The Health Benefits of Milk Thistle: A Comprehensive Guide

Published on June 24, 2022

By Gaia Herbs

Gaia Herbs

Milk thistle is a unique plant. It has a long history of use, both in traditional and modern medicine. Some say it’s one of nature’s gifts to humankind. Milk Thistle is a prickly, unusual-looking plant that offers health benefits.*

Originally native to the Mediterranean region, this medicinal herb has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat numerous ailments, like liver diseases, gallbladder disorders, jaundice, and even digestion-related issues like bloating. 

Even today, milk thistle is gaining popularity as a natural liver cleanser, thanks to its potent properties. 

So, if you’re interested in working this herb into your wellness routine, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the potential health benefits of Milk Thistle, and then we’ll talk about how to make it a part of your day-to-day routine. Let’s start with the basics so you can know exactly what you’re putting in your body.

What is Milk Thistle?

Milk Thistle, scientifically known as Silybum marianum, belongs to the Asteraceae family, along with plants like sunflowers and daisies. While it’s native to the Mediterranean, Milk Thistle has now made its home worldwide.

This red-purple flowering plant is prickly and thistly and can grow quite tall—up to five to ten feet. Its leaves have white veins that release a white sap when crushed.

Milk Thistle may get its name from the milky substance from the leaves. Also, folk tradition suggests that the leaves’ white veins come from the milk of the Virgin Mary. This is why the herb is sometimes called “Holy Thistle” or “Mary Thistle.”

To many, this plant is a weed. However, we believe it is a treasure and love what it can do for our bodies! Its traditional use goes back centuries.

Dioscorides, a Greek physician who lived 40 to 90 AD, described Milk Thistle as a traditional remedy. And he was not the only one of his time to report its use. More recently, Eclectic physicians at the turn of the 20th century used Milk Thistle to support healthy liver function.*

What has modern science taught us about this plant? For starters, one of its active constituents is a flavonoid called silymarin.

Silymarin, extracted from Milk Thistle seeds, is believed to be part of what makes Milk Thistle so beneficial to health.* Let’s look at two of this herb's top potential health benefits.

Potential Health Benefits of Milk Thistle*

Liver and Cleanse Support*

As we’ve mentioned, Milk Thistle has been used for hundreds of years to support the liver and kidneys.* Milk Thistle is thought to help support new cell growth in the liver, restore damaged cells, and increase bile production.REF#2035 Of course, these are vital when it comes to liver functions. 

Milk Thistle is now frequently used as a liver support herb and for good reason.* This herbal supplement is mainly used for detoxification, thanks to its active ingredient, silymarin. This active constituent supports the liver in several ways. 

Not only does it sustain healthy liver function, but Milk Thistle also helps support the body’s natural cleansing process that is carried out by liver enzymes.* So if you're looking for something helpful to keep your natural processes running like a well-oiled machine, milk thistle might be what you’re looking for. 

Milk Thistle may also support healthy cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels, which can be risk factors for chronic liver conditions. REF#2036

Digestive Support*

While Milk Thistle is well-known as an herb specifically used for liver support, it’s also a helpful herb for overall digestive health.* Of course, the liver is part of the digestive system. This natural remedy has been used for centuries to treat digestion-related problems like bloating, indigestion, gas, nausea, and diarrhea.*

Again, a lot of this has to do with its active ingredient, silymarin. As mentioned, it works by protecting and detoxifying the liver. But, in doing so, it can also help support digestion. 

But how? Well, a healthy liver produces hormones that are important for proper digestion. This means that a detoxified liver can help support digestion.

Also, clinical trials, along with clinical studies and research, point out that antioxidants in milk thistle can help support the production of bile. This is a fluid secreted by the gallbladder that helps break down fats consumed in our diet. REF#2034

Bile is a huge factor when it comes to healthy digestion.

How to Take Milk Thistle

At this point, you’re probably wondering how to use Milk Thistle on a daily basis so you can start reaping its benefits. We recommend a Milk Thistle supplement in capsule or liquid extract form. We’ll share a few options now.

Keep in mind that if you have a health condition (especially one involving estrogen), take medications, or notice any side effects, you should speak with your doctor or naturopathic physician before taking Milk Thistle or any herbal supplement. You may want to avoid Milk Thistle if you have had allergic reactions to marigold, chrysanthemum, or ragweed.

If you are pregnant, you may want to avoid Milk Thistle because this herb may encourage uterine contractions, especially in high doses. If you are breastfeeding, consult a medical professional before taking Milk Thistle. While this complementary herb can support lactation, it’s important to get approval from your doctor.

Milk Thistle Liquid Extract

Milk Thistle liquid extracts are meant to be taken in a small glass of water. 

Milk Thistle liquid extract has become increasingly popular as an herbal supplement for digestive health. Using the liquid form of milk thistle can allow for easy absorption.* In many cases, it is often added to bitter formulas for more comprehensive digestive support.

Certified Organic Milk Thistle Seed

Gaia Herbs Certified Organic Milk Thistle Seed is a liquid extract that preserves the important phytochemical silymarin and is designed to promote healthy liver function so you can stay feeling well.*

You can feel good about what you’re putting in your body since this liquid extract is Certified Organic. Because we believe you deserve to know exactly what’s in your herbal supplement, we’ve created, the world’s first herb traceability platform.

Here, you will discover where the herbs in your product come from; learn how they were grown, harvested, and extracted; and see validation of your product’s level of purity and potency.

We believe that the quality of an herbal supplement can only be as good as the quality of the various herbs that go into it. That’s why we choose to grow many of the herbs used in our products on our farm, where we can cultivate them exactly the way we want.

For plants used in our supplements that we cannot grow on our own farm or in the quantity that we need, our network of organic and sustainable communities allows us to source herbs from where they grow best.

Glycerin-Based Milk Thistle Seed

We also offer this herb as Glycerin-Based Milk Thistle Seed, a low-alcohol formula to fit your needs and support healthy liver function.*

Take this herbal supplement by mixing 30 to 40 drops in a small amount of water three to four times daily between meals.

Milk Thistle Capsules

Not a fan of liquid extracts? No worries. If you prefer to take Milk Thistle by swallowing a capsule, turn to Gaia Herbs Milk Thistle Seed or Liver Health. Capsules tend to be much easier to take. Plus, they can be carried around much more easily than liquids and tend to have a longer shelf life.

Milk Thistle Seed

Gaia Herbs Milk Thistle Seed contains Milk Thistle seed that is extracted to preserve optimal potency and concentrate the phytochemical silymarin.* This concentrated dose is delivered via Liquid Phyto-CapsⓇ, which offer a liquid extract in a convenient capsule.

As an expression of our purity and integrity, all Gaia Herbs Liquid Phyto-Cap products are 100% vegetarian and tested to be free of heavy metal toxicity, pesticides, and microbial contamination.

This herbal supplement is one of our best-selling liver formulas and helps to maintain healthy liver function and support your overall well-being.*

Liver Health

To support your liver with Milk Thistle and other liver-healthy herbs, look no further than Gaia Herbs Liver Health.*

With Milk Thistle, Chinese Skullcap, Turmeric, Schisandra (a favorite adaptogen), and Licorice root, this supplement provides daily support for overall well-being and helps maintain a healthy liver.*

Milk Thistle for Liver and Digestive Support*

Milk Thistle may be prickly on the outside, but inside, its seeds hold a wealth of health benefits that can’t be passed up.* This herb supports the digestive system overall, as well as your liver in particular, and it’s easy to take daily.*

It’s clear that this herbal remedy is a promising natural supplement that may offer many digestive health benefits, not to mention its potential benefits for liver function and detox. At the end of the day, research into this potent herb is ongoing to understand the extent of all its potential benefits fully. 

Gently and naturally supporting liver and digestive health has never been easier.* As always, it's important to consult a healthcare provider for medical advice before taking any new supplements.