Milk thistle is an extremely helpful herb for pets. The scientific name for Milk Thistle is Silybum marianum. (You want to be sure the milk thistle supplement you select is labeled with this technical name.) The parts of the milk thistle plant that contain the therapeutic constituents are the fruit, shells, seeds, and leaves. (You want to be sure that the supplement you use contains these, and only these plant parts.)
Milk thistle is known to be hepatoprotective. That means that this amazing herb can protect the liver from toxic damage from medications and chemicals as well as damage from viruses and bacteria. A great use for milk thistle is to give it for a week after using medications such as flea/tick/heartworm medications. The herb can stop the damage such drugs may cause.
Milk thistle is also considered to be a cholagogue. A colagogue is a substance that helps the gallbladder contract and empty. Think of using this herb for the treatment of gallstone sludge that can sometimes gum up the gallbladder.
This incredible herb is also a galactagogue which means it can help a mother’s mammary glands release milk. Milk thistle is known to be an antioxidant as well. Thus, it can protect the body from dangerous oxidative free radicals which can build up in an animal’s system from normal wear and tear on the body as well as physical or emotional stress.
Milk thistle has been shown to increase liver glutathione. Glutathione is a liver enzyme which is involved in ridding the body of toxins. Think of milk thistle when your pet needs to detox from exposure to any kind of poison, pollutant, or contaminant. It can also be used a few days after chemotherapy treatments to decrease dangerous side effects. Since milk thistle affects how the liver deals with drugs, it should not be used at the same time as some drugs as it may expel the medicine before it has its desired effect.
In rats, milk thistle has been shown to improve damage to the pancreas so it may help those pets with pancreatitis. It reduces oxidative damage to kidney cells so it may be helpful for pets experiencing kidney problems. Milk thistle has even been shown to inhibit prostate cancer cell growth.
Even with all of these wonder beneficial effects of milk thistle, it is extremely safe. There are no reported side effects of taking it. (Have you ever seen that statement on a prescription insert?) General dosing information can be found in my earlier Herbal Pet post.
Silymarin is assumed to be the active ingredient in milk thistle. In fact, the drug Denamarin contains a chemically altered form of silimarin as well as other ingredients.
Denamarin represents the current tendency toward the pharmaceuticalization of herbal and nutritional supplements. You see, there is no money in herbs for pharmaceutical companies because you cannot patent a truly natural substance. But, if you mess with nature by extracting the “active ingredient” and modify it slightly, now you can get rich off it. (As if we can improve on Mother Nature.)
In fact, there are many compounds within the milk thistle plant that work together to benefit the body. I have had cases of liver disease in dogs that did not improve after months on Denamarin but did improve when switched to milk thistle. The active ingredient in an herb is the herb.
What have your experiences been like when using milk thistle in your pet?