The Noxious Weed That Benefits Your Liver (and a whole lot more!)
BY STEVE BORN
LSA Caps, Hammer Nutrition’s liver support formula, contains a weed. You heard correctly—an ingredient in one of the hottest new products in the Hammer Nutrition line is an extract from a noxious weed. While most weeds are, sometimes rightly, considered to be nothing more than an unsightly and unwelcome nuisance, there are many that have pretty astounding health benefits. One of those is Milk thistle (Silybum marianum), a plant native to southern Europe, southern Russia, Asia Minor, and northern Africa, but found most everywhere in the world.
Milk thistle’s main component is known as silymarin (pronounced SILL-ee-MAR-inn), a flavonoid found in the seeds, and touted as being one of the most potent liver-protecting substances known. Silymarin’s main routes of action appear to be:
- Protection against free radical damage
- Stabilization of plasma membranes
- Inhibiting the binding of toxins to liver cell membrane receptors
- Stimulation of new liver cell production
Silymarin has also been shown to inhibit lipid peroxidation (i.e. the oxidative degradation of fats) and to prevent glutathione depletion induced by alcohol and other liver toxins, even increasing total glutathione levels in the liver by 35% over controls. Studies show that silymarin has the ability to stimulate protein synthesis, resulting in production of new liver cells to replace older, damaged ones.
Perhaps the most notable way that silymarin benefits liver health is by activating a particular cannabinoid receptor type in the liver. Cannabinoid Receptor Type 2 (CB2) receptors are found throughout the body, and, when activated, they work to reduce soreness, aches, and pain. The CB2 receptors in the liver have anti-fibrogenic properties. Liver fibrosis is a serious issue, as Drs. William Rosenberg and Julie Parkes explain:
"Liver fibrosis is the scarring process that represents the liver’s response to injury. In the same way as skin and other organs heal wounds through deposition of collagen and other matrix constituents so the liver repairs injury through the deposition of new collagen. Over time this process can result in cirrhosis of the liver, in which the architectural organization of the functional units of the liver becomes so disrupted that blood flow through the liver and liver function become disrupted. Once cirrhosis has developed, the serious complications of liver disease may occur, including portal hypertension, liver failure and liver cancer. The risk of liver cancer is greatly increased once cirrhosis develops, and cirrhosis should be considered to be a pre-malignant condition. Cirrhosis and liver cancer are now among the top ten causes of death worldwide, and in many developed countries liver disease is now one of the top 5 causes of death in middle-age."
Research from Egypt concluded that silymarin’s ability to activate CB2 and protect against liver fibrosis, “may be partially responsible for the strong hepatoprotective effect of silymarin.”
For more on cannabinoid receptors, please visit the Hammer CBD page
Additional milk thistle/silymarin benefits
1) Silymarin activates an enzyme inside the body’s cells known as AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), often referred to as a “metabolic master switch” because it plays an important role in regulating metabolism. One of the beneficial effects of activating AMPK is non-stimulant weight loss, which may explain why milk thistle was so effective in a study involving obese mice that lost weight after being fed milk thistle.
2) Silymarin appears to enhance kidney health similar to how it supports liver function, primarily via stimulation of cell regeneration in the kidneys.
3) Silymarin supports heart health by helping to elevate levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, and decrease the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries due to an excessive accumulation of plaque).
4) Silymarin helps protect the brain. One nutritional researcher states that “Milk thistle appears to have neuroprotective properties and there is early research suggesting it may be beneficial for multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. Animal studies also suggest that silymarin may suppress the formation of amyloid beta-protein (a toxic protein linked to Alzheimer’s).”
5) Silymarin helps protect against bone loss. Though more research is needed, a 2013 animal study found milk thistle to be beneficial in preventing estrogen deficiency-induced bone loss.
6) In preclinical research, another flavonoid found in milk thistle, silibinin, was found to have potential anticancer benefits, by helping to inhibit the growth of many types of cancer cells.
Every four capsules of LSA Caps contain 350 mg of milk thistle extract, standardized to contain no less than 80% silymarin. This ensures that you receive the exact same amount of this extraordinary nutrient in each and every capsule.
Milk thistle may be considered to be “just a weed” to many, but its hugely beneficial properties for the liver and in other areas of human health make it a highly desirable one.