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Milk thistle seed is the part of the milk thistle plant used to propagate the botanical. It is the part of the herb from which an extract is frequently made and used primarily in the alternative medical treatment of liver disease. The medicinal properties of the seeds allow for their use to alleviate and treat other health problems as well.
Other names for this botanical include Mediterranean thistle, holy thistle and silymarin. The seeds contain a flavonoligan called silymarin, which is an antioxidant approximately 10 times more effective than vitamin E. Considering that antioxidants play a vital role in protecting cells against damage, it is no wonder that milk thistle seed is often said to provide some protection against the many toxins in the environment. Exposure to secondhand smoke, exhaust fumes from automobiles, chemicals in cleaning and beauty products and pesticides are just a few of the substances of which a natural milk thistle seed extract might help to detoxify the body.
The ability to help the body detoxify itself is one of the most discussed of all the milk thistle benefits because the herb could prove effective in helping to protect the liver from the permanent damage that can be caused by acetaminophen, a common drug used to reduce pain and treat fevers. Pure milk thistle seed extract has been tested to see whether it might have the ability to help protect the liver against damage from other prescription and illegal drugs as well as from alcohol abuse. A milk thistle detox encourages the stimulation of protein synthesis, which assists the liver in the regeneration of cells and thus the repair of its own tissue as well.
One potentially harmful practice regarding the making of milk thistle seed extract is the fact that hybrid seeds are often employed. People who would like to take advantage of milk thistle effects are strongly advised to purchase extracts made with heirloom seeds and that contain only all-natural ingredients or to make their own extract. Milk thistle seed tea, which is a very weak form of an aqueous extract, can be prepared with the bulk seeds; again, those seeds should not be a hybrid.
Other milk thistle benefits include the ability of the botanical to act as a mild-but-effective laxative that is not habit forming and to increase the secretion of bile. This might be of interest to people who have undergone gall bladder surgery and have experienced problems digesting fried or fatty foods after the surgery. There are some side effects that might be experienced with commercial milk thistle seed extract or the homemade tea. It can decrease blood sugar levels, behave like the female hormone estrogen and cause allergies in people who are allergic to plants belonging to the aster family. Diabetics, people with certain allergies, all males and those females who at risk for developing hormone-sensitive conditions such as endometriosis might want to consult with a doctor before ingesting a potent milk thistle seed extract.