Updated: Mar 2
Milk Thistle is a herb that is popular from Christmas through to the New Year as it helps to look after your liver - helping to support against the effects of alcohol consumption.
At New Years when we are making our resolutions and we wish to begin a cleanse or detox Milk Thistle is a common herb that comes up as it is in many of the cleanse & detox formulations, due to its restorative effects for liver function and digestive system.
Let's have a deeper look into Milk Thistle and how it can help support your health and healing.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is also known as St. Mary's Thistle or Ladies Thistle. It is part of the Compositae family, with the fruit or seed of the plant being used for medicinal purposes. The steams and leaves can be added to salads or other cooking. Milk thistle contains many constituents but a main one is a flavolignan called Sylimarin which contains the three silly sisters - silybin, silydristin and silydianin.
It is the three silly sisters that have much of the hepatic trophorestorative effects.
Milk Thistle has the energy of being bitter, warming and drying. Within the body it helps to stimulate, decongest and dissolve while being restorative and softening.
Its main actions are that it helps restore liver function, while protecting the liver. Milk thistle helps with increasing bile secretion from the liver and it has an antioxidant effect.
So what do these actions mean for you when you are wanting to use Milk Thistle?
Your liver function can be impaired by many things, including the foods you eat, what you drink, medications you may take and any recreational substances. This can cause congestion within the liver, through slowing down the detoxification pathways and damage to the hepatocytes.
If your detoxification pathways are not working effectively, it is hard for your body to process hormones, you can have decreased digestive function, you may suffer with headaches, you may have skin eruptions or itchiness.
If liver function is severely impaired the symptoms can be jaundice, abdominal pain and swelling and swelling of the legs and ankles.
Looking at Milk Thistle it helps with stimulating and decongesting the liver, which can help with getting the detoxification pathways working well again. It is able to restore function and soften the hepatocytes. These can become hardened with cirrhosis of the liver. The bitter qualities help to aid in getting the liver to produce the bile that is sent to the gallbladder, that is then sent to the small intestine which help you to digest your fats and absorb your fat soluble vitamins.
You may like to include using Milk thistle into your daily routine if you are coping with any of the following:
Alcoholic liver damage
Non-alcoholic liver damage - this can be from medications
Fatty liver & issues with blood sugar levels
Digestive issues such as nausea, indigestion and constipation.
Skin conditions that are linked to the liver such as psoriasis and eczema.
Heavy menstruation, menstrual cramps or absent menses.
Aiding in helping the liver with detoxification
Milk Thistle is considered a safe non toxic herb, however any information given here is not a substitute for seeking medical attention or consulting with your doctor.
Milk thistle can be taken as a singular herbal tincture or added to a herbal blend.
You can use the Milk thistle seeds in smoothies, sprinkled on salads or ground up in baking.
Milk thistle should not be used by those who are allergic to the compositae family.
Milk thistle has had some rare side effects reported. These include: sweating, abdominal cramps and loose stools.
NOTE: Milk thistle may increase the metabolism of some medications.
You may like to continue reading about further detoxing in blog post below.
Bone, K. (2003), A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs, St Louis, Missouri; Churchill Livingstone
Fisher, C. & Painter, G. (1996), Materia Medica of Western Herbs for the Southern Hemisphere; New Zealand & Australia
Holmes, P. (2007) The energetics of Western Herbs - A materia medica integrating western & chinese herbal therapeutics, Vol.1, 4th edition, Cotati, California; Snow Lotus