Milk Thistle – Varying Levels of Liver Support
The liver is one of our most dynamic, complex and valuable organs. Those who recognize the importance of keeping this organ healthy are likely drawn to milk thistle – an herb with a long record of safety and efficacy in protecting the liver from harm. There are many possible reasons someone would seek milk thistle supplement for his or her liver’s wellness – and just as many potential formulas to choose from. To help differentiate between different milk thistle preparations, the following guide will help those with liver concerns choose the formulation that is most appropriate for them.
Understanding Milk Thistle Terms and Potency
A plant that has been used medicinally for over 2,000 years, milk thistle is the most commonly suggested herb for helping liver and gallbladder disorders. While the terms milk thistle and silymarin are frequently used interchangeably, there is a difference between the two; silymarin is the flavonoid complex that is extracted from the seeds of milk thistle. As such, silymarin is the therapeutic component of milk thistle.
Hundreds of studies have concluded that silymarin (a potent antioxidant) protects liver cells from damage caused by viruses, toxins, alcohol and certain drugs such as acetaminophen. In order to assure consumers they are receiving a potent distillation of milk thistle seeds, reputable manufacturers generally adhere to producing an herb that is standardized to 80 percent silymarin – meaning that 80 percent of the supplement contains silymarin.
Silymarin can be broken down even further, into three primary flavonoids: silybin, silydianin and silychristin. Medical researchers agree that silybin, which comprises approximately 50 percent of silymarin, is responsible for the majority of milk thistle’s liver-protective qualities.
Increasing quantities of silymarin and/or silybin have continually demonstrated a correspondingly greater beneficial impact on liver wellness; however, milk thistle’s active ingredients are notoriously hard for the body to absorb. For those wanting the most out of their milk thistle supplement, studies demonstrate that when taken in a phytosome complex, silymarin or silybin is absorbed up to ten times more readily than standardized milk thistle extract.