Milk Thistle / Silybum Marianum
When it comes to loving your liver, there’s no better plant than Milk Thistle!
Milk thistle gets its name from the milky white pattern on its prickly toothed leaves. Indigenous to Europe, it has spread to most temperate parts of the world and is usually found growing in crop fields, pastures, roadsides, and disturbed areas. It can be quite the pest for agricultural farmers, but this medicinal gem has been widely used for over 2,000 years. Historically, Milk Thistle was used in Europe as a liver tonic, and in modern phytotherapy it is indicated for a wide range of liver and gallbladder conditions.
The seed holds the magic of Milk Thistle and is used by itself or in herbal preparations, especially detox or liver support formulas. It facilitates the overall detoxifying process of the body whenever there are signs and symptoms of an accumulation of toxins.
The active constituent of Milk Thistle is a flavonoid known as silymarin, which is a potent antioxidant. Silymarin’s reputation as a liver tonic has been supported by research showing that it helps protect the liver from damage by toxins, while also helping to repair damaged liver cells. Studies have shown that it can promote liver regeneration by up to 20-30% and can encourage the production of liver-supportive antioxidants such as glutathione.
It is also helpful in cases of liver stagnation, poor digestion, and assimilation of fats and oils. While not a “bitter” herb, it increases the secretion and flow of bile in the liver and gallbladder, so it may be helpful mixed with some bitters for enhanced digestion support. As the name implies, it can also be used to stimulate milk flow in nursing mothers, much like Blessed Thistle or Fenugreek.
It is a good herb to consider for those who have been exposed to solvents and chemicals from lifestyle choices or their job, or for those who feel they want to give their liver overall support.
Tinctures and capsules are the best ways for Milk Thistle to be taken. At Peoples Rx, you can find either whole plant extract or the standardized extract containing silymarin. Another fun way to consume Milk Thistle is to buy the whole seeds fresh in bulk, grind, and add them to your smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal.
Stop by Peoples and have a chat with one of our Wellness Specialists to find out what form of Milk Thistle is best for you!
Laurène Elliott-Deyris is an Herbalist and Wellness Specialist at Peoples Rx. She received her training at The Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine in Austin and is furthering her clinical studies with the Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine program out of North Carolina.
**This article is not intended to be medical advice. Please consult your healthcare practitioner before use.**
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