Diabetes mellitus is a group of chronic metabolic disorders characterized by high blood sugars resulting from defects in insulin secretion, its activity or both. For those with type 1 diabetes, there’s a lack of insulin, whereas type 2 diabetes causes insulin resistance. Persistently high sugar levels can lead to organ damage which can result in very devastating effects. It is for this reason that several herbs have been studied extensively regarding their hypoglycemic properties which may be useful in the control of diabetes mellitus. One such herb is milk thistle also known as Silibum marianum. Milk thistle has been used for centuries as a therapeutic agent, especially for liver diseases. S. marianum and its seeds contain a whole family of natural compounds, called flavonolignans. Silymarin, a flavonolignans is a complex of at least seven different biological compounds that includes silydianin, silychristin, and silibin. Silibin, the active component in milk thistle obtained by crushing milk thistle seeds has been regarded as a potent agent against insulin resistance and diabetes-induced hyperglycemia. But how? In this article, we will look into how the milk thistle helps manage diabetes mellitus.
How Does Milk Thistle Help Manage Diabetes Mellitus?
The management of insulin resistance can be quite challenging. In high glucose concentrations, organs that do not depend on insulin for glucose transport usually have an intracellular accumulation of sorbitol (a sugar alcohol); a process aided by an enzyme known as aldolase. This leads to water accumulation and tissue damage. Silibin acts as an inhibitor of aldose reductase. Therefore, it is suggested as an attractive candidate for the prevention and treatment of diabetes and its complications.
How Effective is Milk Thistle in the Management of Diabetes?
Several studies have been conducted to investigate the effects of milk thistle on diabetes. A study conducted and published in 2006 in the journal Phytotherapy Research, included 51 study participants with type 2 diabetes. The study participants were divided into 2 groups one with 25 members and another with 26. The members of each group were subjected to treatment using either Silymarin supplements or a placebo for a period of four months. At the end of the study, it was discovered that members of the silymarin group showed a significant reduction in total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. In addition, silymarin appeared to help regulate their blood sugar levels.
Another scientific report published in the journal Medical Hypotheses showed that silibinin (an antioxidant found in silymarin) and resveratrol (an antioxidant available in the skin of red grapes) may help reverse insulin resistance by working against IKKbeta (an enzyme shown to disrupt insulin signaling).
How Much Milk Thistle Should I Take?
There are various forms of milk thistle supplements that vary in strength. The levels of the active component Silymarin has been found to vary between different supplement brands. It is therefore recommended that those taking Silymarin supplements should be sure to follow package-specific instructions.
While a lot of research has been conducted to evaluate the hypoglycemic effects of milk thistle, there is limited information available regarding the most effective dose of milk thistle supplements in the treatment of diabetes. Most studies have recommended a dosage of between 420 mg and 600 mg daily divided into three doses is a general suggestion.
However, before you can make any changes to your treatment regimen, it is recommended that you consult your doctor to determine whether using milk thistle extract for diabetes is appropriate for you.
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