Our liver is one of the largest, most complex organs in our body. Playing a central role in all metabolic processes, our liver also detoxifies chemicals, metabolises medicines, synthesizes proteins and clotting agents, and produces bile to aid digestion.
Although our liver has the ability to self-repair, persistent exposure to external toxins that generate large numbers of free radicals (such as alcohol, certain medicines, and viruses), or the presence of unrelenting low-grade inflammation caused by conditions such as obesity or diabetes, can overwhelm this ability. Over 100 different types of liver disorder exist, and most are linked with oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress occurs when levels of natural antioxidants in our body are not high enough to counteract the damaging effects of free radicals. For 2000 years, man has looked for ways to enhance the natural restorative capacity of our liver. One of the most well researched liver tonics is Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum). This review, published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, summarises the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of silybin, the main active constituent of Milk Thistle.
Found in the entire plant of Milk Thistle but concentrated in the fruit and seeds, silybin helps reduce free radical production, prevent the breakdown of lipids within the cell wall, and protect hepatocytes (liver cells) from toxin attack. Research has already shown favourable effects for the treatment of alcoholic liver disease, acute and chronic viral hepatitis and toxin-induced liver damage with few side effects and no significant drug interactions.