Milk thistle, also known as Silybum marianum, is a plant with a long history of use in traditional medicine, known especially for its liver-protective properties. It also has many other surprising health benefits that are worth exploring – studies have found that milk thistle can help lower cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, and improve skin health. With its rich history and numerous health benefits, milk thistle is definitely worth adding to your diet or supplement regimen.
Ancient Times and Milk Thistle
As mentioned, milk thistle has a long history of use in traditional medicine. The plant’s use for medicinal purposes dates back more than 2,000 years, and it is still widely used today. Did you know that although native to the Mediterranean region, it can now be found in many parts of the world? The ancient Greeks and Romans used milk thistle to treat liver and gallbladder problems. In the Middle Ages, milk thistle was used to treat liver ailments and snake bites. In Ayurvedic medicine, milk thistle was used to treat liver disorders and as a general tonic.
Hippocrates, the Greek physician and father of modern medicine, mentioned milk thistle in his work “On Regimen in Acute Diseases”. In this work, he recommended the use of milk thistle to treat liver and spleen diseases. Hippocrates believed that milk thistle had a cleansing effect on the liver, which made it useful in treating a variety of health conditions. His recommendation of milk thistle for liver health is still relevant today, as studies have confirmed the plant’s liver-protective properties.
“The juice of milk thistle is good for carrying off bile.”
– Pliny the Elder, Roman naturalist and author (23-79 AD)
“The milk thistle, which we call Pternix, has leaves of a very white colour, variegated with veins of a purplish hue. The root is prickly, and the seed itself is down upon it. This seed is good for promoting the flow of urine, and for counteracting the poison of mushrooms.”
– Dioscorides, Greek physician and author (40-90 AD)
Liver-Protective Properties of Milk Thistle
Milk thistle is most commonly known for its liver-protective properties. The plant contains a compound called silymarin, which is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect the liver from damage caused by toxins and free radicals. Silymarin has been shown to improve liver function in people with liver disease, including cirrhosis and hepatitis.
The most common way to consume milk thistle is through oral supplementation in the form of capsules or tablets, such as the pure, concentrated Milk Thistle extract from Vimergy.
Benefits of Milk Thistle for Lowering Cholesterol
Milk thistle has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels. Studies have found that silymarin can reduce levels of LDL cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol, while increasing levels of HDL cholesterol, also known as “good” cholesterol. This can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Milk Thistle
Milk thistle has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is a key factor in many chronic diseases, including arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. Studies have found that silymarin can help reduce inflammation in the body, which may help prevent or manage these conditions.
Milk Thistle for Improving Skin Health
Milk thistle has also been shown to improve skin health. The plant’s antioxidant properties can help protect the skin from damage caused by free radicals, which can lead to premature aging and skin cancer. Studies have also found that silymarin can help improve skin texture and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
5 Fun facts about milk thistle
∙ The name “milk thistle” comes from the milky sap that is produced when the plant’s stem or leaves are broken.
∙ While milk thistle is very spiny, making it difficult to pick, it’s actually a member of the daisy family.
∙ The plant has been used as a food source for thousands of years, with the young leaves and stems being eaten as a vegetable.
∙ Milk thistle seeds have been used for tea or even as a coffee substitute.
∙ The plant is often grown as an ornamental flower in gardens and is known for its striking purple blooms.
If you decide to introduce milk thistle or any other supplements into your diet, always consult with a healthcare professional before starting.