Edition 21: July 2010
What Herb is That?
Liver-loving herb an antidote to bad habits
MILK Thistle has a long standing tradition of healing dating back 2000 years.
In the 1st Century, CE Pliny described it as excellent for removing bile, while Dioscorides recommended it for melancholy and snakebite. It was probably introduced into Britain by the Romans to provide food and medicine.
In medieval times the plants' marbled-looking markings and milky sap were believed to be created by milk falling from the Virgin Mary's breast as she suckled the infant Jesus. This explains the other common name, St Mary’s Thistle.
It also goes some way to explaining why today Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is often confused with Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus) - also known as Holy Thistle or St Benedict’s Thistle.
Herbalists described milk thistle as 'a great breeder of milk and a proper diet for wet nurses' and indeed it does improve lactation.
The herb promotes healthy milk production in nursing mothers, imparting an overall health and wellbeing. During pregnancy, it helps treat morning sickness plus prevent both varicose veins and haemorrhoids caused by poor circulation.
Nicholas Culpeper, the famous herbalist of the 17th century recommended milk thistle for liver disease and the plague. The plant’s healing properties, especially as a liver tonic, were well understood throughout history long before this was validated by more recent pharmacological research.
Milk Thistle extract used for liver dysfunction has been well researched over the past 30 years. Results have shown significant improvement in patients with acute and chronic hepatitis A, B and C; chronic alcoholic liver disease and fatty liver caused by chemical toxin damage. Milk thistle reverses alcohol damage and has shown to lower the death rate of alcoholic patients over a 2-4 year period.
Herbal Hope for Abused Livers
Milk thistle helps reverse liver damage due to indulgence in alcohol, drugs, fatty food and exposure to toxic chemicals.
The liver is the hardest working organ of our body, with many vital functions to perform, and because of our toxic laden food and environment, it is too often an over-loaded quagmire of poisons. Milk thistle has a powerful protective action on the liver preventing the penetration of toxins into the liver cells and it also stimulates the regenerative ability of the liver.
The active constituent silymarin (a complex of three flavonoids) is powerfully anti-oxidant and stabilises the outer membrane of liver cells, preventing toxic and foreign substances from penetrating - and it is capable of neutralising the toxic substances that do break through.
The silymarin is steroidal, which stimulates protein synthesis in liver cells by increasing DNA and RNA activity and raising the level of glutathione, enhancing the rejuvenation of liver cells and making it more resistant to toxins. It is even used as a successful antidote to Death Cap mushroom poisoning.
Milk Thistle is of specific value in treating liver and gall bladder problems such as jaundice and conditions that may be the result of a 'sluggish' liver such as depression, dyspepsia and lethargy.
A sluggish and unresponsive liver is caused by the modern stressful lifestyle that overtaxes the liver with an overload of toxins.
Too much coffee, alcohol, excessive amounts of red meat, fatty foods and junk food are all culprits but also the common prescription drugs such as analgesics, anti-depressants and tranquilisers.
Even external factors may add to the risk of liver damage such as environmental chemicals and pollutants, vegetables sprayed with pesticides and smoking. Milk thistle provides hope to regain our precious health and a means to prevent further deterioration; although eliminating these causative factors from our lives is also necessary.
The French traditionally considered the liver to be more important for general well-being than any other organ and the milk thistle was relied on to protect against consuming too much alcohol.
Milk Thistle's stimulating, decongestive action is also useful to treat problems of the kidneys, lungs, heart, bladder and uterus. It alleviates painful menstruation and is an invaluable all-round pre-menstrual herb, improving circulation. Milk thistle can offer valuable support when taken alongside medication prescribed for allergy, infection or chronic illness, preventing toxic build-up in the liver. It will boost the immune system by regulating the liver, kidneys and bowels, hastening recovery. It is also beneficial in the treatment of motion sickness.
Mild food poisoning and nausea can also be alleviated by a course of milk thistle (in cases of childhood illness, professional advice should be sought).
Milk Thistle’s liver and kidney cleansing qualities make it effective in helping to clear skin conditions including acne, psoriasis and eczema.
Milk Thistle is of great help for the aged, enhancing their quality of life with improved mobility and memory. It encourages healthy function of all the internal organs; stimulating the kidneys and bowels into functioning better and improving circulation.
Name: Milk Thistle
Latin name: Silybum marianum
What is it? Erect, annual/biennial herb, with a thick, centre stem that can grow 1-2 metres tall. The leaves are variegated, frilly and the edges have prickly, yellow spines. The herb gives a beautiful display of purple fluffy centred flowers. Milk thistle is native to the Mediterranean region and sparsely distributed throughout the world. The parts used medicinally are the mature fruit, devoid of the pappus. (The flower seeds)
Actions: hepatic, bitter, cholagogue, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti allergic and vasodilatory
Main Therapeutic Properties: Liver and gallbladder disease, including hepatitis, cirrhosis, gallstones and fatty liver. Protects against side-effects of some pharmaceutical drugs. Encourages bowel movement and removes attendant toxicity. Clears the kidneys, promoting better urination. Clears skin disease, including eczema and psoriasis. Helps soften kidney stones and gallstones. Menstrual and premenstrual problems.
Precautions: Milk thistle is a safe and well-tolerated herb that can be taken long-term. Milk thistle occasionally has a mild laxative effect due to increased bile flow and secretion. An alcoholic extract is inappropriate for use in alcoholic liver disease. Milk Thistle is gentle enough to be taken during pregnancy.
Essential Oil of the Month
Humble oil a blessing for the liver
CARROT seed essential oil is one of the most underrated essential oils in aromatherapy.
The ancient world found great medicinal value in the carrot and even in the 1st Century AD, Dioscorides refers to it. It was well recognised for treating stomach and liver disorders and in traditional Chinese medicine, it has been used to expel worms and treat dysentery.
It is an excellent general tonic, cleansing the blood and rejuvenating the whole body. It increases red blood corpuscles and boosts the functioning of the organs, improving energy output.
This is a useful oil when treating anaemia, as it attends to the related weaker constitution and the exhaustion.
Carrot Seed oil is rich in Carotene and Vitamin-A, both of which are blessings for eyes and effective anti-oxidants. Such anti-oxidants protect us from macular degeneration, sexual weakness, weak digestion, some forms of cancer and other problems related to ageing.
The oil promotes healthy circulation and removes the accumulation of toxins such as uric acid from the blood, tissues, muscles and joints; thereby helping cure edema, arthritis, gout and rheumatism. It also removes toxins such as urea, insecticides, pesticides and other chemicals which get into our body with our food and water and helps restore health.
Carrot oil is very kind to the digestive system, promoting healthy functioning. It relieves digestive upsets and eases flatulence and bloated feelings in the gut, removing gases from the intestines. It is said to be of help in relieving stomach ulcers and is a tonic for the bowels. It may help children get rid of worms if massaged into the gut and used in a warm goats’ milk enema.
This essential oil has a powerful tonic action on the liver and the gall bladder and is used to treat liver disorders such as jaundice and neutralise excess bile secreted. Small amounts of carrot can be used in convalescence to regenerate the liver. People suffering from hepatitis could receive great benefit from this oil and can use it massaged into the abdomen to help regenerate liver cells.
The oil is diuretic, increasing urination and relieving fluid retention, it eases the symptoms of cystitis. It has reputedly helped expel kidney stones (renal calculi).
The respiratory system also benefits from carrot oil as it strengthens the mucous membranes of the nose and lungs; this is good for bronchitis, coughs and influenza. Carrot seed promotes a healthy skin in many ways. Added to cosmetic creams it restores elasticity and tone and helps reduce premature wrinkling and age spots.
It has wonderful skin regenerating qualities for aged, mature and weather-beaten skin due to its formative action on epidermal cells. It is a must-have addition for scar blends because of this restorative action. Carrot oil is soothing and emollient for irritating rashes and dermatitis; while eczema and psoriasis also respond positively when it is used in a blend or lotion.
It has been shown to be effective on ulcerous conditions of the skin and even on skin cancers. Use antiseptic carrot in an ointment for general skin healing for inflamed wounds, boils and carbuncles, calluses and corns.
The tonic action extends to the reproductive system and hormonal activity, whereby the menstrual cycle is regulated. There is some evidence that it could assist in cases of infertility and aid in conception.
Recent studies have shown Carrot seed oil is beneficial in helping cure some forms of cancer too, especially those of mouth, throat, stomach, prostate and kidneys.
DID YOU KNOW?
Carrot seed essential oil comes from the wild carrot, not the common cultivated edible carrot. This annual of the umbelleriferae family has a tough inedible root and the oil is distilled from the dried seeds.
Carrot, from the Greek word Carotos, is sometimes called Queen Anne’s lace. It grows up to 1.5m and has white, lacy flowers. This carrot is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa and the essential oil is mainly produced in France. This is the essential oil extracted from the seeds and should not be confused with a macerated oil made when the carrot material is infused in a base oil.
Psychologically, the carrot oil is a spring tonic, undoing some of the ravages of winter, cleansing the mind of stale negativity. It also stimulates brain functions and nerves, thus making you more alert and active.
It assists in letting go of past traumas. Inhaling carrot oil creates a feeling of serenity and surety of knowing; this heightened clarity of inner vision and perception is very helpful in self- enquiry.
This oil is very grounding and kindles wisdom by connecting us to the root chakra while also opening the third eye; thus giving an open, more expansive yet realistic view of the Self. How releasing this can be for our own harsh self-judgments and our need to control life.
Energetically, carrot allows us to see the other person’s perspective and increases our compassion for the individual’s struggles towards self- realisation. It makes us aware of how our thoughts, words and actions affect others and the resultant karma incurred.
This awakened conscious responsibility helps us on our personal journey; by grounding spiritual energy into the physical plane we can better accept reality as it is.
Carrot’s mild and soothing earthy aroma is very effective in relieving anxiety and gives a refreshing feeling when used on the kidney meridian; increases vitality and growth and massaging it into the liver meridian helps integrate the upper and lower body, harmonising the whole Self.
Name: Carrot Seed
Latin name: Daucus carota
Aroma: Slightly sweet with fresh herbaceous top notes and dry earthy, quite woody undertones. The oil is pale yellow in colour.
Carrot Seed oil blends well with: The citruses: Bergamot, lemon, lime, neroli, orange, verbena. Petitgrain, juniper and rosemary. Also some spice oils.
Indications: Antiseptic, cytophylactic, carminative (settles stomach) depurative, purifies blood) diuretic, emmenagogic, (regulates menstrual flow) hepatic, (aids liver) tonic, vermifuge, (expels worms) vasodilator and smooth muscle relaxant.
Caution: Best avoided in sensitive pregnancies