Milk thistle is a flowering herb and a member of the Asteraceae plant family which makes it related to the daisy and ragweed. The herb has been around for over 2,000 years and is native to the Mediterranean and European countries but can now be found throughout the eastern US, California, and South America. The first notable mention of the plant and it's healing properties was in 40 A.D. by Dioscorides, a Greek physician and botanist. The plant gets its name from the milky sap that comes out of the leaves when they are broken. The leaves also have unique white markings that makes them look as if they've been dunked in milk.
Silymarin is the main and active ingredient in milk thistle (the names are actually used interchangeably) and can be found mostly in the seeds of the plant. It is an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant and is known for having cell regenerating benefits. The benefits work by drawing toxins out of the body that can cause a range of symptoms and diseases. As an antioxidant, the benefits of milk thistle and silymarin are equally powerful as other important nutrients such as vitamin E or C, which help fight free radical damage. Additionally the plant's seeds contain high levels of lipophilic extracts which act as bioflavonoid antioxidants that increase immunity and slow down oxidative stress.
Milk thistle is taken for a number of reasons but most notably for liver detoxification and health as it has shown to decrease, or even reverse, damage to the liver caused by a variety of factors and disorders. These might include liver damage caused by chemicals, alcohol, prescription medications, antibiotics, pollution, heavy metals, and chemotherapy. It also improves damage caused by Amanita Phalloides (death cap) mushrooms poisoning, jaundice, chronic inflammatory liver disease, cirrhosis of the liver and chronic hepatitis. The herb is considered a "hepatic, galactagogue, demulcent and choloagogue," which means that it promotes healthy digestive function by helping with enzyme formation, increasing bile production, decreases inflammation and soothes the mucous membranes throughout the body.
Benefits of Milk Thistle include:
1. Liver Detoxification and Health
Milk thistle helps rebuild liver cells while removing toxins from the body that are processed through the liver. The liver is the largest internal organ and functions as a 'blood purifier,' actively cleaning and detoxifying the blood every day. It aids in hormone production, releases glucose into the bloodstream giving us energy and releases bile into our small intestine so that fat can be absorbed from foods. Poor liver function can cause innumerable health issues so it is important to maintain its health!
2. Helps protect against cancer
As milk thistle seeds are a high source of the antioxidant silymarin, the plant is associated with decreasing the risk for cancer development by boosting the immune system, fighting DNA damage and reversing cancerous tumor growth. The majority of the molecules present in silymarin are called silybin. Silybin is an antioxidant that stimulates protein synthesis and changes the outside layer of healthy cells, keeping them protected from damage and mutation. This in turn inhibits toxins from binding to the cell membrane receptors.
3. Can help lower high cholesterol
As milk thistle is a powerful anti-inflammatory which benefits heart health and lowers high cholesterol, cleaning the blood and preventing oxidative stress damage within the arteries.
4. May help control or prevent diabetes
Research has shown that silymarin along with conventional treatments can help control symptoms of diabetes by helping with glycemic control. Additionally, the antioxidant effects of silymarin in milk thistle have been shown to help decrease blood sugar levels in insulin-resistant patients. These findings are likely based on the fact that the liver is partly responsible for regulating hormones, including the release of insulin into the bloodstream and insulin is responsible for managing blood glucose levels in the body.
5. Helps prevent gallstones
The health of the liver is closely related to the overall health of other digestive organs such as the gallbladder, pancreas, intestines, and kidneys. these organs work together to process nutrients and toxins that enter our body through food, water, and air. The benefits of milk thistle also help to support the endocrine and gastrointestinal systems by aiding in the production of bile and enzymes. on top of helping to detoxify and clean the blood, thereby regulating the function of the gallbladder, kidneys, and spleen.
6. Boosts skin health
Silymarin contains high levels of phytochemicals which are very affective in inhibiting UV-light induced oxidative stress on the skin. Milk thistle is considered to be a potent inhibitor of UV-induced oxidative stress that can cause skin diseases like cancer and research has even shown that applying silymarin found in milk thistle to the skin reduces skin damage caused by radiation treatment in cancer patients.
The seeds and leaves of the plant can be consumed in pill, powder, tincture, extract or tea form. The seeds can be eaten whole and raw, but usually people prefer to take a milk thistle extract or supplement to consume higher doses and see more or faster results.
Experience the many benefits of milk thistle in this beautifully Indian-inspired bitters - the Strongwater Golden:
By: Jessie Stonberg