Need something besides toxic sunscreen to protect against skin cancer? How about the herb, milk thistle?
Milk thistle is already well-known for its ability to help the liver detoxify itself, but evidently it has several important effects on our skin, too. Milk thistle protects against photo-aging, or UV damage, and effectively blocks both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) induced skin carcinogens. Studies at the University of Colorado Cancer Center found that the extract of the milk thistle plant was exceptional at preventing skin cancer and photo-aging.
It’s a compound called silibinin in milk thistle that does all the hard work to protect you from cancer. Rajesh Agarwal, PhD, co-program leader of Cancer Prevention and Control at the CU Cancer Center and professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, said about one of the U of C studies:
“When you have a cell affected by UV radiation, you either want to repair it or kill it so that it cannot go on to cause cancer. We show that silibinin does both.”
Agarwal goes on to explain:
“When you take human skin cells – keratinocytes – and treat them with silibinin, nothing happens. It’s not toxic. But when you damage these cells with UVA radiation, treatment with silibinin kills the cells.”
In yet another study published by the same authors in the journal Molecular Carcinogenesis, researchers showed that instead of beneficially killing cells damaged by UVA radiation, treatment with silibinin protects human skin cells from damage by UVB radiation, which makes up about 5 percent of the sun’s radiation reaching Earth.
The study abstract reads:
“In view of the fact that an enhanced endogenous IL-12 level could effectively remove UVB-caused DNA damage and associated skin cancer, our findings suggest that the use of silibinin in UVB-damaged human skin would also be a practical and translational strategy to manage solar radiation-caused skin damages as well as skin cancer.”
So not only does milk thistle protect you once your skin is damaged, it helps to make sure that your skin doesn’t become cancerous in the first place. I’m adding some milk thistle to my beach bag today – how about you?
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.