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Focuses on the results of a preliminary research conducted at the
State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New
York, on the health aspects of the milk thistle herb. Comparison with the
effects of Saint John's wort, ginger, echinacea and green tea; Combined
spending of U.S. residents on Saint John's wort and echinacea in


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.