Got milk thistle? An esoteric herb may fight brain disease – Herbal Supplements

Got milk thistle? An esoteric herb may fight brain disease – Herbal Supplements – Brief Article

Linda Formichelli

No more guzzling green tea and echinacea, or popping St. John’s wort. Milk thistle extract–long used as a liver tonic in European folk medicine–may be a far better nutritional supplement than its acclaimed herbal cousins.

Researchers studied the effects of St. John’s wort, ginger, echinacea, green tea and milk thistle on the white blood cells and nerve cells of mice. Milk thistle was the only herb that boosted both the immune and nervous systems, helping nerve cells produce more neurites and keeping cells alive longer.

No one expected milk thistle to outperform St. John’s wort and echinacea, on which Americans spent a combined $380 million in 2000, according to the Nutrition Business Journal.

“It was quite a surprise,” says coinvestigator Dileep Kittur, M.D., a professor of surgery and director of transplantation at S.U.N.Y. Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York. “The other herbs had some effect, but not as much. We thought they’d stand up to scrutiny in scientific tests.”

If these findings are corroborated in human trials, researchers may have found a plant-based product to help fight infection and treat neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and brain trauma.

But don’t stockpile milk thistle extract just yet. “Our results are very preliminary,” warns Kittur, who also found that ginger and green tea may be developed as immunosuppressive agents for use in organ transplantation. The results were presented at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group