Milk Thistle has been used by healers and health practitioners for over 2,000 years. Native to the Mediterranean, milk thistle is a beautiful flowering herb used to address a variety of health conditions. The medicinal properties of milk thistle derive from an extract created from ripe seed, which is actually the fruit of the plant.
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While milk thistle is used in a variety of therapies, it’s common in traditional Chinese medicine. Practitioners use milk thistle to clear heat and relieve toxic materials to promote healthy liver functions. It is also popular with health professionals in the integrative and complementary health fields, due to its many proposed benefits.
Milk Thistle has been used to address a variety of health issues. Its benefits can include:
- Lowering cholesterol levels benefiting the heart
- Helping those suffering from type 2 diabetes
- Reducing the growth of cancer cells in breast, cervical and prostate cancers
- Improving liver health
Studies have shown milk thistle consumption to be safe for up to 41 months. Milk thistle dosage is dependent upon the condition being treated. It varies from patient to patient. Consult with your physician or practitioner for the correct dosage.
Usage of milk thistle as an herbal medicine dates back to the first century. It is believed that Pliny the Elder wrote about milk thistle’s juice and its ability to carry fluids. The Roman Doctor Dioscorides used milk thistle as a remedy for infants and those bitten by serpents.
Half a century later a famous British herbalist used milk thistle to treat disorder affecting the liver, spleen and kidneys. By the 19th century milk thistle was used by German physicians for the treatment of liver and blood problems.
Milk Thistle can be combined with other herbs, and can be taken orally through supplements or in powder form added to tea.
The main active ingredient in milk thistle is Silymarin. It is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Studies show that milk thistle can decrease blood sugar levels, and improve cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. Research also shows that milk thistle can improve insulin resistance, commonly found in patients with type 2 diabetes.
What to Expect
According to studies, milk thistle may protect the cells of the liver by blocking the entrance of harmful toxins, and remove these toxins from liver cells. As an antioxidant, milk thistle works to maintain health and energy by protecting the body against free radicals.
Risks & Side Effects
Milk thistle causes few if any serious side effects. Studies show usage to be safe for up to 41 months. Rare side effects can include diarrhea, nausea, bloating, gas and upset stomach. Women who are breastfeeding or pregnant should not take milk thistle.
Those with ragweed allergies should avoid milk thistle, because it can cause a rash or lead to severe allergic reaction. Since milk thistle can mimic the effects of estrogen, women with fibroid tumors or endometriosis should avoid usage. Also, women with breast, uterine or ovarian cancers should not use milk thistle. Always inform your doctor of any supplements you are taking, especially if on other medications.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database: “Milk Thistle Monograph.”
National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM): “Milk Thistle.”
Medicinenet.com: “Generic Name: Milk Thistle – Oral.”
Liversupport.com: “Milk Thistle – The #1 Researched & Recommended Herb for Liver Health”
Cancer.org: “Milk Thistle”