Milk thistle is a plant that is commonly used for medicinal purposes. This odd looking plant has a tall stem and thorny leaves. When it blooms, milk thistle has a pink or purple flower that looks like a burst of color. The plant grows naturally in the Mediterranean, Middle East and Northern Africa. It gets its name from the splashes of white that can be found on its leaves.
Milk thistle has been used as a liver medication since ancient times. The active ingredient in a milk thistle plant is silymarin. It is this substance that gives milk thistle its liver protecting qualities. It has been found helpful for cirrhosis of the liver, gallbladder disease and hepatitis, particularly hepatitis C. Some people take milk thistle extract to help prevent liver disease. Milk thistle extract, made from the seeds of the milk thistle plant, has also been shown to reverse or prevent liver problems due to exposure to toxins. In addition, it has been suggested as helpful in protecting the liver from damage due to chemotherapy. There has also been speculation that milk thistle can help patients lose weight due to its detoxifying effects.
Type 2 diabetics are sometimes encouraged to take milk thistle extract to control insulin and blood sugar levels. Some research has shown that milk thistle does lower blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Other possible benefits of milk thistle include slowing cell growth in some cancers and lowering LDL cholesterol levels. This can make milk thistle helpful in reducing the risk of heart disease.
Milk thistle is the only proven treatment for poisoning from the Amanita mushroom.
This useful plant has also been known to act like estrogen in the female body. It has been used to stimulate breast milk production and to start menstruation.
People in areas where milk thistle is a native plant chew the stems to gain its benefits. It is available world-wide in tablet or liquid form as well. Consumers can also buy milk thistle seeds or take milk thistle as a tea.
Milk thistle has been shown to have very few side effects other than mild digestive problems and a possible reaction from people who are allergic to ragweed.
Milk thistle is an amazing plant, particularly in its ability to protect the liver and fight liver disease. It has been used as a protective botanical medicine for more than 2,000 years, and it may be even more helpful today. Its detoxifying qualities alone make it a beneficial herb for almost anyone.