Common name: Milk Thistle, Marian Thistle, St Mary’s Thistle
Part (s) used: Seed (dried fruit)
Common Usage of Milk Thistle
Supports normal liver function
Helps reverse liver damage caused by alcohol, drug, dietary abuse, and exposure to chemicals that threaten normal liver function
Increases breast milk production in nursing mothers
Helps repair skin conditions, (jaundice, varicose veins), related to poor liver function
Alleviates allergies associated with liver damage
Milk thistle is native to the Mediterranean and also grows wild throughout North America, Australia, and Europe, where it has been used for thousands of years as a remedy for liver problems. Milk thistle is toxic to livestock, and it forms dense stands in pastures and rangelands. The leaves are very distinctive, with white marbling on the shiny green leaves.
The dried fruit of milk thistle contains a flavonoid complex known as silymarin which is made up of silibinin, silidianin, and silicristin. Silibinin is the most active component and is considered to be the constituent responsible for the benefits attributed to silymarin. Both the active bioflavonoid complex, silymarin and it's sub-component silibinin, are powerful antioxidants which exert a protective effect against substances that may be potentially harmful to the liver. Milk thistle extract is most commonly recommended to counteract the harmful actions of alcohol on the liver. Double-blind clinical studies show that it helps the liver return to a healthy state once a person stops drinking. Some trials suggest it may improve quality of life and even life expectancy in people with liver cirrhosis. However, another trial found no effect in cirrhosis patients.
For liver disease and/or diminished liver function, research results indicate the use of 420–600 mg of silymarin per day from an herbal extract of milk thistle standardized to 80% silymarin content. Results should become noticable in about eight to twelve weeks. Milk thistle extract may be considered for long-term therapy for people with chronic liver disease.