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Milk Thistle – An Affinity for the Liver

by Erin Stokes, ND

Mily Thistle 250x 250How does an herb have an affinity for a specific organ, such as milk thistle (Silybum marianum) for the liver and hawthorne (Crataegus oxycantha) for the heart? There is an innate intelligence in plants, and this natural affinity to organs demonstrates a layer of depth where herbs work even beyond supporting entire body systems.

Let’s take a closer look at milk thistle, and its affinity for the liver. Milk thistle originated in the Mediterranean and likes to grow in dry, sunny areas. It has been used in Europe for thousands of years to support liver health.*  In the United States, an early group of practitioners called the Eclectic physicians (1825-1939), recommended milk thistle to treat liver disorders as far back as the late 1800s.*

Milk thistle is still widely utilized in modern times. It’s the first plant most practitioners think of whenever targeted liver support is needed.* The ripe seeds are the primary part of the plant used for botanical medicine.*  Silymarin is a flavonoid extracted from the seeds that is considered the primary active constituent of milk thistle. Silymarin is a combination of 3 different compounds: silybin, silidyanin and silychristin.

Silymarin operates as a potent antioxidant and has been the subject of numerous scientific studies investigating its role in supporting optimal liver health.1* It is valued for its ability to inhibit free radicals that are produced from the metabolism of toxic substances such as ethanol, acetaminophen and carbon tetrachloride.2 Apigenin-7-O-glucuronide is the major flavonoid found in milk thistle.3 And, the plant also contains at least seven flavoligands and the flavonoid taxifolin, which enhances hepatic glutathione and antioxidant activity to contribute to liver protection. Milk thistle’s affinity for the protection and repair of hepatocytes makes it the primary “liver herb”, both when we look back in history and looking forward, as a primary focus of liver health research.*

For more on this, link to Toxic Overload: Providing Support for the Internal Purification System.


  1. C Tamayo C, S Diamond. Review of clinical trials evaluating safety and efficacy of milk thistle (Silybum marianum [L.] Gaertn.). Integr Cancer Ther. 2007Jun;6(2):146-57.
  2. N Vargas-Mendoza et al.Hepatoprotective effect of silymarin. World J Hepatol. 2014 Mar 27;6(3):144-9.
  3. C Pereira C, et al.. Infusions of artichoke and milk thistle represent a good source of phenolic acids and flavonoids. Food Funct. 2015 Jan 24;6(1):55-61

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


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