The benefits of milk thistle have been known for thousands of years. One of the main reasons for the medicinal properties is a molecule in milk thistle called silymarin.
Silymarin is a plant compound that comes from the milk thistle cactus, known as Silybum marianum. 100’s of studies have found that silymarin supports liver function. And a healthy liver is a key to total body health and wellness.
But I want to address the cardiovascular benefits of silymarin and focus this blog on the lipid modifying effects of silymarin.
Studies have shown that silymarin inhibits HMG CoA reductase (HMGCR) and increases LDL receptors on the liver to clear LDL from the circulation. HMGCR is an enzyme in the production of cholesterol. Statin drugs are well known to block this enzyme. Silymarin does this as well, just not to the extent of statin drugs. This is good because we need this enzyme to function.
One study found that silymarin lowered total cholesterol by 8%, LDL by 7%, and triglycerides by 23% and raised HDL by 7% (reference). This are pretty impressive results without a prescription and without significant side effects.
What is also extraordinary is that silymarin helps other risk factors for heart attacks by improving fasting blood sugar, HgB A1C, and serum insulin. (ref) This is quite different from statins that tend to increase blood sugar and increase diabetes risk.
Certainly the fact that silymarin Improves non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (ref) allows for lower cardiovascular risk. Silymarin likely lowers oxidized LDL as well.
I have written extensively on berberine, another plant molecule with hundreds of efficacy studies for cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, and dementia protection.
Silymarin, when added to berberine, is synergistic for cholesterol reduction. This allows for lower dosing of each nutrient while decreasing GI side effects often related to higher dose berberine.
One study of 497 subjects found that berberine and silymarin combination treatment lowered total cholesterol by 25 mg/dl, lowered triglycerides by 28 mg/dl, LDL by 29 and raised HDL-C by 6 (ref)
Silymarin and berberine, combined with ginger, green tea extract, curcumin, and resveratrol is our OptiLipid. Not only do these supernutrients support healthy cholesterol levels, but just about every other health condition can be improved with these super 6.
For more information on OptiLipid, click here.
Researchers have found that silymarin helps support healthy brain function and helps cognitive disorders. This likely is the result of the fact it increases intracellular glutathione, the body’s main antioxidant that combats free-radical damage. Silymarin appears to have benefits in Parkinson’s disease.
At the time of a heart attack or stroke, blow flow is blocked to an area of the heart or brain, respectively. When blood flow is blocked, these “downstream” areas start on the path of cell death. The cells, tissues, enzymes etc. lose function without oxygen from the blood. The lack of oxygen as the last acceptor of electrons in the respiratory chain causes a decrease in ATP production and eventually leads to disruption of membrane transport, acidosis, cellular edema and membrane distortion of organelles, and cells.
If the blood vessel is opened in time, cells can be saved. So time is critical to get the vessel opened by an angioplasty balloon or a clot buster. But as flow is returned, an overload state occurs and tissue damage can continue. Reperfusion can intensify ischemic injuries by the infiltration of inflammatory cells and also oxygen and calcium overloading.
Silymarin has been demonstrated to decrease the damage done from ischemia-reperfusion likely by different mechanisms such as scavenging free radicals, decreasing inflammatory cytokines, inhibiting cellular death, and increasing the expression of antioxidant enzymes.
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