Many view all thistles – even milk thistle – as an invasive weed.
Well, aside from the fact that they DO tend to take over wild areas, thistles – and milk thistle especially – are valuable forage for pollinators of all kinds, butterflies, and birds.
What a lot of folks don’t know is the benefits that can be found in taking milk thistle as an herbal supplement. You can crush the seeds and encapsulate them. You can also add the seeds to your tea, along with some honey, and still reap the benefits.
But what are the benefits associated with milk thistle?
First of all, I’m no doctor, so I cannot tell you it’s going to fix this, or that, or this other thing. And you should always consider checking in with your health care provider to find out about interactions with any medications you may be taking.
What I can tell you is what people have been historically using milk thistle for, as well as what we know now via empirical evidence.
Milk thistle is great as a support for when you’re doing a fast or juice detox.
It was wonderful for detoxing after chemotherapy, and later – when I had issues with too much iodine and required chelation therapy. The drugs made me SO sick. I went with cilantro and milk thistle. In 30 days, my liver panel was greatly improved. I like this milk thistle product.
Here’s a great list of ten things that are wonderful and worth considering if you’re wondering if you should add milk thistle to your arsenal of herbs:
Milk Thistle Benefit #1: Treats Liver Disease
The most known benefit of milk thistle is liver detoxification. Research by the Mayo Clinic suggests, that milk thistle can cleanse the liver by helping the liver cells remove toxins from the body which are processed by the liver.
Milk thistle can help reverse the effects of liver damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, and heavy metals in our water supplies
Today, milk thistle is being used on various liver conditions including toxin-induced liver disease, alcoholic liver disease, acute and chronic viral hepatitis.
Milk Thistle Benefit #2: Cancer Protection and Treatment
With such a large variety of uncontrollable conditions that may cause cancer, it is essential to protect our bodies in every way possible. Not everyone is a proponent of medicinal cannabis, so alternatives are always a good thing.
Milk thistle is rich in the antioxidant flavonoid called silymarin, which is associated with decreasing the risk for cancer development.
By boosting our immune system, fighting DNA damage and reversing cancerous tumor growth, milk thistle can potentially protect us from cancer.
Milk Thistle Benefit #3: Diabetes Management
Diabetes management can be enormously stressful. Milk thistle’s main component, silymarin, can control symptoms of diabetes.
By helping with glycemic control, milk thistle supplementation can assist to lower blood sugar levels in insulin-resistant patients. A study conducted by Johns-Hopkins, with diabetic patients, showed that patients consuming silymarin extract over a four-month period had better diabetes management compared to patients who were taking the placebo extract.
Milk Thistle Benefit #4: Treats Gallbladder Disorders
Our gallbladder is essential for a variety of functions, including storing and concentrating bile which is produced by the liver. Bile is crucial for proper fat digestion in the small intestine.
Milk thistle may help prevent gallbladder disorders. European medical research suggests that milk thistle can increase bile flow and help with gallbladder detoxification which may help with the prevention of gallstones.
Milk Thistle Benefit #5: Lowers High Cholesterol
Over time, high cholesterol may lead to more severe complications including carotid artery disease, coronary heart disease, peripheral artery disease and sudden stroke. It is vital to lower and control cholesterol at any stage of life.
Some folks – like me – are sensitive to the cholesterol management drugs. I had to find natural alternatives. Milk thistle and lemongrass oil are my personal go-to elements.
Milk thistle has been used for its anti-inflammatory benefits. Although more human research needs to be conducted, research suggests that when milk thistle extract used in combination with other methods helps reduce cholesterol.
Milk Thistle Benefit #6: Anti-Aging Properties
From the food that we eat to the way we take care of our skin, daily, we are engaging in habits that can overall make our skin and health suffer and age us at the same time.
Milk thistle is known to prevent free radical damage due to its antioxidant properties.
Antioxidants can protect our bodies from chronic disease and therefore slow the natural aging process. Milk thistle when taken regularly can help protect the skin, thus reducing visible signs of aging.
Milk Thistle Benefit #7: Emergency Poison Antidote
Amateur misidentification of poisonous mushrooms can lead to death. Milk thistle has been used for thousands of years as an emergency antidote for ingesting death cap mushrooms.
The main component in milk thistle has been determined to have protective effects on the liver and therefore assists in remedying poisoning. Animal studies have shown that milk thistle extract can counteract the toxic effects of a poisonous mushroom when given within 10 minutes after consuming.
Milk Thistle Benefit #8: Helps Heartburn and Upset Stomach
Frequent heartburn can be extremely uncomfortable. Milk thistle has been traditionally used as a home remedy to calm an upset stomach and assists with indigestion.
For many of us, we get an occasionally an upset stomach after eating a heavy meal. Although more research needs to be conducted. Milk thistle, when used daily, can reduce and eliminate recurring heartburn. It works wonderfully for managing reflux.
Milk Thistle Benefit #9: Sharp Mind
As we age, the most common signs of cognitive disorder include confusion, poor motor coordination, and loss of short-term or long-term memory. Even at a young age, many of us can deal with the occasional brain fog.
Scientific research suggests there is a connection between brain fog and liver disease due to its tendency to impair energy production and blood detoxification.
Due to milk thistle’s liver detoxification properties it has been used as an alternative medicine to keep the brain sharp. Many people claim it prevents cognitive decline.
Milk Thistle Benefit #10: Regulates Hormones
Hormonal imbalance can lead to many complications. Being hormonally balanced is essential to a healthy mind and body. Milk thistle can support hormonal balance due to its function as a liver detoxifier.
What do we know about the safety of using milk thistle?
In clinical trials, milk thistle appears to be well tolerated in recommended doses. Occasionally, people report various minor gastrointestinal side effects.
Milk thistle may produce allergic reactions, which tend to be more common among people who are allergic to plants in the same family (for example, ragweed, chrysanthemum, marigold, and daisy).
Compounds in milk thistle may lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. People with diabetes should use caution.
Keep this in mind …
Tell all your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure safe care.
If you’re taking prescribed medications, you should definitely talk with your health care people.
Hopefully, he or she has an open mind and can think outside the box of Western medicine. You can start by checking out whether milk thistle will cause problems with your medications. This is a great resource for that.
There are studies underway researching the use of milk thistle in managing multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Currently, although inconclusive since the studies are not complete, there is indication that milk thistle helps with managing both devastating diseases.
So … don’t rely on me. Do your own research. Find folks who know about this stuff. Talk to a naturopath, if you can. Definitely talk to your health care folks (but be prepared to have your evidence at the ready!). Be responsible and take control of your health.