In yet another well-established study review, milk thistle shines for its powerful cancer-suppressing activity. In 2013, researchers uncovered the chemo-preventive and anti-cancer activity of milk thistle when used alone and along with other medicinal agents against lung cancer. Not only does milk thistle exert activity through inhibiting proliferation and angiogenesis, but also in response to epigenetic-influences – making it an anti-cancer super star.
Silymarin, found in the seeds of milk thistle is known for its significant ability to detoxify and protect the body against environmental toxins. While many associate it as “the” go-to liver detoxifier, milk thistle is increasingly being recognized as an anti-cancer powerhouse that fights against many cancer cell types such as prostate, breast, cervical, ovarian, colon, lung, liver and skin.
How does milk thistle exerts its anti-cancer activity?
Silybinin a non-toxic flavonoid, found in silymarin extracts has been pointed out in most major studies as the effective therapeutic constituent against modern diseases and environmental toxins. During in vivo studies, milk thistle exhibited antiproliferative effects on MCF-7 breast cancer cells.
This is especially noteworthy because most pharmaceutical preparations used would not only eradicate MCF-7 breast cancer cells, but also non-selectively lead to cell death of otherwise healthy cells. Unlike toxic cancer medications, milk thistle is selective, extremely cost effective and can indirectly strengthen the immune system – making it a very attractive alternative to what the pharmaceutical industry considers ‘standard’ treatment.
In another significant study at University of California, Irvine, Dr. Ke-Qin Hu’s findings matched those mentioned above, but highlighted liver cancer. The effects of milk thistle against liver cancer were significant and even showed its ability to reduce cancer cell cycle speed. Their research concluded that milk thistle can be used confidently as a preventive against liver cancer – one of the most prevalent cancers worldwide.
Milk thistle metabolizes cancer-influencing hormones
We live in an estrogenic society – xenoestrogens, estrogen-like compounds leach from plastics that we use for food and drink; GMO soy, that is used as a filler in many commercial foods and hormones that have been pumped into our dairy and meat products.
When we consume these we take on the body-burden of excessive, non-essential hormones that have no choice but to build up at estrogen receptor sites. While this type of estrogenic activity has been associated with certain reproductive cancers, intervening with a therapeutically prescribed dosage of milk thistle extract metabolizes excessive amounts, filtering potentially cancer-causing hormonal “residue” from the body.
How do I choose the right milk thistle?
Look for an extract that has been standardized to contain the active constituents, (silymarin and silybinin) found in studies to exert biological activity against toxins for milk thistle to be effective. If you have been prescribed any anti-cancer medications, seek the advice of an experienced integrative practitioner to help you incorporate milk thistle into your program before beginning use.
About the author: Christine M. Dionese L.Ac, MSTOM is an integrative health expert, medical journalist and food writer. She’s dedicated her career to helping others understand the science of happiness and its powerful effects on everyday human health. Christine practices, writes and speaks on environmental functional medicine, epigenetics, food therapy and sustainable living.