Nourishing Herbs - Milk Thistle

For centuries the Thistle has been recognized as a sign of untidiness or neglect in agriculture, as it is found most often in fertile ground that hasn’t been planted, rather than barren ground. It has widely been regarded as a “weed” or a plant of poor reputation. In fact, Shakespeare writes of 'rough Thistles' with 'hateful Docks,' and if we venture further back in history, we might read of the Thistle representing an element of the primeval curse of the earth. But in the realm of herbalism and traditional medicine, thistles are highly regarded as some of the most potent and sacred medicinal herbs in the world. There are several different types of thistle that are traditionally used in herbal medicine. One of the most powerful and dynamic of these is Milk Thistle. Thistles are considered to be under the dominion of Jupiter and have been valued for their medicinal properties for more than 2,000 years.  

Origins & History

The Milk Thistle plant is native to Europe, and today grows wild throughout Europe, and North and South America. The plant has a tall stem, bright green leaves with white veins, and a pink or purple spiny flowering head. Lady’s Thistle, Mary Thistle, St. Mary Thistle, and Marian Thistle, are other commonly used names for Milk Thistle.

​​There are written records that reveal that Romans were using Milk Thistle in herbal medicine and a liver-protector as early as the first century. This healing herb continued to be used throughout the Middle Ages, and by the 18th century, Milk Thistle was widely used in medicine all over the world and was frequently being prescribed by physicians as well as traditional healers, naturopathic doctors, and herbalists. The active compound ‘silymarin’ (which is found in the ripe seeds of the plant) was initially extracted from the plant in the 1960s by scientists in Germany. 

Uses

Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum or Cardus marianum ) is a potent medicinal plant that is commonly used to treat disorders of the liver, problems related to breastfeeding, psoriasis, gallbladder disorders, and other illnesses.

There have been many clinical studies that have illustrated that this herb supports the healthy function of the liver, and offers the powerful protection of antioxidants. In addition to Milk Thistle’s well-documented role in supporting and promoting liver health, this sacred plant can also be used to support healthy kidney function as well as supporting and strengthening the immune system. 

Some studies also suggest that Milk Thistle may be helpful in promoting the normal function of the prostate and protecting the gastrointestinal tract. 

This herbal plant is also the only known antidote for poisoning from a death cap mushroom (Amanita Phalloides). This deadly mushroom works by destroying the liver and shutting down the production of protein in liver cells. Milk Thistle can neutralize these toxins and effectively protect the liver. More research is needed, but Milk Thistle may also be helpful in treating an overdose of acetaminophen.

Milk Thistle has been connected to breastfeeding for centuries. To some, the white veins within the leaves of the plant symbolize the flow and abundance of breast milk. It has long been believed that when this herb is used by a breastfeeding mother it will help to increase their supply of breast milk. Research has shown that Milk Thistle does indeed boost the production of breast milk when taken every day over the first few weeks after delivery.

Benefits

Milk Thistle offers many benefits to the health and function of the body. It protects the liver and gallbladder and offers anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, it even prompts the repair and regeneration of liver cells that may have been damaged by alcohol or other substance consumption. 

The liver also plays a major role when it comes to balancing hormones. As Milk Thistle is proven to benefit the liver, it then in turn helps to maintain the balance of hormones levels. 

Milk Thistle has also been shown to help to balance the body’s blood sugar. When used alongside conventional therapy, research has shown that Milk Thistle can help those living with diabetes by lowering blood sugar and protecting against insulin resistance. Studies have also shown that Milk Thistle can reduce harmful cholesterol in diabetic individuals. 

Milk Thistle is also clinically proven to reduce acne and repair the skin. 

How to Try It

Milk Thistle is most commonly available in seed form, powder in capsules, and in tinctures and extracts. Because Milk Thistle seed has a low water solubility level, teas and infusions made tend to be weaker than tinctures and extracts made from the herb. Milk Thistle tea can be made by pouring about one cup of boiling water over one teaspoon of seeds that have been ground to a semi-fine powder. After allowing the mixture to steep for 15-20 minutes, the herb should be strained out and the infusion is ready to be consumed. As an alternative to straining, the herb can also be steeped in a tea bag or a piece of cheesecloth. Because these teas tend to be weaker, it is safe to consume two to three cups of the infusion each day.

You can also try Milk Thistle in our Venus Glow tincture. Our skin and beauty formula is designed to support the liver and reduce inflammation for a healthy glow from the inside out. 

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