Milk Thistle Benefits: Centuries Of Medicinal Use
Great for hangovers and seemingly as an antidote to poisons that are either self inflicted, ingested or injected into our body through sharp fangs - milk thistle benefits our bodies in a range of ways.
Milk thistle, silybum marianum, is also known as: St Mary’s Thistle, Holy Thistle, Our Lady’s Thistle, Blessed Thistle and Wild Artichoke. I’d say it probably chose the last name itself to toughen up its image.
With its shiny, spiky, pale green leaves and fluffy purplish-red flower it can grow to a height of 200cm. That’s 6’4” and not something you would want to bump into in the dark!
Originally, milk thistle is a native to Asia and Southern Europe, though it’s now found cultivated, and wild, all over the world.
I digress here, as I imagine you are still wanting an explanation for the outrageous claims made in the first sentence.
Milk thistle benefits are primarily associated with the liver, and have been for centuries.
Pliny the Elder (that guy who is credited with inventing the encyclopedia) in AD 23 - 79 described it as ‘carrying the bile’, and Greek physician Dioscorides used milk thistle in cases of serpent bite.
One of milk thistle’s original uses was also for the treatment of and recovery from (for those who had been foolish enough to eat) Death Cap Mushrooms.
Yes, yes, but tell us about the hangovers!
How Milk Thistle Benefits Our Livers
The theory behind milk thistle‘s potential effect on alcohol metabolism – and therefore hangovers – derives from its active ingredient, silymarin. Silymarin is an antioxidant that protects the liver, not the last J.R.R. Tolkien book.
Silymarin consists of a group of compounds called flavonolignans. Together, they stimulate protein synthesis and help repair liver cells damaged by alcohol and drugs, poisons and toxic substances.
Generally, milk thistle supplements appear to have the most promise in mitigating and repairing the liver damage associated with alcoholic hepatitis and possibly even early stage alcoholic cirrhosis – particularly in alcoholics who have stopped drinking.
Unfortunately there is less reason to think that occasional, moderate drinkers would derive benefit from milk thistle – even if they overdo it once or twice.
This is due to the different way alcohol is metabolized in moderate drinkers as compared to chronic, heavy drinkers.
In moderate drinkers, the primary enzyme system used to metabolize alcohol is called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), and as of yet no conclusive studies have proved milk thistle benefits this particular enzyme system in any way.
So although not yet proven with research, moderate drinkers using milk thistle before an uncharacteristic night of heavier drinking could still benefit from taking it. After all, it aids liver function and that’s the guy who will be doing all of the hard work.
As well as a master liver tonic, traditional herbal medicine views milk thistle as a cooling digestive herb indicated for obesity, indigestion and sluggish metabolism.
In short, milk thistle speeds up how quickly the liver can make and use protein to heal.
Milk Thistle Benefits For The Treatment Of Liver Associated Complaints
The use of milk thistle may be indicated for treatment in the following issues specifically associated with our livers.
✔ Fatty liver disease
✔ Liver toxicity (chemical, pharmaceutical, environmental, endogenous)
✔ Liver cirrhosis
✔ Liver cancer (may reduce the growth rate of tumours)
✔ Gallbladder dysfunction (milk thistle may promote bile production and flow, with secondary benefits for digestion)
→ For weight loss
In promoting healthy liver function, milk thistle may support weight loss by lowering blood sugar, optimizing fat and carbohydrate metabolism and regulating hormones. It also works well with the green tea extract and alpha lipoic acid in Athletic Greens, as all three ingredients address weight loss from different angles.
→ To reduce triglycerides and total cholesterol
Milk thistle, via its positive effects on bile production and flow, may lower triglycerides and total cholesterol. There are studies both for and against this effect.
→ For acne
Milk thistle was found to significantly reduce blemishes after two months of supplementation.
→ To increase breast milk production
Milk thistle has a long history of use as a galactogogue - to enhance the production and flow of breast milk. Some active constituents have been shown to exert this effect, but human studies are currently lactating, I mean lacking….
→ To address allergies
By acting as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, milk thistle may reduce symptoms of allergic rhinitis. The liver also plays a role in immune function. This area still requires further research.
Milk thistle works well with the “greenest” ingredients in Athletic Greens. Chlorella, spirulina, barley grass and wheat grass work in partnership with the milk thistle benefits due to their effect of enhancing the liver's ability to remove toxins. As does dandelion root and globe artichoke.
Delivering Milk Thistle Benefits To Your Body
Milk thistle has been a primary liver herb for centuries, with strong empirical evidence supporting its use for the treatment of all conditions associated with the liver - including poisoning, damage and disease.
Many studies now support its use as a liver-restorative herb, and it may have additional benefits for the gallbladder, cardiovascular system and skin. There is even evidence supporting milk thistle benefits in weight loss and breast milk production.
Milk thistle is considered safe, with no reported side effects. And that is after centuries of use!
Recommended dosages vary depending on the specific condition, but commonly fall between 160 - 800 mg per day, in divided doses, with meals.
Higher dosages are indicated for acute viral infections and cirrhosis, with lower dosages for general antioxidant support and liver health.
Milk thistle is a supplement choice popular with people trying to recover from liver damage caused by excessive alcohol intake, long term pharmaceutical drug use and high dose anabolic steroids (especially oral rather than injected forms).
A sequence of blood test is always needed to confirm the effectiveness of milk thistle as a treatment, but there have been cases of people seeing improvements in their liver blood test results in as little as 4 weeks of daily milk thistle use.
Apart from commonly consuming milk thistle in tea, most people do not know about, or regularly consume milk thistle and pretty much everyone can benefit from some natural liver assistance. It’s a big, important organ and it clocks a lot of overtime.
So for those of us wanting to enhance our liver function or who are in hope of speeding up fat loss, we have included milk thistle in Athletic Greens.