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Natural Herbs and Spices

Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle

The milk thistle plant can grow to be several feet tall. It has a distinctive and pretty purple bloom at its top. The stem and leaves of the milk thistle contains very sharp thorns.

The milk thistle's stem can be eaten like celery; its leaves can be eaten like spinach too. The roots can be eaten raw or boiled. Its seeds are also edible.

Herbalists have long recognized milk thistle's health benefits. It is very popular in Europe.

Milk thistle has long been promoted due to its ability to strengthen the liver. The substance most responsible for enhancing the liver is the flavonoid silymarin

The liver is your body's second largest organ. It makes bile which is necessary for the breakdown of fat. One of liver's most important functions is detoxification. The toxins that it processes include alcohol, nicotine, and carbon monoxide (fumes from cars, trucks, and buses.)

Milk thistle helps protect the liver from the onslaught of toxins that we are all exposed to on a daily basis. It also assists in expelling toxins already in the liver. Milk thistle soothes and moistens mucous membranes and is an antidepressant.

Studies confirm that the silymarin in milk thistle is an effective antioxidant. It is a cancer fighter too.

It is interesting how milk thistle protects your liver against toxic chemicals. It changes the structure of your outer cell membrane to stop toxins from entering the inner cell. By reducing the rate at which toxins enter the liver, they are easily excreted before damage can ensue.

Milk thistle detoxifies chemicals that enter our bodies from environmental sources, alcohol consumption, heavy metals, medical treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, and drugs. It can be categorized as a herbal detox jack-of-all-trades.

Two antioxidants which are produced in your body, glutathione and superoxide dismutase (SOD), have their levels increased by silymarin. Glutathione may be increased in the liver and intestines by as much as 50 percent.

Damaged cells are repaired by milk thistle and when needed, new ones created. Another milk thistle substance, silybin can increase protein synthesis by 25 to 30 percent.

The ability of milk thistle to improve liver function and regulate the utilization of insulin leads to improved control for diabetes. A study reported in the August, 2002 Diabetes, Nutrition and Metabolism Journal noted that in patients with diabetes and associated chronic liver disease, plasma levels of glucose, insulin and triglycerides are high, lipid peroxidation is increased, and natural antioxidant reserves are low. Researchers hypothesized that better liver function could result in a better glucose and lipid metabolism.

Milk thistle has shown no harm from long term usage. However, if used with prescription drugs, it may nullify its effect.


Turmeric spice is yellowish-orange in color and is popular in Indian curry dishes and yellow mustard; it originates from the curcuma longa plant which grows in Indonesia and southern Indian. It is known as turmeric.

The spice turmeric is found abundantly in curry powder. Turmeric has the distinction of being the most powerful of all natural anti-inflammatories.

Turmeric encourages cancer cell death, stops tumor growth, and even boosts the effectiveness of traditional chemotherapy treatment. There is research which shows that turmeric's effectiveness is increased when it is mixed with black pepper and olive oil (use extra-virgin.)

Turmeric carried in your typical supermarket represents only 20% of the total contents. Your best bet is to purchase turmeric from a spice shop

Dr. David Frawely, founder and director of the American Institute for Vedic Studies in Santa Fe, New Mexico, says this of turmeric, "If I had only one single herb to depend upon for all possible health and dietary needs, I would without much hesitation choose the Indian spice Turmeric. There is little it cannot do in the realm of healing and much that no other herb is able to accomplish.

Turmeric has a broad spectrum of actions, mild but certain effects, and is beneficial for long term and daily usage. Though it is a common spice, few people, including herbalists know of its great value and are using it to the extent possible. It is an herb that one should get to know and live with."

How beneficial is turmeric? Following is a list of researched benefits:

  • Strengthens and improves digestion
  • Reduces gas and bloating
  • Assists in the digestion of protein and with rice and bean dishes
  • Improves your body's ability to digest fats
  • Promotes proper metabolism, correcting both excesses and deficiencies
  • Maintains and improves intestinal flora
  • Improves elimination of wastes and toxins
  • Supports healthy liver function and detox
  • Turmeric helps increase bile flow making it a liver cleanser that can rejuvenate your liver cells and recharge their capability to break down toxins
  • Helps to prevent alcohol and other toxins from being converted into compounds that may be harmful to your liver
  • Supports formation of healthy tissue
  • Purifies your blood
  • Stimulates formation of new blood tissue
  • Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory. It contains curcuminoids, plant based nutrients which exhibit antioxidizing properties. Curcuminoids are effective against cancer, arthritis, and Alzheimer's disease.

    What makes turmeric such a powerful antioxidant, i.e. anti-inflammatory, is a substance called curcumin. Curcumin is the natural ingredient which gives turmeric its characteristic yellowish-orange color. It has been estimated that 100 grams of turmeric contains anywhere from three to five grams of curcumin.

    In India where turmeric is used extensively, four types of cancer common in the United States is 10 times lower: breast, prostate, colon, and lung. Prostate cancer, which is the number one type of cancer in American men, is rare in India. Researchers partially attribute this to the large consumption of turmeric.

    Turmeric supports liver, brain, and heart function. Professor Moolky Nagabhushan of the Loyola Medical Center located in Chicago, Illinois has been studying turmeric for the past 20 years. He thinks that turmeric can shield the body from dangerous environmental and in turn protect against the development against childhood leukemia.

    Research reveals that turmeric may also provide protection against:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Crohn's disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cataracts
  • Gallstones
  • Muscle regeneration
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Some have pointed out that curry powder contains very little curcumin; so it is advised that you look for the turmeric spice itself. It can also be purchased as a supplement.

    > Herbs