Shield your brain with this thorny plant

It's true what they say: laughter is the best medicine. And as we age, we sure need a healthy sense of humor.

You find yourself turning the house over looking for your glasses... blanking on the word you want mid-sentence... even walking into a room unsure of why you went in there.

Those "senior moments" of forgetfulness can make life feel like a comedy of errors!

We've all been there -- and finding humor in these "brain burps" reminds you how universal they really are.

But if your senior moments keep stacking up, then it may be time to get serious -- because they could signal the beginning of Alzheimer's disease, which is no laughing matter.

Alzheimer's turns mild memory blips into devastating memory loss: forgetting the name of your better half, where home sweet home is, and even what the heck that fork in your hand is used for.

There's no known cure for Alzheimer's, but according to a new study, you may be able to protect your brain from Alzheimer's damage naturally -- by supplementing your diet with a prickly plant called milk thistle.

The study out of China found that the plant compound silibinin -- a flavonoid derived from milk thistle -- can suppress many of the abnormal brain processes associated with Alzheimer's and even REVERSE memory loss.

We still have a lot to learn about what causes Alzheimer's, but we do know that the disease is linked to the formation of brain "plaques" and "tangles" made of excess proteins called beta amyloid.

In the study, rats were injected with beta amyloid to mimic Alzheimer's. But after they were given silibinin, the rats improved significantly on memory tests like running through a maze and recognizing objects.

The results suggest that silibinin can help guard against HUMAN memory loss, too!

The researchers noticed a bunch of positive brain changes from the silibinin that could explain the rats' memory improvements.

Previous research has identified brain abnormalities that come along with Alzheimer's disease, including inflammation, oxidative stress, and impaired "autophagy" -- which is how brain cells clear out damaged or mis-folded proteins that can turn into plaques.

In the study, silibinin put all of these problems in reverse: It reduced brain inflammation, alleviated oxidative stress, and improved autophagy.

That makes silibinin a promising candidate for protecting your noggin from developing Alzheimer's plaques in the first place.

You probably don't want to start munching on the thorny leaves of the milk thistle plant, and luckily you don't need to -- because you can get a daily dose of silibinin by taking a milk thistle supplement in capsule form.

A doctor well-versed in integrative medicine can work with you on the right dosage for you.

Milk thistle has also been shown in studies to protect against liver damage, kill colon cancer cells, and reduce hay fever symptoms.

But it can interact with certain drugs, so talk to your doc before adding it to your regimen.