What is Milk Thistle?
Milk thistle also known as Silybum Marianum is a distinctive looking prickly herb with purple flowers with dark green leaves and white veins that comes from the same family of plants as the daisy and artichokes. It originates from some Mediterrean countries and now grows in the wild in Europe, North America and Australia where it thrives in their warm, sunny climates.
The seeds of the Milk Thistle plant contain the active ingredient called silymarin which can be used to treat various health conditions, dating back to over 2000 years. The most common use of milk thistle is to treat liver problems due to its natural detoxifying properties and ability to remove metabolic waste.
What are the benefits?
The liver is the organ which is primarily responsible for filtering and cleansing the blood of the wide range of environmental toxins, chemicals and contaminants the body may have accumulated throughout our lifetime as well as defending our liver against damage from environmental toxins. When toxins accumulate in the body they can cause inflammation in the liver and lead to chronic health conditions such as cirrhosis, jaundice, hepatitis and gallbladder disorders.
The active ingredient in milk thistle, silymarin can stimulate protein synthesis which helps to regenerate damaged tissues as well as containing powerful anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce inflammation in the liver. It also has antioxidant effects so it can help protect the cells of the liver from damage due to environmental toxins by strengthening the outer membranes of the liver cells to reduce the amount of free radicals (toxins) entering the cells and removing them from the body.
The body can become overburdened with a heavy load of toxins throughout your lifetime. The theory of The Perrin Technique is that congested toxins in the body can also lead to chronic health conditions such as CFS / ME, Fibromyalgia and neurological disorders by negatively impacting lymphatic drainage and the body's natural ability to detoxify effectively. Milk Thistle has the ability to stimulate the production and flow of bile which is essential for the elimination of toxins through the liver. During the Perrin Technique treatment congested toxins are mobilised from the tissues and move towards the liver via the lymphatic system, where they leave our body. A common temporary side effect of the Perrin Technique treatment can be nausea (amongst some others) due to the amount of toxins which have been released during the treatment, therefore, Dr Ray Perrin recommends taking a milk thistle supplement whilst undergoing the Perrin Technique treatment to help facilitate the movement of toxins out of the body via the liver. Many patients report significant relief in their symptoms following the treatment once they begin taking Milk Thistle.
How strong is the evidence?
There have been over 200 clinical studies of Milk Thistle in the last 30 years which have shown strong evidence for the use of Milk Thistle particularly with conditions which involve the liver. There are several studies which have found Milk Thistle improves liver function so it is now prescribed in Germany to treat alcohol-related liver disease. Other studies have found
Milk Thistle has the ability to reduce blood liver enzymes so it may also assist with non-alcohol related liver conditions such as liver inflammation and liver damage. More studies are needed to determine the dosage and strength of Milk Thistle for certain liver conditions.
How to use Milk Thistle
Milk Thistle is widely available as capsules or tablets, a tincture, powder form or even as a herbal tea and is available to buy in most health food stores. Dr Ray Perrin recommends taking it alongside the Perrin Technique treatment. There is no standard dose of Milk Thistle so it is best to follow the recommendations on the packaging. Milk Thistle supplements are commonly used and there is a strong amount of evidence showing Milk Thistle has very low toxicity so is considered safe to take but it is always best to consult with your practitioner before starting new supplements.