The Benefits of Milk Thistle

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a herb related to the daisy and ragweed family. It is native to Mediterranean countries. It’s other common names are blessed milk thistle, Marian Thistle, Mary Thistle, Saint Mary’s Thistle, Mediterranean milk thistle, variegated thistle, and Scotch thistle.

Milk thistle is best known for treating liver and gallbladder problems, including cirrhosis, jaundice, hepatitis, gallstones, and others. It raises glutathione levels, which is essential to detoxify your liver, which in turn rids your body of toxic substances.

The most active compound in milk thistle, silymarin, has very powerful antioxidant properties which help protect your body from free radical damage, and also helps other antioxidant properties do their job. Silymarin has been proven to hinder the growth of breast, cervical, and prostate cancer cells. It also lowers bad cholesterol, while raising good cholesterol levels.

The liver is vital in purifying the blood and metabolizing fat. When the liver is functioning normally, it metabolizes fat faster, and therefore aids in weight loss. It also will improve your skin, strengthen your immune system, regulate your glucose levels, and produce glycogen (a short term energy source).

To fully understand the benefits of this wonderful herb, we need to talk about the value of the liver. All the blood from your body goes through your liver to get purified, and it produces bile, which helps digest what you eat. Anything that enters your body, except for approximately 1% of food that is absorbed by your mouth and tongue, is processed through your liver. It is either digested, or made into protein, and the bad stuff are made into less harmful substances and excreted. The liver also stores glucose, which is a kind of sugar your body uses for sugar. Ever wonder why you don’t start losing immediately when exercising? It’s because your body is using its stores of glucose in your liver. The other main thing your liver does is detoxing. Special cells, called Kupffer cells, eat bad cells and breaks them down into less harmful chemicals which it disposes of through urine or bile. With all the toxins that come through your liver so your body stays safe, you should take special care of it. Milk thistle is valuable miracle herb for preventing liver problems, and treating those already there.

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  1. Years ago i was told my liver was plugged. I was told to use a product called It is a health store supplement made of milk thistle and dandelion. It works very well for getting your liver going again. I would like to know if milk thistle grows wild in the midwest? how to prep and use it? And either wild or supplement……..can you take it daily or should you cycle it with breaks of days or weeks between taking again?

    Thanks. (PS: Loved your article on ground cherries…..this was my first year growing and eating)

    • Michelle Blackwood

      Thanks Rob, milk thistle grows well in zone 5-9. Most of the plant is edible, including root, shoot, stems and leaves except the thorns. The midrib tastes like celery stalks. Contraindication for women who are breast feeding or pregnant. May interfere with drugs such as allergy drugs, anti-anxiety, antipsychotics, seizure medications, anticoagulants. Refer to a healthcare provider before taking milk thistle. Check out You Tube video on How to Eat Thistle!

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