The importance of the liver and using milk thistle

By | May 18, 2009

The liver is highly important if you care about your health and aging. I notice the liver is another one of those organs that are always shunted to one side (along with the pineal gland) and ignored, just because it quietly maintains your body in one piece. Nothing could be further from the truth. The liver is actually the main player behind HGH; without it, growth hormone would be practically useless.

The body cannot make use of HGH in its pure form. It needs to be converted into IGF-1 by the liver before uptake by the cells. That said, the liver is the main detoxification organ of the body and the main metabolic factory. Smoking, drinking, pharmaceutical drugs, sleeping late, eating too much, poor bowel movements, and a weak kidney all take a serious toll on the liver over a prolonged period.

If the kidneys and the bowel do not perform their duties efficiently, the liver takes on the burden, and may leak out some of these toxins into the bloodstream. Neither will it convert HGH into IGF-1 as efficiently as you would like. The intake of DHEA also adds greater stress to the liver.

liver-other-internal-organsI’ve had problems with my liver because of sleeping late. If you are trying to get your pituitary gland to produce more growth hormone, try to make sure your efforts are not undone by your liver. Luckily, the liver can rejuvenate itself. Compared to the other organs of the body, the cells of the liver can re-grow themselves much better than them.

So what are the herbs that you can take to support your liver? The main one’s I’ve used are milk thistle and dandelion. In particular, milk thistle deserves a lot more attention.

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) has been used for well over 2000 years as a liver tonic and rejuvenator. The extract from milk thistle seeds, called silymarin is the main component in milk thistle’s effectiveness as a liver herb. Silymarin itself is composed of silibinin, silidianin, and silicristin, but silibinin is the most active component of the trio.

Among the benefits reported for milk thistle are:

  • Helping the liver regenerate its cells
  • Helping the liver to perform its detoxifying functions
  • Helping to restore the liver in reformed alcoholics
  • Helps to heal liver cirrhosis
  • Inhibit the growth of cancerous cells
  • Reducing insulin resistance in diabetics

Recently, I started to use milk thistle again, because I was working late, sleeping late, and feeling the effects on my liver. I did some digging on the documented effects of milk thistle. Among the smattering of tests done to gauge silymarin:

There are also randomized clinical tests that cast doubt on silymarin’s effectiveness in patients with alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C virus liver diseases.


I’m putting my faith in milk thistle to perform the role of a liver supporting herb, as it is relatively inexpensive. The best way to take milk thistle is in capsule form (standardized silymarin extract). Tinctures are very weak and not much use. I’m currently taking 9-12 grams of dried herb per day, which amounts to less than 200 mg of silymarin extract, per day. This might be on the low end, because most silymarin dosages are typically 400-1200 mg daily, although there is really no fixed rule of thumb. I’ll adjust it if it is too mild.

As for side effects, there are hardly any due to taking too much milk thistle extract, except for maybe a mild diarrhea in some individuals.