Many people will think of milk thistle as an annoying weed, however, it does contain many incredible medicinal qualities and benefits. For many centuries, its thorny stem and spiky flowers have been cultivated for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiviral properties. It is considered a liver-tonic because of it contains a high amount of the chemical compound silymarin.
“Silymarin is a group of flavonoids (silibinin, silidianin and silicristin) known to help repair your liver cells when they’ve been damaged by toxic substances. These flavonoids also protect new liver cells from being destroyed by toxins. As such, milk thistle greatly improves the overall functioning of your liver, with specific applications related to cirrhosis of the liver, chronic liver inflammation and liver damage from alcohol and other intoxicating substances.”
Assists with antioxidant activity
Milk thistle seeds contain a potent antioxidant called silymarin, which helps your body fight free radicals and reduce inflammation
Boosts prostate health
Silymarin and a related milk thistle compound called isosilybin B not only have been shown to support prostate health through normal cell development, but also to be effective in the treatment of prostate cancer.16
Counteracts mushroom poisoning
Intravenous administration of silymarin is the only known remedy used to stabilize cell membranes and inhibit absorption of toxins from Amanita phalloides. This deadly mushroom, known as the death cap, is commonly mistaken for edible varieties.
Encourages healthy skin
Due to its antioxidant properties, silymarin is believed to have protective effects on your skin. In lab research, it has exhibited preventive and anticancer effects against skin cancer.17
Improves lipid profiles
Most likely due to the presences of silymarin, along with other flavonoids, milk thistle is thought to encourage proper lipid absorption and synthesis in your body. A 2012 study18 showed silymarin was effective to significantly reduced LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while significantly elevating HDL (“good”) levels.
Promotes normal blood sugar
Research suggests silymarin decreases fasting blood sugar levels. Authors of one such study said: “[S]ilymarin treatment in Type 2 diabetic patients … has a beneficial effect on improving the glycemic profile.”19
Supports your liver, kidneys and gallbladder
Milk thistle has long been known to support your liver, kidneys and gallbladder health. Silymarin helps your liver grow new cells by boosting protein synthesis, and it has been effective in addressing toxin-induced liver aliments, including the treatment of liver diseases and liver cancer.20 It protects your kidneys against inflammation, free radical damage and toxins. Silymarin has also been shown to prevent the formation of gallstones.21
“How to Grow Milk Thistle” by Dr. Mercola