Herbal View: Milk Thistle, Intro

Thistle is a word that doesn’t conjure up very good thoughts in my mind.  I think of something prickly and stickly.  However, as I’ve learned about milk thistle, I’ve realized the benefits of it despite its bristled appearance.

Milk thistle is of the daisy family (Asteraceae), a part of the genus Silybum.  It was originally found in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean regions of Europe.  It is now found in different areas all over the world.

Milk thistle is best identified by the stalk, straight stem, the milky white and prickly leaves, and the purplish-pink flower that it grows.  The ancients were very knowledgeable of its many benefits, which led to the 1950s studies the Germans did for chemical, pharmacological, and safety information.

Milk thistle is known to have three specific medicinal properties, which are found in the flavanoid-lignen group of constituents called silymarin, which is found in the seed, and they are as follows:

  • Antioxidant – treats cirrosis, chronic hepatitis, fatty liver deposits, inflammatory skin conditions and jaundice.
  • Liver protectant – inhibits the production of enzymes that lead to free radical and leucotriene formation
  • Liver proliferant – regenerates cells by protein cell stimulation

Milk thistle is also known to enhance and increase the production of milk of nursing mothers.  The benefits there are found in the nutritional profile.

  • Aluminum                   26.7 mg
  • Ash (total)                   6.3%
  • Calcium                       646 mg
  • Crude Fiber                 12.0%
  • Dietary Fiber               39.0%
  • Iron                              10.6 mg
  • Magnesium                  403 mg
  • Manganese                   1.47 mg
  • Niacin                          1.00 mg
  • Phosphorus                  706 mg
  • Potassium                    833 mg
  • Tin                               4.2 mg
  • Vitamin A                    5,240 IU
  • Vitamin C                    12.0 mg

Also, there are small contents or trace elements of chromium, cobalt, riboflavin, selenium, silicon, sodium, thiamine, and zinc.

Milk Thistle is typically used in several forms, as fresh leaf, dried leaf, an extract, or a topical cream.  It is most often suggested for liver damage and dysfunction ( such as cirrosis and hepatitis), but it is also considered for several other issues:

  • Gallbladder problems
  • Spleen disorders
  • Pleurisy (swelling of the lungs)
  • Malaria
  • Menstrual Problems
  • Many more


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