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How Does Milk Thistle Benefit Cancer Patients?

How Does Milk Thistle Benefit Cancer Patients?

Milk Thistle to Holy Thistle

Milk Thistle is a flowering herb used for centuries by physicians as a medicinal plant. It is native to Southern Europe and a member of the Asteraceae family, which also includes marigolds and daisies. The biological name of Milk Thistle is Silybum marianum.  The Greek Botanist Dioscorides was the first to explain Milk Thistle's medicinal and healing properties. Later, several studies have been conducted to understand the wondrous healing benefits of the Milk Thistle plant which is also known as the Holy Thistle, Our Lady's Thistle, and Marian Thistle.  

Silymarin - The Wondrous Seed

Silymarin, the seed of Milk Thistle contains several active healing components such as silybin, taxifolin, and silychristin. These are antioxidants, in addition to several other biological properties. These active components help in diseases such as liver cirrhosis, hepatitis, mushroom poisoning, bile duct disorders, etc.  

Milk Thistle's fruits and seeds can be used as supplements with an anti-cancer diet for fighting against several types of cancers such as breast cancer, head cancer, prostate cancer, and neck cancer. This flowering herb is available in the market as a dietary supplement that can be added to your diet for the betterment of your health. 

Studies on Milk Thistle - Benefits in Cancer Treatment

Researchers have noted that the use of Milk Thistle will help to reduce the side effects of cancer treatment. Several studies are being conducted to check the benefits of Milk Thistle in a cancer patient's diet.

  • In a study conducted on children suffering from acute lymphoblastic, the usage of Silymarin helped to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy on the liver without affecting the cancer treatment.
  • Another study was carried out among 30 patients who underwent radiotherapy for head and neck cancer. The study proved that patients who took Silymarin for 6 weeks in a stretch had a lower rate of radiation-related mucositis compared to those who hadn't taken the Silymarin.
  • In an observational study, Silymarin-based cream helped to prevent skin rashes in women who underwent radiotherapy for breast cancer treatment.
  • Also, In several studies with preclinical models, Milk Thistle compounds have reduced cancer formation by blocking intrinsic cancer pathways, although the nature of these pathways required elucidation.

Milk thistle and Gastrointestinal cancer

Silymarin exhibits anticancer properties via the regulation of apoptosis as well as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and hepatoprotective effects. In the present study, the effects of silymarin on the inhibition of proliferation and apoptosis were examined in human gastric cancer cells. MTT assay assessed the viability of AGS human gastric cancer cells. The migration of AGS cells was investigated by wound healing assay. Silymarin significantly decreased the viability and migration of AGS cells in a concentration-dependent manner. 

Silymarin for Liver and hepatocellular carcinoma (Liver Cancer)

The liver is the largest internal organ and it purifies blood in our bodies. It absorbs nutrients from food and detoxifies the body. Humans depend heavily on this vital organ. Everything we eat passes through our liver. This includes alcohol, prescription medicine, all types of foods, and water. Many of the elements in our intake can be very hard on the liver. Here Milk thistle helps by protecting the liver in several ways. Its antioxidant properties play an important role in keeping the liver healthy.

Silymarin protects the liver in both experimental models and clinical studies. The chemopreventive activity of silymarin has shown some efficacy against cancer both in vitro and in vivo. Silymarin can modulate apoptosis in vitro and survival in vivo, by interfering with the expression of cell cycle regulators and apoptosis-associated proteins. In addition to its anti-metastatic activity, silymarin exhibits anti-inflammatory activity. The chemoprotective effects of silymarin and silibinin (its major constituent) suggest they help reduce the side effects and increase the anti-cancer effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in various cancer types, especially in gastrointestinal cancers. This review examines the recent studies and summarises the mechanistic pathways and downstream targets of silymarin in the therapy of gastrointestinal cancer.

Milk Thistle- A supplement, not a drug

Milk Thistle is a supplement rather than a drug in the medical field. Hence, this should not be used to treat or cure any diseases. But it is always beneficial to add this holistic supplement to your anti-cancer diet to lead a wholesome life. 

Ways of Consumption of Milk Thistle 

Nowadays there are plenty of ways to add this holy plant into our daily diet. You can buy Milk Thistle capsules, extractions, or other supplements. You can always buy and eat the Milk Thistle seed, the seeds are edible. Also, you can brew a cup of Milk Thistle tea and enjoy!

Milk Thistle and Side Effects

For the vast majority of people, Milk Thistle will be safe and the side effects caused are very mild. The most potential side effect seems to be gastrointestinal discomfort. And this can happen only if the patient is undergoing a high-end daily dosage. If a patient experiences this discomfort, then he should reduce the intake of the supplement and consult his oncologist for further understanding. Also, people taking medications for allergies, anxiety, and high cholesterol should consult a doctor before taking the Milk Thistle supplement. Most importantly expecting and breastfeeding mothers should avoid taking any sort of supplements without a doctor's recommendation.

Milk Thistle might not be a magic solution but with better standardisation and dosage formulation, Milk Thistle supplements hopefully can become a go-to magical pill to swallow for the prevention of cancer. 

To Conclude!

By incorporating a proper intake of Milk Thistle with an anti-cancer diet, you can detoxify your body inside out. Most research out there on Milk Thistle has been very promising and this holy flower and seed are extremely safe for most of us, so do give it a try to detoxify your liver. 

Let's keep in mind to build a strong and healthy foundation of sleep, exercise, and a nutritional anti-cancer diet with supplements if necessary. 

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