Milk thistle is a flowering purplish colored flower that grows to approximately five foot tall. The herb is related to the daisy and ragweed family. If you are allergic to ragweed this herb is not for you. The plant was taken from Europe in the middle ages to Asia and became part of Chinese medicine. The part of the plant most commonly used are the seeds. Research suggests that the liver-protecting effect of milk thistle is due to a group of flavonoids known as silymarin, which is both an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. Silymarin is also the antidote for poisoning caused by the death cap mushroom. Other names milk thistle is called by: Legalon, St. Mary’s Thistle, Our Lady’s Thistle and Holy Thistle.
The liver is a very important organ, the primary role is to assist in digestion. It not only produces bile and hormones it also protects our system from poisonous materials circulating in our body. By removing impurities from our blood the immune system doesn’t have to work as hard keeping us healthy. Milk thistle helps cleanse and improve the health of the liver by flushing toxins built up in our body, caused by bad diet, alcohol, and toxic chemicals. Milk thistle helps protect the liver of people who have been exposed to pesticides, heavy metals, and radiation drugs.
Milk thistle aids the kidneys, reducing the chance of kidney stones developing. It improves the health of our gallbladder, adrenals, and inflammation of the bowels. It soothes the stomach acid, stimulates weak digestion, and also eases gas. It is even used to reduce the symptoms of hangovers!
The medical/scientific community has ongoing studies of milk thistle. There is some evidence, though it is not conclusive, that it may offer some benefits in the following areas:
- Improvement of heart health by lowering cholesterol levels
- Helping people with type 2 diabetes (Caution: Certain chemicals in milk thistle might lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. Dosing adjustments to diabetes medications might be necessary.)
- Reduces growth of cancer cells in the breast, cervical and prostate cancers
I would like to share one more thing about milk thistle that I read while taking my Family Herbalist class. The late Michael Moore an herbalist from the southwest wrote this, “Milk thistle is like doing a routine maintenance on your furnace, blowing out the vents, changing the filters and cooling down your overheated thermostat.” Milk thistle is like offering periodic maintenance to your body. You may read in more from Michael in Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West.
You can purchase milk thistle at any health food store or purchase it from Nature’s Sunshine (for $24.95) which is where I purchase many of my herbs and supplements.
Milk thistle can give you many health benefits. However, before using any herb consult with your doctor first, as they may interfere with the medications you are taking.
To Your Health!