(Natural News) Milk thistle is famous for its ability to protect the liver from damage. But did you know that it can also protect the lungs from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke?
Multiple studies have shown that the regular intake of milk thistle (Silybum marianum) can significantly reduce the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a life-threatening respiratory disease caused by smoking. According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 16 million Americans are currently diagnosed with COPD. The actual number, however, could be higher, with many cases passed off as that of low pulmonary function. Over six percent of all deaths in the U.S. is due to COPD, making it the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.
COPD is the umbrella term for chronic diseases that block airflow and cause breathing-related problems, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and asthma. In particular, people with the disease experience frequent coughing or wheezing, shortness of breath, and difficulties in inhalation (breathing in). The condition also causes the body to produce excess phlegm, mucus, or sputum.
COPD and tobacco smoke – they go hand in hand
In the U.S., the leading cause of COPD is exposure to tobacco smoke, whether through smoking or inhaling it.
The increased likelihood of smokers to suffer from the debilitating disease is pretty straightforward, but that doesn’t mean people who inhale secondhand smoke — also called “passive” smoking — have it better. In fact, a recent study suggests that those who are exposed to secondhand smoke as children have an increased risk of dying from COPD in adulthood. In their paper, epidemiologists from the American Cancer Society also revealed that people who were exposed to secondhand smoke as adults have an increased risk of death not only for COPD but also several other conditions.
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Secondhand smoke contains at least 250 types of poison and 70 cancer-causing chemicals. Some of these include carbon monoxide, a chemical present in car exhaust, and toluene, which can be found in glue, paint thinner, and lacquers. To highlight the severe health risks that come with secondhand smoke, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Toxicology Program have both classified it as a carcinogen, while the U.S. Surgeon General has said that there is no acceptable level of exposure for it.
Currently, no cure for COPD exists. Most drug therapies use bronchodilators and corticosteroids – both of which carry adverse effects.
Protect your lungs from COPD with milk thistle
It’s a good thing that recent advances in science have led researchers to learn more about natural ways to strengthen the body against devastating conditions like COPD. Fortunately, studies on the multiple health benefits of milk thistle are promising. In one study, which appeared in the journal Inflammation, the team found that mice that had been pretreated with silymarin, the active ingredient in milk thistle, had significantly reduced inflammation biomarkers after being exposed to cigarette smoke for a month.
A different study, published in Scientific Report, found that silymarin can also regulate a pathway associated with inflammation. In their report, the team noted that the flavonoid reduced the effects of cigarette smoke-induced upregulation in human bronchial cells.
Milk thistle doesn’t just address inflammation. In one study in Food and Chemical Toxicology, a derivative of silymarin was found to suppress lung scarring and fibrosis in mice that have been exposed to cigarette smoke. This meant that the compounds present in milk thistle do not just prevent COPD, but can even reverse it.
Indeed, people who have been exposed to secondhand smoke (or even those who are looking to boost their lungs) would do well to start supplementing with milk thistle. It’s also available in different forms, such as powders, pills, extracts, and even teas. To get the most out of milk thistle, go for a supplement that has around 70 to 80 percent silymarin. (Related: Amazing milk thistle may also curb lung cancer.)
It’s also best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting with milk thistle, especially for those with a pre-existing condition or those under medication. If a person is allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemum, chamomile, marigolds, yarrow, or daisies, avoid taking milk thistle as it comes from the same family of plants.
Learn more about other supplements that can help in preventing COPD at SupplementsReport.com.