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What is Milk Thistle?
Milk thistle has actually been used for over 2,000 years. The plant is native to the Mediterranean region and a member of the Asteraceae plant family, which also includes other plants like sunflowers and daisies. The Greek physician and botanist Dioscorides was the first to describe milk thistle’s healing properties back in the year 40 A.D. Milk thistle gets its name from the milky-white liquid that runs off of the plant’s leaves when they’re crushed. The actual leaves of the plant also have a spotted white pattern that makes them look as if they’ve been dunked in milk. Milk thistle benefits work by drawing toxins out of the body and protecting the liver from damage. Silymarin, which is derived from the milk thistle plant, has been used in traditional medicine as a natural remedy for diseases of the liver because of its potent antioxidant activity. (1) As an antioxidant, the benefits of milk thistle are similar to other healing nutrients, like vitamin E or vitamin C, which help fight free radical damage and slow the aging process that can lead to disease development. It specifically contains high levels of lipophilic extracts from the seeds of the plant, which act as bioflavanoid antioxidants that increase immunity and slow down oxidative stress. One of the most common questions regarding this herb is “what do you use milk thistle for?” While it has many different benefits, milk thistle is most well-known for being a natural liver supporter and detoxifier. The liver constantly works hard to help defend us from toxins that are common in our everyday life, acting like a filter and removing harmful substances from the body. Milk thistle is shown to decrease, or even reverse, damage to the liver that’s been caused by prescription medications, alcohol use, antibiotics, pollution, heavy metals and so on. (2) There are a variety of milk thistle products available. The seeds and leaves of the milk thistle plant can be consumed either in pill, powder, tincture, extract or tea form. The seeds can actually be eaten completely raw, too, but usually people prefer to take a milk thistle extract or supplement in order to consume a higher dose and see bigger results.
The History of Milk Thistle
Milk thistle history is quite vast. Humans have used milk thistle for over 2,000 years. In Roman times, Pliny the Elder wrote about the effective power of milk thistle. In Greek times, the doctor Dioscoriodes authored a book on approximately 600 medicinal plants and herbs. The doctor mentioned milk thistle tea as a remedy for snakebites. In the Middle Ages, people used the plant to help with liver ailments, much like today. Early Christians called the plant Mary’s thistle or St. Mary’s thistle. Shortly afterwards, in the sixteenth century, John Gerard wrote in his Anatomie of Plants that milk thistle could help with depression and emotional distress. Europeans continued to use milk thistle for this purpose. At that time, people consumed all parts of the plant, including the roots and the milk of the herb. Later, in the seventeenth century, physician and herbalist Nicolas Culpeper claimed that milk thistle can help the liver by unblocking it, when necessary, and could also help cure jaundice. Jaundice occurs when one’s skin, eyes and urine become more yellow than normal due to a chemical imbalance within the body. In the 1800’s, people used milk thistle for additional ailments, including irregular menstruation, varicose veins, kidney, liver and spleen problems. Today, milk thistle is still an effective cure for these ailments. Milk thistle is native to Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of the Mediterranean. However, it can be found around the world. Many gardeners consider it a weed due to the speed with which it grows. Milk thistle can grow to be ten feet high, and its stem has spines and thorns. The purple flowers can each contain up to 190 seeds, which have the most medicinal benefit as they contain silymarin, the effective ingredient in milk thistle extract. Milk thistle has been used medicinally all around the world. Many of civilization’s earliest botanists and pharmacists in ancient Greece and Rome used milk thistle to aid in bile-related problems, which, as we know, is produced by the liver. It has been used in Europe since the Middle Ages to treat everything ranging from depression to venomous bites. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is known as ‘shui fei ji’ and is said to clear heat and remove toxicity.
The Top 4 Reasons You Need Milk Thistle
1. Protects Your Liver One of milk thistle’s most powerful benefits is that it protects your liver. This organ works hard to produce the proteins needed for blood clotting, to break down dead or damaged cells, and to produce energy for the body’s consumption. For obvious reasons, you need it to remain healthy for life. Milk thistle helps by reducing scarring in the liver and preventing liver cells from binding to toxins, both of which help it function more effectively and last longer. Whether you currently have a liver disease or just want to protect yours, milk thistle is an excellent choice.
2. Regulates Blood Sugar Spiking, cycling blood sugar can eventually lead to insulin resistance, weight gain, obesity and a variety of diseases. By regulating your blood sugar and ensuring a steady release of glucose (your body’s energy molecule) into the blood stream, you’re far more likely to live longer and remain fitter.
3. Battles and Staves Off Cancer Studies demonstrate that regular consumption of milk thistle makes cancer less likely in the first place, and can even reduce symptoms of cancer in those who already have it.
4. Fights Cellular Inflammation Inflammation is a major contributor to a variety of “Western disease,” including diabetes, stroke and heart disease, as well as the precursor to all of the above, called metabolic syndrome. When initiated in response to a wound or trauma, inflammation is a good thing: it stimulates blood vessel development, brings white blood cells to the area and modifies metabolic processes. However, when this response continues unabated, as it does for many Westerners, the results can be deadly. Chronic inflammation not only causes metabolic syndrome and attendant diseases; it also contributes to a range of other ills, such as joint pain, arthritis and memory loss.
Shocking Facts About Milk Thistle
•Milk thistle is also known by other names such as holy thistle, St Mary’s thistle, Marian thistle, Mary thistle, and wild artichoke. •Its scientific names include silybum marianum and carduus marianus. •Milk thistle is a perennial plant. •It grows in various parts of Europe. This plant has also been naturalized to California and Australia. It has also been mentioned that milk thistle can be found in Asia as well. •The milk thistle plant can typically grow to a height of between 2 to 7 feet, although it has also been stated to only grow to a height of about 5 feet.  •Milk thistle is a common weed that is often found in the wild, growing in different settings including the roadside. •Milk thistle’s leaves are coarse, lobed and prickly-edged or spiny with very clear white veins or marks. Traditionally, in Europe, these white marks were thought to be from the milk of the Virgin Mary. •Milk thistle grows flowering heads which are crimson to reddish-violet or purple in color and typically bloom in May to June. These heads can be consumed fresh. The flowers are thistle-shaped and surrounded by spiny bracts. •At the turn of the 20th century, different parts of the milk thistle plant were used for various purposes in England – the leaves, after the removal of the spines, were used like lettuce; its stalks were used like asparagus; its seeds were roasted like coffee; its roots, after overnight soaking, were used like oyster plant; and its leaves and seeds were used for health purposes like boosting breast milk production and treating jaundice.  •Food usage for milk thistle include as a salad green or a cooked vegetable. 
The Benefits of Milk Thistle
1. May Help Protect Against Cancer Milk thistle seeds are a high source of the antioxidant flavonoid called silymarin, which is actually composed of several other active compounds known as flavolignans. (4) Silymarin is associated with decreasing the risk for cancer development by boosting the immune system, fighting DNA damage and reversing cancerous tumor growth. In 2007, after reviewing numerous studies involving milk thistle therapeutic treatments, researchers at the University of Minnesota found that: There is strong preclinical evidence for silymarin’s hepatoprotective and anticarcinogenic effects, including inhibition of cancer cell growth in human prostate, skin, breast, and cervical cells. (5) About 50 percent to 70 percent of the silymarin molecules present within milk thistle are the type called silybin, also known as silibinin. This antioxidant stimulates protein synthesis and changes the outside layer of healthy cells, keeping them protected from damage and mutation. It inhibits toxins from dwelling in the body; helps with cell renewal; and counteracts the harmful effects of pollutants, chemicals and heavy metals that can cause “free radical damage.” Silymarin acts as a cancer protector because it’s “a toxin blockade agent” and inhibits the binding of toxins to the cell membrane receptors, according to researchers at the University Magna Graecia Department of Experimental and Clinical Medicine.
2. May Help Lower High Cholesterol The U.S. National Library of Medicine considers milk thistle to be a powerful anti-inflammatory. Milk thistle benefits heart health and helps lower high cholesterol levels by reducing inflammation, cleaning the blood and preventing oxidative stress damage within the arteries. Although more formal research is still needed, preliminary studies show that when silymarin (milk thistle extract) is used in combination with other traditional treatment methods, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides levels all improve compared to levels before taking milk thistle. Something important to keep in mind, however, is that existing studies on possible heart benefits of milk thistle have only been done involving people with diabetes, who tend to have high cholesterol levels. So at this time, it’s unclear if milk thistle has the same effects in people without diabetes and if it will be used to naturally lower cholesterol levels in the future.
3. May Help Control or Prevent Diabetes According to the National Institute of Health, there’s some compelling research showing that taking silymarin, the main chemical found in milk thistle, along with conventional treatments, can help control symptoms of diabetes by helping with glycemic control. The valuable effect of antioxidants found in milk thistle has been reported in experimental and clinical studies to help decrease blood sugar levels in insulin-resistant patients. One 2006 study conducted by the Department of Pharmacology at the Institute of Medicinal Plants found that when diabetic patients were given silymarin extract over a four-month period, their fasting blood glucose and insulin levels improved significantly compared to patients receiving a placebo. (8) This is likely true because the liver is partly responsible for regulating hormones, including the release of insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin is responsible for managing blood glucose (sugar) levels in the blood, which is especially important for those with diabetes.
4. May Help Prevent Gallstones The liver is a major digestive organ, helping process nutrients and toxins that enter our body through foods, water and air. Because the liver and other digestive organs — like the gallbladder, pancreas, intestines and kidneys — work closely together to improve liver health, milk thistle is also able to help prevent gallstones and kidney stones. Although the research on this topic is limited, because of milk thistle’s ability to increase bile flow and aid the liver and gallbladder in detoxification, it may be useful in the prevention of gallstones. Gallstones are formed when cholesterol and other matter within your bile bind together. This is problematic because they can become more solid and become lodged in the inner lining of your gallbladder. (9, 10)
5. Has Anti-Aging Effects Because milk thistle’s antioxidants help prevent free radical damage throughout the body and remove pollutants and waste from the blood and digestive tract, the herb may actually help slow the aging process. This applies to both the surface of your skin and your organs, as antioxidants can protect your body from chronic disease. Milk thistle’s protective qualities of the skin may make it great for reducing visible signs of aging, so consuming milk thistle may be an easy way to prevent skin cancer and skin damage, such as dark spots, wrinkles, lines and discoloration. Although the research on this topic is limited, an animal study published in Photochemistry and Photobiology found that silymarin protected the skin of mice that were to UV-induced oxidative stress and reduced leukocytes that promote an inflammatory response. So if you’re wondering if milk thistle is good for your skin, the answer may be yes because of its antioxidant properties.
Why Milk Thistle Is The #1
Milk Thistle is an herbal supplement that detoxifies & protects vital liver functions and more. Milk thistle also contains properties shown to offer the body antioxidant benefits. Milk thistle has been used for over 2,000 years as a liver tonic. Milk thistle’s name is derived from the milky white fluid that comes from the plant’s leaves when they are crushed. Naturally, you will find the plant in southern Europe, southern Russia, Asia Minor, and North Africa, but has been adopted to grow in North and South America. Currently, Milk Thistle is a popular supplement for people who drink. Also, it is a commonly you will find milk thistle hangover supplements along with Cysteine & B Vitamins.
Top 3 Questions People Ask About Milk Thistle
1.What does milk thistle do? Milk thistle plays a number of important roles in the body. It is best known to detoxify your liver and reduce liver inflammation, simultaneously repairing and preventing damage to liver tissue and liver cells. However, the liver is not the only organ that benefits. Milk thistle also keeps the colon clean, promoting the removal of toxins and waste from the body. The detoxifying of the liver and colon leads to healthier skin, reducing the effects of skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and eczema. Milk thistle can also aid in the regulation of blood sugar and the balancing of hormones while improving digestive health and preventing gallstones. It not only reduces inflammation in your liver but throughout your entire body as well. Whether it’s protecting your liver, your blood sugar level or your skin, milk thistle has far-reaching benefits that lead to a healthier you.
2.How does milk thistle help the liver? Milk thistle is known for its detoxifying effects on the liver, repairing liver damage while preventing future liver damage. Milk thistle does this through two ways: cell growth and cell regeneration. Liver cells can be damaged, and possibly destroyed, from substances like antidepressants, alcohol, and heavy doses of acetaminophen (Tylenol), to name a few. Milk thistle helps repair the damaged cells while aiding in the production of new, replacement cells. Afterward, the liver is restored and less susceptible to future damage. Milk thistle increases liver resilience, preventing liver cells from turning fibrous (thus preventing liver fibrosis) and preventing the scarring of tissue. A last important benefit includes the reduction of liver inflammation, inhibiting the production of inflammatory cytokines that harm the liver. Silymarin is milk thistle’s secret weapon. This extract of the milk thistle plant is a natural antioxidant compound and detoxifier. Silymarin consists of three main flavonoids silybin, silydianin, and silychristin. The silybin flavonoid is the flavonoid that in clinical studies, is proven to provide the majority of health benefits to your liver and entire body.If your liver is strong, other organs and homeostatic processes reap the benefits.
3.What are the side effects of milk thistle? Side effects of milk thistle are fairly uncommon and not serious. In extremely rare cases, nausea, upset stomach, gas, and bloating can be associated with milk thistle However, always consult a doctor before taking any supplement as it may interfere with previous conditions or other medications you are taking.
Tips for a Milk Thistle
You can buy organic milk thistle seeds online, but if you want them fresh, you may have to grow your own. Fortunately, the plant is extremely easy to grow. Maybe even a little too easy. There’s a reason it’s often thought of as a highly invasive weed. In fact, be sure to check your local laws before planting. Because of its prolific nature, some jurisdictions restrict milk thistle. For example, the state of Washington recognizes the plant as a “Class A Noxious Weed” that must be eradicated when found. You could face a stiff fine for growing it intentionally. Once you’ve checked your local laws, you’ll need to obtain viable milk thistle seeds. These can be ordered online or harvested from an existing plant. You can start the seeds indoors, but the plant is hardy enough that you can probably plant directly outside. In mid to late summer the flowers will dry and transform into a white puff that’s similar to a dandelion. This is when it’s time to harvest your seeds. Beneficial aspects aside, remember that the plant is still a thistle. It has little, spiky barbs, so wear thick gardening gloves and be careful. Remove all the puffy white flower heads and put them in a paper bag. Keep the flowers in the bag for about a week to dry. At the end of the week, shake the bag vigorously to separate the seed from the fluff.