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The health benefits of Milk Thistle seed (Silybum marianum) have been known for more than 2,000 years.

Posted Nov 20 2009 10:02pm
The health benefits of Milk Thistle seed (Silybum marianum) have been known for more than 2,000 years. Milk Thistle is a herbaceous plant with a dense-prickly flower head and reddish-purple tubular flowers. It is native to the Mediterranean area and is now grown in Central Europe, North and South America, and Southern Australia. Milk Thistle a/k/a Marian Thistle, Mary Thistle, and Lady's Thistle, is a member of the Asteacea family. Historically, milk thistle was used for relieving congestion of the liver, kidneys and spleen and by lactating women to stimulate the production of milk. Currently, standardized milk thistle seed extract is used to maintain and regain liver health, especially those who consume excessive amounts of alcohol. This use was validated by studies using between 200 mg and 420 mg of silymarin per day (usually in three separate doses). Milk Thistle has an extensive history of use as an edible plant. In the 1st century AD, Pliny the Elder reported its use for supporting liver health. Theophrastus (IV century BC) and Dioscorides (1st century AD) also wrote of its value. The English herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper (1650) claimed it was effective for supporting the normal functioning of the liver.

Research suggests that this herb is beneficial in protecting, detoxifying and strengthening the liver. Certain diseases that occur in the liver may also benefit from milk thistle seed. Those suffering from hepatitis and liver cirrhosis may benefit from this herb. It also shows promise in improving overall liver function. Many clinical studies have demonstrated that this herb supports healthy liver function and provides powerful antioxidant protection, particularly from free radicals and other toxins that normally enter into the liver and cause damage. A primary constituent of silymarin called silibinin also helps to support healthy liver function, encouraging healthy cholesterol synthesis by the liver. In addition to its well-recognized role in promoting liver health, key constituents in milk thistle also help to maintain normal kidney function and promote optimal immune function. Limited research suggests that this herb may also support healthy prostate function, and encourage a vital gastrointestinal tract by protecting it from free radical damage.

Those who suffer from acne may benefit from milk thistle seed. The high level of antioxidants in this herb are good for the entire cardiovascular system. However, research suggests that milk thistle seed may help to control cholesterol issues. It may help to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. Resarch suggests that this herb may help to control a person's diabetes. It shows the most promise in those who are not insulin dependent. This herb is said to possess the most benefits for diabetes when combined with a healthy diet and exercise.

Milk Thistle seed is said to possess many benefits for digestive system. It is said to help soothe some of the symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease. It may also be beneficial in treating and preventing gallstones. Milk thistle seed is also said to be a power anti-inflammatory so it is said to be quite beneficial to those suffering from intestinal inflammations. Milk thistle is also said to be beneficial to those suffering from certain types of cancer. It is also said to help the liver function "normally" when it is stressed out from medical treatments such as powerful drugs, chemotherapy and radiation. Milk thistle seed is an important natural treatment for COPD, or Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It counteracts much of the stress that’s placed on the liver as a result of the disorder, and is generally considered safe when used properly.

How to use:

Grind whole milk thistle seeds in a coffee grinder or spice mill. Add the freshly ground seeds to hot cereal, muffins, rice, or other grains. This is an easy way to consume milk thistle seed and can be supplemented with other milk thistle seed formulations.


If you are considering adding this herb to your diet, you should consult a physician first. Some herbs will interact with certain medications and medical conditions and this could be dangerous. Milk thistle may occasionally cause a mild, transient laxative effect, which normally passes within 3 days of use.

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