Milk Thistle and Your Liver

Common, ordinary milk thistle — also known as blessed milk thistle, Marian thistle, Mary thistle, and variegated thistle — may be a health powerhouse when it comes to the liver and diabetes.

The plant originated in Southern Europe and Asia, but is now found around the world — and is sometimes considered an invasive species. Milk thistle has reddish or purple flowers and shiny green leaves with white veins.

The main compound of milk thistle seeds is silymarin.

Did you know? Milk thistle is an “energy enhancing agent” in Rockstar Energy Drink.

Silymarin has been used to treat varicose veins, depression, and low breast milk production with varying degrees of success. It is also used to support the liver in people with cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis, and gall bladder problems. Herbalists have been using milk thistle extract to detoxify the liver and treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Recent studies from the University of California at Irvine suggest that silibinin (another milk thistle compound) can prevent the growth of cancer cells in the liver! Silibinin is also used to treat poisoning from toxic amanita mushrooms.

Silymarin may also relieve (or even reverse) chronic liver inflammation — one suspected cause of insulin resistance.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina working with Iraqi doctors recently tested silymarin on people with type 2 diabetes. After four months, test subjects who took two hundred milligrams of silymarin with their daily diabetes medicines saw a twenty percent drop in fasting blood sugar levels.

Talk to your doctor if you’d like to try silymarin along with your regular diabetes medicine — you’ll want to find a milk thistle supplement that contains enough silymarin, and you’ll want to take between two hundred and five hundred milligrams daily. Try Trader Darwin milk thistle supplement from Trader Joe’s or Thisilyn by Nature’s Way, sold at Whole Foods, New Seasons Market, and online.