help distinguish between acute and chronic liver disease.
Here are some of the common tests:
— Serum Bilirubin Test: Bilirubin is produced by the liver and is excreted in the bile. An elevated blood bilirubin level means that something is obstructing the bile flow or the way the liver processes bile.
— Serum Albumin Test: Albumin is an important protein produced by the liver. Low levels indicate chronic liver disease.
— Serum Alkaline Phosphatase Test: Alkaline phosphatase is an enzyme produced by the liver. If the blood level is high, it may indicate bile flow obstruction, liver damage, or cancer.
— Prothrombin Time Test: This test estimates the time it takes for blood to clot. Blood clotting involves vitamin K plus a protein made by the liver. Any liver cell damage or obstruction to bile flow can interfere with proper blood clotting.
— Alanine Transaminase Test: When the liver is damaged, this enzyme goes into your blood.
— Aspartate Transaminase Test: This enzyme is also released when the liver is damaged. But the source could also be the heart, muscles, or the brain.
— Gamma-glutamyl Transpeptidase Test: This enzyme is produced by the liver, pancreas, and kidneys. Any injury to one of these organs will cause the release of this enzyme into the bloodstream.
— Lactic Dehydrogenase Test: This enzyme is released into the bloodstream when the liver, the heart, a lung, or the brain is damaged.