Health and Nutrition Articles

Milk Thistle: AKA Blessed Thistle

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The Milk Thistle Story

Milk thistle is a plant native to the Mediterranean, but is now found throughout the world. It grows in dry, sunny areas. The plant gets its name from the white milky sap inside the leaves.

The leaves themselves have unique white markings that are sometimes considered the Virgin Mary's Milk. Although the ripe seeds are most commonly used for medicinal purposes, the de-spined leaves have also been used in salads and eaten as a vegetable.

The stalks, purple flowers and roots can also be consumed.

Milk Thistle Benefits

  • Acts as an herbal liver cleanse and detox.
  • Supports healthy liver function.
  • Provides powerful antioxidant support.
  • Has anti-inflammatory properties and fights oxidation.
  • May help with skin health, hydration, redness, acne and rosacea.
  • Some research suggests milk thistle has anti-cancer effects especially in breast, cervical and prostate cancers.
  • Some research suggests milk thistle helps to lower LDL cholesterol and raises HDL levels.
  • May help reduce elevated serum ferritin to control genetic iron overload disorder (hemochromastosis).
  • May help with obesity and weight loss.


  • Avoid taking milk thistle if you are allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, chamomile, yarrow, daisies or other plants in the Asteraceae/Compositae family.
  • Talk to your Dr. before taking milk thistle PLANT supplements if you have a history of hormone related cancers (breast, uterine, prostate).Milk thistle seed extracts do not have the same affect.
  • Some people may experience mild side-effects involving upset stomach and diarrhea.
  • Talk to your Dr. before taking milk thistle if you are pregnant or nursing.
  • See a health care provider if you think you have a liver problem.
  • If you are on Glucuronidated or Statin Drugs, which are changed and broken down by the liver, avoid taking milk thistle.

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Quick Facts

  • Silymarin, a flavonoid extract of milk thistle, is the biologically active part of the herb that comes from the seeds of the plant.
  • Silymarin has been used successfully for centuries to treat liver inflammation, which is why Milk Thistle is known as the "liver herb".
  • Silibinin, another compound found in milk thistle, shows substantial antiviral effects against hepatitis C.
  • Silibinin found in milk thistle May Prevent skin cancer and photo-aging from UV radiation exposure.
  • Milk thistle sprouts have significant antioxidant value which increases with light exposure.
  • Milk thistle has been used traditionally to boost lactation or milk production in breast-feeding mothers.
  • Milk thistle has been used to treat gallbladder disorders, jaundice, varicose veins, heartburn, depression, hangover, allergy symptoms, diabetes, skin problems, and starting menstrual flow.
  • Milk thistle has been used to counteract the toxic poisoning by deathcap mushrooms (Amanita Phalloides) if given within 10 minutes of ingestion. If given within 24 hours, it significantly reduces risk of liver damage and death.