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Herb Spotlight: Milk Thistle, A True Liver Lover!

What is Milk Thistle?

Milk thistle has been used for thousands of years, mostly for helping to repair liver damage. It helps to regenerate the liver and it aids in detoxification. It is a well-known remedy for preventing hangovers too since it can help your liver metabolize alcohol faster!

Milk thistle is a potent antioxidant that can help people heal from hepatitis, cirrhosis, damage from drugs and alcohol, fatty liver disease, mushroom poisoning, and environmental sensitivities. Many sources claim that it works best to take it at night since that is when the liver works the hardest and it needs extra help. This is why insomnia and night sweats are so prevalent- the liver gets MAD at night if it’s overworked! Milk thistle can help to take some of the burden off of the liver so you can get a full night of sleep.

Milk thistle is one off the few herbs that can interact with certain medications it’s important to check with your doctor or look up the information about the drug you are on before you decide to try milk thistle.

Milk thistle is the most studied herb. There have been over 400 studies completed on milk thistle according to the United States National Library of Medicine and the National institutes of Health. (Here is one from PubMed) It’s been determined that milk thistle is a very safe herb, and the only possible side effects include loose stools if you take too much too quickly. Some sources claim it is even safe while pregnant and nursing- but again, that is something you need to speak with your doctor about and do your own research on.

In Europe, milk thistle is actually a prescribed medication! Can you imagine that? A place that actually uses herbs as medicine??

Benefits of Milk Thistle:

  • Lowers cholesterol
  • reduces cancer cell growth in lungs, colon, prostates, cervix, and kidneys
  • prevents Alzheimer’s
  • helps balance blood sugar
  • Helps hot flashes and other hormonal issues
  • reduces cell damage caused by radiation and chemotherapy
  • helps to regenerate the liver
  • helps block the entrance of harmful toxins and removes them from liver cells
  • has anti-oxidant properties
  • helps prevent gallstones in the liver
  • increases bile flow
  • heals inflammation
  • Supports healthy glutathione metabolism

Buying Milk Thistle

When you are looking for a milk thistle supplement, make sure you are getting one that is 80% silymarin. This is the bio-flavonoid complex that is in milk thistle. Silymarin has 3 main flavonoids: silybin (most beneficial part), silydianin, and silychristin (my favorite one, haha- silly Kristin!)

There are MANY great milk thistle supplements out there. You can even find your own milk thistle seeds to make your own tinctures or you can grind them up to make your own capsules! Your local health food store or even vitamin stores will carry some of these products.

Typical supplements have about 100-150mg of milk thistle seed per serving. This is a good maintenance dose for daily use, or you can test out what a good personalized dose is. Some people use up to 500mg a day and find amazing results. I wouldn’t suggest that dose long term but it can be helpful for those looking to really heal their livers. Alcohol based tinctures tend to be the most bioavailable sources of milk thistle, but the Jarrow brand has great reviews from consumers.

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