Milk Thistle the 411

We recently had a request for Milk Thistle at White Lotus Divine Healing. Since I am the resident Herbalist and this is a somewhat unfamiliar herb to me, I thought it would make a good blog.

First and foremost milk thistle is a liver detoxifier and healer. Although it is also used for gallbladder and digestive issues, it is the liver where this herb shines.


Liver and Milk Thistle

The active ingredient in Milk Thistle is possibly one of my favourites. The name alone makes me happy. It is the Flavonoid Silymarin.  I know I know, it is a serious ingredient, but the name conjures up all kinds of mental images for me.

Silymarin is actually a group of flavonoids that protect and repair liver cells that were damaged by toxins. It also protects new liver cells from toxins and from free radical damage. It is a very strong antioxidant.

Milk Thistle has been used to treat both Hepatitis and Cirrhosis of the liver for centuries. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center there is evidence showing that milk thistle is beneficial in these cases, however, the results have been mixed. There needs to be better studies designed to investigate this.

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Milk Thistle and Cancer

Studies show that there is some anti-cancer benefits from milk thistle. According to it appears to inhibit certain cancer cell growth.


Kidney and Other Benefits

Studies have shown that silymarin concentrates in the kidney cells. There it can help protect and repair the kidney cells. This has been particularly beneficial in protection against drug and chemotherapy damage.

Silymarin has also been shown to help reduce blood glucose levels. This means that it can be useful in helping control diabetes.

Milk Thistle is also an excellent treatment for skin issues. It can reduce redness and inflammation. More impressively, it helps moisturize and soften skin.

Interactions and Contra-indications

As with most herbs there is a darker side to milk thistle.
According to WebMD milk thistle interacts with drugs that are changed by the liver. These include valium, warfarin and many more. For the full list check out the WebMD site here.

Side effects can include upset stomach and diarrhea. Those with allergies should use caution when trying milk thistle since it can cause allergic reactions in individuals that have ragweed allergies.