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Silybum marianum, Chardon-Marie
Part of the plant used: seeds
Milk thistle grows extensively in every part of the world. Because it can grow easily in many habitats, it is often found along the edge of our roads. This tall plant, 5 to 10 feet high, has thorny leaves and purple flowerheads. The seeds obtained from dried flowerheads are used for their medicinal properties. Milk thistle has been used by man for over two thousand years. It apparently has antioxidant properties as well as a protective effect on the liver. These effects are attributed to silyramine, a mix of three isomers (silibilin, silichristin and silidianin) found in the seeds. Silyramine is weakly soluble in water, which explains why water-based products, such as tea, are ineffective. Oral use requires a concentrated product. The mechanisms of action of milk thistle are still not clearly established. Milk thistle appears to improve liver regeneration, stop liver toxins from penetrating into liver cells and impair the oxydative action of free radicals.
There is insufficient reliable information to conclude that milk thistle is effective in any other indication.
In 2004, Canada adopted new regulations that control the manufacturing, packaging, labeling and importing of natural health products. The new regulations also include an adverse reaction reporting system. Products that conform to the regulation's criteria are identified with a natural product number (NPN) and can be legally sold in Canada. This number indicates that the product meets specific criteria for safety and purity, not that it is effective for any indication.
Medicinal plant contents vary naturally from plant to plant - just as fruits from the same package may vary in taste and texture. There is no standard to measure the active content of each plant. Thus, efficacy of natural products should be expected to vary from brand to brand as well as from bottle to bottle of the same brand.
For more information about the Natural Health Products Regulations, or to check if a product has been assessed, visit the Health Canada website at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodnatur/index-eng.php.
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The patient information leaflets are provided by Vigilance Santé Inc. This content is for information purposes only and does not in any manner whatsoever replace the opinion or advice of your health care professional. Always consult a health care professional before making a decision about your medication or treatment.