Nowadays everyone is going back to their roots, back to the age old recipes and traditional medicines. We are rediscovering the importance of many plants that were used by generations before us for treating a host of maladies. In the olden times, before the inception of modern medicine, most ailments were treated using the flora and fauna around us. That was the only type of medication available. Now, with a host of chemical medicines with their many side effects, people want to return to the natural therapy. These plants are mostly used as precautionary medication than for treatment. They help to supplement modern medicines too in some cases.
Silybum marianum is one such plant whose use was documented way back from the 23 AD in Rome. Traditional uses include treatment for any liver, spleen or kidney disorders. It was also considered to help in healing from snake bite. Also used in some cases for treating rabid animal bites. Another use of milk thistle, in the past, was to increase milk in nursing mothers. In the 19th century the seeds of Silybum were for protection of the liver. Silybum marianum is known by many other common names such as milk thistle, marian thistle, St. Mary’s thistle, sow thistle and wild artichoke. Thistle is the common name for a group of plants with prickly leaves and stem with round purple flowers. Almost all parts of this plant are consumed from root to seed. One can also have Silybum marianum tea which has a lot of uses too. You can also use milk thistle powder infused into herbal tea recipes.
Chemical composition of Silybum marianum
The main chemicals present in Silybum marianum are flavonolignans. These are the compounds that are responsible for all the therapeutic effects of Silybum. The two major flavonolignans are silymarin and silibinin. Thirty five percent of Silybum is made of fatty acids like linoleic acid, palmitic acid, arachidic acid and lauric acid. Other chemical constituents are tyramine and histamine.
Uses of Silybum marianum
- Liver diseases: Milk thistle has been found to be effective in treating liver diseases. These chronic liver diseases may be caused by excessive alcohol consumption or viral attacks. They improve liver function and decrease chances of death related to liver dysfunction.
- Liver cirrhosis: This a disease that affects the liver and works slowly changing the liver tissues into scar tissue. Finally the liver will not be able to perform any function. Blood flow to the liver is blocked. Milk thistle has been used in European countries as a treatment for liver cirrhosis. It slows down the scarring process.
Milk thistle is recognized as a cleansing herb. A lot of research has gone into finding out the uses of Silybum and also to provide the traditional uses, a scientific backing. Some of the uses are proved beyond doubt by extensive research and clinical trials. Other uses are still in their early stages. More scientific proof is required to have concrete evidence of for yet some others.