(NaturalHealth365) According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 15.7 million people suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – a serious respiratory condition which can cause scarring of the lungs, narrowing of the airway and extreme difficulty breathing. Taking enough milk thistle – on a regular basis – can help protect you from harm. (But, don’t expect to hear about this from the big pharma-owned media.)
Exposure to tobacco smoke – whether through actively smoking or simply inhaling the smoke from another’s cigarette – is the primary cause of COPD. Although Western medicine currently offers no cure for COPD, recent studies generate a ray of hope. Groundbreaking new research suggests that milk thistle extracts may not only prevent COPD but, help to treat it.
WARNING: Carcinogenic secondhand smoke is a major contributor to COPD
“Passive” smoking – the act of inhaling secondhand smoke – exposes the victim’s lungs to a truly noxious cocktail of poisons. In fact, secondhand smoke has been classified as a carcinogen by both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Toxicology Program.
Among the toxins found in secondhand smoke are butane, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide – which is used in chemical warfare – carbon monoxide (think: “car exhaust”) and toluene, found in paint thinners, lacquers and glues. Other constituents include the toxic heavy metals arsenic, lead and cadmium.
Although lung cancer is probably the disease most often associated with secondhand smoke, this lethal form of air pollution is also a primary factor in COPD – which is currently the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Having COPD raises the risk of developing lung cancer and heart disease. To make matters worse, this condition is associated with osteoporosis, anxiety, depression, frailty and malnutrition.
While Western medicine attempts to manage COPD symptoms with oxygen therapy and drugs such as bronchodilators and corticosteroids, these treatments don’t reduce mortality at all – and some feature serious (unwanted) side effects.
In light of these discouraging facts, the promising results of recent milk thistle studies stand out as a particularly welcome development. (to say the least!)
Silymarin, a flavonoid in milk thistle, alleviates inflammatory response
In a study published in the journal Inflammation, researchers exposed mice to the equivalent of 1.5 packs of cigarettes a day for four weeks, creating drastic increases in peribronchial inflammation, thickening of airway walls and airway obstruction.
The team found that pretreating the mice with silymarin – the active component of milk thistle – an hour before exposure dramatically decreased inflammatory changes, and cut production of pro-inflammatory chemicals such as TNF-alpha and interleukin.
Encouragingly, silymarin also helped safeguard levels of superoxide dismutase, an important disease-fighting antioxidant produced in the body.
A year later, the same team of researchers took another, closer look at the workings of milk thistle. And what they found was encouraging.
In a study of human bronchial cells published in Scientific Report, the team explored the molecular and cellular mechanisms of silymarin – and found once again that the flavonoid attenuated cigarette smoke-induced upregulation of pro-inflammatory chemicals.
And, researchers discovered for the first time that silymarin modulated a certain pathway – known as MAPK – that governs inflammation.
The takeaway? The team concluded that silymarin might be “an ideal agent for treating inflammatory pulmonary diseases.”
Primary constituent in silymarin suppresses inflammation and scarring
In a third study, recently published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, researchers treated mice with silibinin (a constituent of silymarin) one hour before exposure to cigarette smoke.
The team found that the silibinin caused the mice to not only experience the sharp reductions in inflammatory changes seen in earlier studies – but discovered that it also suppressed the scarring and fibrosis that are typical of COPD in humans.
This means that silibinin may not only help prevent COPD – but, reverse it!
Intriguingly, the silibinin directly affected the expression of a certain pro-inflammatory protein – transforming growth factor beta-1 – that is activated and spurred on by exposure to smoke, making it appear that this compound is custom-designed to protect against secondhand smoke.
How do I take milk thistle extracts to protect against COPD?
Milk thistle extracts are available in the form of pills, powders, extracts, liposomes and teas. Look for a high-quality preparation that is standardized to contain 70 to 80 percent silymarin.
Naturopathic doctors may recommend milk thistle extracts in dosages ranging from 20 to 300 mg a day. As always, you should consult a trusted healthcare provider before supplementing with milk thistle – especially if you have a serious medical condition.
For maximum benefit, some natural health experts advise taking a silymarin-phosphatidylcholine complex, a formulation which helps beneficial silymarin attach to cell membranes more easily.
Note: Milk thistle is a member of the aster family. Don’t take milk thistle if you are allergic to any of its “cousins,” such as ragweed, chrysanthemum, chamomile, marigolds, yarrow or daisies.
Notwithstanding its unglamorous resume as a common weed that thrives in fields and pastures, the humble milk thistle is actually a potent herbal hero that can help defend against a debilitating and deadly disease. If you have been – or are currently – exposed to firsthand or secondhand cigarette smoke, supplementing with milk thistle to protect against COPD could be a wise move.
Sources for this article include:
Food & Nutrition
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