Love Your Liver with Milk Thistle

I hope everyone is enjoying this holiday week – whether you are north or south of the border. We are fortunate enough to be able to enjoy BOTH holidays, which is an excellent tie-in for this post about how helpful milk thistle can be for liver support…you know, in case we over-indulge a teeny bit this week. Lol!

While my stance on where to start to heal your body is always to start with whole foods (organic, non-GMO, nothing processed), sometimes we need a little extra help and herbs are an excellent way to get it. Although some (actually, a lot) of the things I’ve learned about the healing properties of herbs is new to me, using herbs to heal the body has been done for thousands of years and is far from new. Milk thistle is one of my favourite herbs and with numerous benefits to the body. It’s a particularly powerful support for your liver and showing your liver some love goes a looooong way to healing pretty much all of our body systems.

The liver is the primary filtration system in the body. It’s always beyond busy doing its “day job” of cleaning the blood and helping the body to flush waste, but everyday life significantly adds to its workload – stress, medications, infections, aging, and toxins from beauty and cleaning products (not to mention in the environment) contribute to extra work for the liver. If your liver isn’t functioning optimally (and here’s a newsflash…this is the case for most of us, regardless of how healthy you are), it struggles to flush toxins and waste materials from the body, resulting in stuff lingering around and getting “mucky” in your body. Not good. When the body doesn’t eliminate waste properly, it leads to a rise in inflammation and causes further issues…bloating, fluid retention, puffiness (at best) and eventually, chronic disease. 

Enter milk thistle!

Milk thistle is derived from the milk thistle plant. The extracted substance, silybum marianum, offers antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties. Silybum helps prevent the depletion of glutathione, considered a “master antioxidant” in the body. Antioxidants work to block disease formation by preventing oxidative stress and damage caused by the formation of free radicals. Milk thistle boosts the immune system and can help protect cells from damage and mutation caused by disease. It also helps support the liver during the process of metabolizing toxic substances in the body. The anti-inflammatory properties of milk thistle benefit not just the liver but the whole body. It offers support for such conditions as alcoholism, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and hepititis, but this healing herb can help heal issues in systems other than the liver:

  • promote healthy digestion by encouraging bile production and enzyme formation (milk thistle tea is a great way to soothe digestive troubles);
  • anti-aging through the prevention of damage caused by free radicals in the body. It can be particularly helpful for inflammatory skin conditions  such as rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis;
  • balance blood sugar levels, through its support of the liver with hormone regulation and release of insulin into the blood; and
  • promote heart health (in combination with traditional treatment methods) by lowering inflammation (the leading cause of heart disease), lowering oxidative stress damage in the arteries, and also helping to lower LDL.
Besides these conditions, milk thistle is an effective treatment for such symptoms as sugar cravings, brain fog, acne, constipation, joint pain, mood swings, anxiety, gas and bloating, feeling blah, and leaky gut. I used milk thistle to combat several of these conditions believed to have been caused by my over-taxed liver (from meds, stress and infection). It took about six to eight weeks, but I can say with confidence that taking this herb (in additon to making significant changes to my diet so that it worked for my body as opposed to against it) helped to support my liver and bring it back inbalanse (fitting that word in just never gets old!).  

Remember to consult your physician before starting any herbal remedy, particularly if you are taking any medications. And as with everything that has to do with healing the body, remember that every body is different and what works for me may not work the same for someone else. That said, there have been plenty of studies regarding the effectiveness of milk thistle for liver support, so it’s highly likely to have a positive effect for most of us. 

I hope everyone enjoys their holiday week….and maybe swing by your local natural health store to grab a bottle of milk thistle (this is my fave – make sure to choose one with at least 80% silymarin) to have it on hand after a night of perhaps a few too many beverages celebrating your country’s birthday. 🙂