Milk Thistle – Herbs For Alternative Medicine

MILK THISTLE (Silybum marianus)

Milk thistle is a prickly annual or biennial that reaches five feet in height and thrives both in the wild and in the garden. This plant is native to the Mediterranean and grows wild throughout Europe, North America and Australia.

Milk thistle has fruits that appear to contain properties that may protect against hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver. The active chemical component in the herb is silybin, which is found in the seeds and functions as an antioxidant protecting liver cells from damage by free radicals, which are harmful by-products of many bodily processes.

Clinical trials have proven silybin to be effective in treating chronic liver diseases and in protecting the liver from toxic chemicals. An injection of silybin is a proven antidote for poisoning with the Deathcap mushroom, which can inflict lethal injury on the liver.

The use of silybin by healthy people can increase by as much as one-third the liver’s content of glutathione, a substance required for detoxicating reactions in liver cells.

Claims and Common Uses:

  • Protects the liver and kidneys from damage
  • Effective in treating nearly every known form of liver disorders, including cirrhosis, hepatitis, necroses, and liver damage due to drug and alcohol abuse
  • Effective in treating psoriasis, gallstones, adrenal disorders, abdominal ailments, weakened immune system, and inflammatory bowel disorders
  • A good antioxidant that is more potent than vitamins C and E
  • Aids in the treatment of depression

Part Used: Flowerheads, fruits, seeds, young leaves and shoots

Preparations: Available in dried bulk, capsules, and extract. It can be taken by pill or injection.

  • As a tea: Steep 1 tsp. freshly ground seeds in 1 cup boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes, and drink three times daily. As an alternative to tea, eat 1 tsp. of the freshly ground seeds.
  • Milk thistle extract may be more effective than teas. The active ingredients are not very effective in teas because they are poorly soluble in water.

Side Effects and Warnings of Milk Thistle

  • Do not use in decompensated cirrhosis
  • Milk thistle increases bile flow and secretion which can result in loose stools
  • If you think that you have a liver disorder, seek medical advice.