Encouraging studies are promoting the use of silybin as a way to alter the cell cycle of certain types of cancer. Silybin is the most potent ingredient in silymarin, the compound responsible for the health benefits of milk thistle. Although studies are ongoing, silymarin's role is promising. Early reports show that silymarin affects cancer cells by disrupting the signals to multiply and invade healthy cells.
Silymarin may also:
- Slow the growth of cancer cells in breast, cervical, and prostate cancer.
- Reduce the toxic effects of chemotherapy drugs.
- Offer protection to the kidneys when using Cyclosporine, a drug diagnosed primarily to prevent transplant rejection. This medication is often used in the treatment of various types of cancer. (But, it may also affect cyclosporine's effectiveness.)
- Inhibit the formation of blood vessels that surround tissue in order to feed a malignant tumor, known as angiogenesis.
- In addition, silymarin has been known to improve the efficiency of chemotherapy drugs such as cisplatin and doxorubicin in the fight against ovarian and breast cancer. This research is ongoing, but silymarin is beginning to garner respect from the scientific community as a potential weapon against cancer.
Since the process of extracting silymarin from milk thistle was developed in the 1980s, it has been easier to produce supplements that are more potent. Though milk thistle has not been evaluated and approved by the FDA, the most commonly recommended dosage is 200 mg to 400 mg twice per day. The herb can also be taken as a tea, but most people who take milk thistle prefer the supplement. If you prefer the tea, the dosage is 12 to 15 grams of the dried herb infused in warm water.
Check with your healthcare professional before adding milk thistle to your diet, since there is a risk of severe allergic reactions in people with an allergy to flowers such as ragweed, marigolds and artichokes. Pregnant women and children should avoid milk thistle since its effect on this population has not been confirmed as safe for this population.
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