Be there no doubt, my autistic brain is chronically inflamed. While I suspect this inflammation lends itself to several gifts, such as a great sense of color that’s useful when I’m quilting, and an enhanced experience of the world through synesthesia, the results of chronic neuroinflammation can be troublesome as well.
Nowhere is the trouble more easily recognized than during a meltdown. My most recent meltdown occurred while I was trying to restring beads on a broken mala, which is a set of Buddhist prayer beads. The weight of the beads kept pulling the string from my hands before I could tie the surgeon’s knots I needed to secure the piece. After multiple failed attempts at forming a knot, a wail erupted from my throat. Tears poured from my eyes, and I had to fight an intense impulse to throw my sacred project against the closest wall.
I forced myself to breathe and think through how irrational my howls and tears were. But the thing about a meltdown is, recognizing that it’s senseless has little to no impact on the actual event. A meltdown isn’t a voluntary choice based on ignorance of other options; it’s a manifestation of system overload.
I’ve found two things that cool my meltdowns. Milk thistle seed extract and mindful stimming. I’ll talk about mindful stimming in another post, or possibly in a video. Here, I’ll talk about milk thistle and its active ingredient.
Milk thistle contains something called silymarin, the major active molecule of which is silibinin. Silibinin has documented anti-inflammatory properties. But silibinin doesn’t stop there, Cirsium japonicum, which is an herb from which silibinin can be extracted, has been shown to have vasorelaxant properties, which means it can relax the tension in walls of blood vessels. Silibinin has anti-oxidant properties as well, making it an enemy of harmful free radicals. It also has functions as an antihistamine.
It seems that these actions are just what my brain needs during a meltdown. I add two droppers full, which is roughly 40 drops, to a cup of herbal tea (tisane), and within minutes even the worst meltdown evaporates. My calm is restored and I’m able to resume whatever I was doing before system overload hit.
I used Gaia herbs brand Milk Thistle Seed drops in the low-alcohol version. I have not yet tried any other brands. I’ve noticed I can get an extra dose of chill if I add it to a brew of Traditional Medicinal’s Cup of Calm. I’m not sponsored in any way by either brand and I bought these products at my neighborhood Natural Grocers store.
As with any supplement, keep in mind that not everybody’s body tolerates everything. I tested this on one person–me. People with allergies and intolerances should exercise a high degree of care when trying new things. Follow this link to learn how milk thistle can affect the way our bodies metabolize other substances. Here’s a link to a list of known contraindications to milk thistle. Talk to a trusted licensed medical professional before trying anything new on yourself of your family. I’m not a doctor. I’m just a thinking patient.
Kim, EY, Who, HK, Kim DI, Rhyu MR. Cirsium japonicum elicits endothelium-dependent relaxation via histamine H(1)-receptor in rat thoracic aorta. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008; 116:223-7
Kim BR, Seo HS, Ku JM, Kim GJ, Jeon CY, Park JH, Jang BH, Park SJ, Shin YC, Ko SG. Silibinin inhibits the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines through inhibition of NF-kB Signaling pathway in HMC-1 human mast cells. Inflamm Res. 2013 Nov;62(11):941-50. doi: 10.1007/s00011-013-0640-1. Epub 2013 Sep 18.
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