Milk thistle is another one of those plants that has been deemed a nuisance by homeowners, but think twice before trying to rid your yard of this wonder-herb. Milk thistle contains potent antioxidant, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties, and is a known tonic for liver detoxification and protection.
Milk thistle also contains special antioxidant compounds called silymarin which protect the liver by inhibiting the binding of toxins to liver cell membrane receptors. Silymarin has been shown to assist in liver repair and has been successful in treating alcoholic liver disease, acute and chronic viral hepatitis, and toxin-induced liver diseases. It is also great for treating the occasional hangover.
How to use Milk Thistle?
If you are lucky enough to live in an area where milk thistle grows wildly, there are many ways to utilize the entire plant. The leaves can be used as a spinach substitute, they can be eaten raw or lightly cooked as you would a leafy green like kale or collards. They can also be finely chopped and added as an herb to a salad or other dish. The flowers can be cut from the stems, dried and the seeds removed and sprinkled over salads.
Milk thistle can also be taken in the form of supplemental capsules or herbal tinctures. The capsules are usually comprised of the seeds and tinctures are often made from extracting serum from the plant base and stems.
Because milk thistle is broken down by liver enzymes, it is important to consult your doctor if you are taking medications that are also processed by the liver. Some of these include statins, allergy drugs, anti-anxiety medications and hormone replacements. For anyone dealign with an estrogen-related issue (endometriosis, fibroids, or breast, uterine and ovarian cancers), choose a supplement that has been made from the seeds, not the plant extract. The plant has mild phytoestrogen qualities, but the seeds do not.