For hundreds of years extracts of milk thistle have been used as “liver tonics”. Milk thistle itself is said to have protective effects on the liver improves its function. It is normally deployed to treat liver cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation), toxin-induced liver damage (including the prevention of severe liver damage from Amanita phalloides (‘death cap’ mushroom poisoning), and gallbladder problems.

A review of studies of silymarin and liver disease have shown an interesting pattern in that studies which tested low dosages of silymarin concluded that silymarin was ineffective, while studies which used significantly larger doses concluded that silymarin was biologically active and had therapeutic effects.

According to a report on Reuters, Milk Thistle has even been said to aid patients recovering from cancer treatment (source). This goes to show just how powerful this plant extract can be.

Milk Thistle and Liver Problems in Dogs

Before you would even begin with a treatment program, correct diagnosis of any potential liver problems in your dog must be carried out by a veterinarian.

Symptoms of liver problems with dogs including liver disease can include a loss of appetite, lethargy, jaundice, dark urine, pale gums, changes to drinking / eating habits and a sudden change in the dog’s weight.

Milk thistle is used as a treatment for liver problems in many human liver conditions and has received generally widespread positive acclaim.

Most of the trials carried out on rats also give cause for positivity. Rats have similar liver function to dogs and there has to date been no toxic effects reported.

Diseases Of The Liver, Pancreas, And Peritoneum

A. – The Liver. Introduction. Post-mortem changes. I. Malformations and Deformities. II. Disorders of Circulation. 1. Passive hyperaemia (nutmeg liver), 2. Thrombosis and Embolism. III. Retrograde changes, chiefly fatty infiltration, amyloid disease, and pigmentation; Icterus. IV. Acute Yellow Atrophy. V. Hypertrophy and Regeneration. VI. Inflammations. 1. Suppurative hepatitis, including tropical and pysemic abscesses; also biliary abscess. 2. Chronic interstitial hepatitis, Cirrhosis; causation; lesions; effects. Biliary and hypertrophic cirrhosis. 3. Perihepatitis. VII. Syphilis and Tuberculosis. Syphilitic cirrhosis and gummata. Tuberculosis, chiefly secondary. VIII. Tumours, chiefly cancers; occasionally primary – chiefly secondary. Parasites, chiefly Echinococcus.

B. – Bile-ducts and Gall-bladder. 1. Gall-stones, single and multiple, 2. Obstruction of ducts, 3. Rupture and perforation, 4. Tumours.

C. – Pancreas. Malformations, haemorrhages, inflammations, retrograde changes. Tumours, especially cancers. Concretions and obstructions of duct.

D. – Peritoneum. Introduction. 1. Malformations; 2. Disorders of circulation, chiefly haemorrhage and ascites; chylous ascites and ascites adiposus; 3. Inflammations, septic, chronic; 4. Tuberculosis, tubercular peritonitis, healing and its results; 5. Tumours, including Retroperitoneal sarcoma.

E. – Secondary Extension of Cancers of the Abdominal Organs.

About Milk Thistle

The distribution of Milk Thistle is limited to Europe from Holland southwards. It is unknown in early deposits. It is, moreover, not a native of Britain, and in Scotland and Ireland is quite rare.

The Milk Thistle is really only an introduction. It is found on waste ground, or in gardens where it has been sown with garden seed, or dispersed in the same way as weeds, such as Mallow, Tansy, Wormwood, Chicory, Borage, Mullein, and other casuals.

The stems are thick at the base, branched, rather tall, with cottony down, ribbed, furrowed, and leafless above. The radical leaves are spreading and prostrate, tripinnate, sinuate, shining, with spinose margin, and with white, net-like veins, the stem-leaves clasping the stem.

The flowerheads, which are large and solitary, are purple and globose. The phyllaries are leaf-like below, closely associated, then spreading and bent back, spinous at the margin, leathery, broad, and with one long ter-minal spine. The receptacle is fleshy and hairy. The fruit is oblong, transversely wrinkled, black, with white pappus, growing obliquely. The seeds contain oil for emulsion and are used as bird-seed.

The plant grows to a height of 5 ft. The flowers open in July. Like Cotton Thistle it is a herbaceous triennial, and may be reproduced by seed. It is worth cultivating.

The flowers contain honey, and the tube is long and slender but enlarged above. The flower-head is like Carduus, rather large, rose-colour, with anther-stalks united into a sheath. Being of casual occurrence, observations on the number of visitors are wanting.

The achenes are large and provided with a pappus, which enables them to be dispersed by aid of the wind.

Milk Thistle is more or less a sand-loving plant or addicted to a sand soil or sand loam.

Silybum, Dioscorides, is the Greek name for an edible thistle; marianus, Linnaeus, is from the Virgin Mary, and refers to a legend that drops of her milk fell on the leaves and caused the spotting. Milk Thistle is a common name for it, in allusion to the markings (white veins or spots) of the leaves and the milky juice. From its numerous sharp prickles it was recommended for “stitch” or pain in the side. The achenes are large and contain oil, formerly used for emulsion, and have also been used as food for goldfinches and other birds.