While crushed milk thistle leaves release milk, the plant’s seeds are its most potent part. The seeds contain sylmarin, which is an important compound with medicinal properties within the plant. Therefore, most supplements are made from the seeds. The seeds are turned into a capsule, and sometimes a tablet. The contents of the capsule typically contain 70% to 80%pure sylmarin.
There is a tea form of milk thistle, but it is less effective than the capsules or tablets because milk thistle is not entirely soluble in water. Two other forms of milk thistle are a powder and the plant’s whole fruit. A tincture form of milk thistle is also available. This form, however, may contain small quantities of alcohol and is less standardized than the capsules and tablets. Therefore, persons taking milk thistle for alcohol-induced damaged liver should avoid the tincture form.
In Europe, sometimes milk thistle is given intravenously to individuals who have ingested a deadly mushroom. This fluid can stop liver damage and can even decrease the chances of death.
A different type of milk thistle is sylmarin-phosphatidylcholine. This can be used for treating liver disease. Phosphatidylcholine is a type of naturally occurring lipid, or fat, that is an integral part in cell membranes.