Milk thistle is a plant whose Seeds and fruits have been used as a remedy for bile duct and liver disorders for more than 20 centuries. It belongs to the same group of flowers as the daisy. While they are popularly used as a herbal remedy to treat liver disorders, their use for Cancer Treatment is still limited. Milk thistle is mostly grown in Europe. It can also be found in the United States of America and South America.
Milk thistle contains a medicinal compound known as silymarin. Silymarin contains compounds like taxifolin, silychristin, and silybin. Most studies have not been done on the whole plant. Milk thistle might help in treating liver diseases like liver cirrhosis. Silybum marianum is the biological name of Milk thistle. It is also called Marian thistle.
- Studies of Milk thistle have been done for preventing or treating various types of cancer like prostate cancer, neck cancer, Liver Cancer and breast cancer.
- Side effects from the usage of Milk thistle are mild.
- Milk thistle is available only as a dietary supplement.
The usage of Milk thistle to treat cancer symptoms has still not been approved by the United States FDA (Food and Drug Administration). However, it is used to treat liver disorders like hepatitis.
While milk thistle has been primarily studied for its hepatoprotective (liver-protective) properties, there is growing interest in its potential benefits in cancer treatment. Although more research is needed, some studies suggest that milk thistle may exhibit anticancer effects through several mechanisms:
- Antioxidant activity: Milk thistle’s silymarin acts as a potent antioxidant, helping to neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. Free radicals can damage cells and DNA, leading to the development and progression of cancer. By reducing oxidative stress, milk thistle may help protect cells from damage and inhibit cancer growth.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: Chronic inflammation plays a significant role in the development of cancer. Milk thistle has been found to possess anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce inflammation-associated cancer progression. By modulating various inflammatory pathways, milk thistle could potentially inhibit tumor growth and metastasis.
- Antiproliferative and apoptotic effects: Studies have shown that milk thistle extracts, particularly silymarin, can inhibit the growth of cancer cells and induce programmed cell death (apoptosis) in various types of cancer, including breast, prostate, lung, colorectal, and liver cancers. These effects may be attributed to silymarin’s ability to disrupt cancer cell signaling pathways, inhibit cell cycle progression, and induce cell death.
- Chemoprotective effects: Some evidence suggests that milk thistle may protect healthy cells from the toxic effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. It is thought that milk thistle’s antioxidant and detoxifying properties help reduce treatment-related side effects and enhance the efficacy of conventional cancer therapies.
While these preclinical and clinical studies are promising, it’s important to note that the evidence for milk thistle’s effectiveness in cancer treatment is still limited. Further research, including well-designed clinical trials, is necessary to fully understand its potential benefits and establish optimal dosages and treatment protocols.
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