Milk thistle is most well-known and widely-studied for its benefits on liver health. However, milk thistle also has numerous other proven health benefits not many know about.
Milk thistle boosts overall liver function and health, protecting the liver from damaging toxins, detoxifying it, regenerating its cells, and giving it a glutathione boost.
Research has also shown milk thistle helps with various liver conditions, including cirrhosis, poisoning, hepatitis (viral or alcoholic, B or C), sluggish liver, liver congestion, fatty liver, jaundice, and other liver issues related to drug use and alcoholism.
Boosting the liver results in other benefits
Milk thistle’s positive effects on liver health have a direct impact on a number of bodily functions and health conditions.
- It helps those attempting to recover from substance addiction, including drugs and alcohol.
- By boosting the liver’s ability to deal with environmental triggers, milk thistle can help those suffering from chronic allergies, especially multiple-chemical sensitivity.
- Milk thistle increases bile production by the liver, which then helps the body to remove via bowel movements the testosterone by-products that cause acne. Further, by boosting liver function, milk thistle helps to remove harmful toxins in the blood which can cause skin flare-ups. Along the same vein, this makes milk thistle also helpful for other skin conditions like chronic rashes, eczema and psoriasis.
- Increased bile production helps to relieve constipation.
- The additional bile helps to protect the intestinal lining, which then aids in alleviating Crohn’s disease symptoms.
- Milk thistle also helps to relieve intestinal inflammation, and it has been used for inflammatory bowel disorders.
- By protecting the liver, milk thistle protects the body against the potential harmful effects of long-term prescription medication use and harmful toxins in the workplace.
- This herb has been successfully used against deathcap mushroom poisoning.
- Traditionally, naturopathic physicians and herbalists have used milk thistle to help deal with hemorrhoids and varicose veins. A clogged or sluggish liver does not process blood very well, and that tends to cause blood to back up in the leg veins and rectum. Thus, with a healthier liver, these conditions can be improved.
- A cleaner and better functioning liver is better able to process and deal with various hormones in the body, promoting better hormonal balance.
- This makes milk thistle helpful for premenstrual syndrome and prostate enlargement.
- Some healing modalities, eg. Traditional Chinese Medicine and French folk medicine, see the liver as closely tied to emotional well being. This makes sense because the liver metabolizes neurotransmitters and hormones and thus has great influence on the overall biochemistry of the human body. A toxic or unhealthy liver can cause emotional discomfort, frustration, anger and even depression. By detoxifying and improving the health of the liver, milk thistle can thus help with emotional issues.
Silymarin in milk thistle is a potent antioxidant, while milk thistle can also increase the levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione, other strong antioxidants. Other health benefits of milk thistle include helping to:
- stabilize blood cholesterol levels, reducing total cholesterol levels and helping to convert LDL cholesterol to HDL cholesterol.
- stabilize blood sugar levels; used to help with type 2 diabetes.
- improve appetite and digestion, including fat digestion.
- improve gallbladder disorders, including dealing with gallstones.
- boost immunity.
- alleviate some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including heartburn and constipation; increased glutathione levels also help slow the disease’s progress.
- improve adrenal disorders.
- prevent altitude sickness.
- prevent and/or fight against certain types of cancer.
- slow atherosclerosis development by preventing plaque formation on artery walls.
Sources for this article include:
Stengler, Mark, ND. The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies Medical Doctors Don’t Know. New York, NY: Prentice Hall Press, 2010. Print.
Balch, Phyllis A., CNC. Prescription for Herbal Healing: An Easy-to-Use A-to-Z Reference to Hundreds of Common Disorders and Their Herbal Remedies. New York, NY: Avery, 2002. Print.
Bratman, Steve, Dr. Complementary & Alternative Health: The Scientific Verdict on What Really Works. London, UK: Collins, 2007. Print.
Gaby, Alan R., MD. The Natural Pharmacy: Complete A-Z Reference to Natural Treatments for Common Health Conditions. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 2006. Print.
Murray, Michael, ND. The Pill Book Guide to Natural Medicines: Vitamins, Minerals, Nutritional Supplements, Herbs, And Other Natural Products. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 2002. Print.