What exactly is milk thistle? Also known as Mary thistle or holy thistle, it’s a flowering herb with large red or purple blossoms and shiny green leaves. The ripe seeds of the milk thistle have been used medicinally for thousands of years. The seeds contain a natural complex known as silymarin, which is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that may help rid the blood of toxins. This, in turn, leads to a healthier liver and kidneys. Studies show that milk thistle complements traditional diabetic treatments, as well.
So how does milk thistle go from being a plant to a pill? The seeds are extracted, crushed, and turned into a capsule or tablet. Milk thistle supplements come in a variety of potencies, with higher or lower percentages of silymarin. Milk thistle can also be made into a tea, but this is less effective, as milk thistle isn’t water soluble. Tinctures and powders are also available. We recommend the tablet or capsule form for most people, as the powders can taste bitter or gritty and the tinctures may contain alcohol, which damages the liver.
The earliest known mention of the medicinal properties of milk thistle is by the 1st century Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, who noted that the plant was helpful in liver problems and management of bile flow. The Greek physician Dioscorides used milk thistle to treat kidney and liver disease as he travelled with the army, and mentions it in his encyclopedia of medicinal plants.
Several generations of botanists, herbalists, and scientists have discovered the many benefits of this incredible herb. As science has progressed, we have learned more and more about the mechanism of action, allowing us to prepare the most effective, healthiest natural tablets and capsules, so people all around the world can experience this wonder plant.
Who should consider taking milk thistle? While milk thistle is an antioxidant and promotes health in anyone, including cats, dogs, and children, some members of the population will especially benefit.
Diabetics, recovering alcoholics, hepatitis sufferers, or people with other liver issues will find that milk thistle is a panacea for many of their symptoms. Trial studies have shown that milk thistle has helped mitigate the negative side effects of chemotherapy. Milk thistle can even help clear up your acne and treat your hangovers. In Europe, it is available by prescription to treat mushroom poisoning, alcoholic cirrhosis, and chronic and acute viral hepatitis.
Milk thistle has been used to promote a healthy mind and body for thousands of years. Recent research has proved what our ancestors suspected all along; milk thistle can do great things for you. Studies have shown that milk thistle can enhance traditional diabetic treatments, decreasing blood sugar levels and improving cholesterol and insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes. Hundreds of studies have confirmed the remarkable ability of milk thistle to protect the liver and the rest of the body from damage.
In short, if you’re wondering who could benefit from using milk thistle, the answer is you! Whether you want to protect your liver from a little Saturday night overindulgence, reduce hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms, or be proactive in preventing diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s, milk thistle can help.
How exactly does milk thistle work? The main ingredient in milk thistle extract is silymarin. It aids the liver in a variety of ways, increasing the overall health of your organs and bodily functions.
In addition to promoting liver health, milk thistle can reverse some of the damage already done to the liver by alcohol abuse, chemical fumes, or other toxins. The silymarin adheres to the liver cell membranes, strengthening them so they can better filter out harmful complexes. Silymarin also decreases inflammation and helps to repair liver scarring.
Milk thistle can even help with acne problems. Unlike most topical medications, milk thistle works from the inside out to increase bile production in the liver. The bile flows more quickly and easily, flushing away the testosterone which can often cause oily, acne-ridden skin.
Milk thistle is an antioxidant, so it neutralizes free radicals, which are molecules with unpaired electrons. Penn State professor K. Sandeep Prabhu explains, “The unpaired electrons make free radicals highly reactive, and in this state, they can cause damage by attacking the components of our cells, and can even cause cancer.” They can also damage your DNA.
Most free radicals are naturally produced in the body as by-products of normal cellular function. The majority are produced during the process of converting the calories in our food to energy that can be used by our cells. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by giving up an electron so the free radical is stabilized, or by breaking it down entirely. That’s why it’s important to ensure that you include an antioxidant, like a milk thistle supplement, as part of your daily intake.
A healthy, high-functioning liver will benefit your entire body. It is essential to everything from cleansing the blood to drug metabolism. The bile and proteins secreted and produced by the bile contribute to your overall health. Make sure your liver is functioning optimally with a milk thistle supplement.