Medicinal plant milk thistle: this is how it is used and how it works
The Milk thistle, Silybum marianum, is one of the daisies. Originally it was at home in Southern Europe, Asia Minor and North Africa, but can also be found in Central Europe since the Middle Ages. The plant is 30 to 150 centimeters tall. The flowers are purple. They bloom from June to September. As the name suggests, the milk thistle has prickly parts. The leaves have a greenish shine, are strongly serrated and have white spots.
Parts of plants used for ingestion
Milk thistle fruits are the parts of the plant that are used for internal consumption. The smooth, elongated fruits contain the important silymarin, a mixture of active ingredients that has a detoxifying, antispasmodic and liver-protecting effect. The active ingredients contained help the liver to cope with toxic substances such as alcohol, medication or environmental toxins. In addition, the excretion of bile juice is stimulated somewhat. The fruit skin contains flavonoids, fatty oil, vitamin E, bitter and mucilaginous substances and much more. These substances have a calming, anti-inflammatory and circulation-promoting effect.
The name comes from the following legend: The milk of the Virgin Mary dripped onto the plant, which gave the leaves their typical white marbling. This was also the reason that she liked to be used by breastfeeding women at the time. The Latin term "silybum", derived from the Latin silybon, means tassel. "Marianum" in turn refers to the Virgin Mary, as in German.
Known since ancient times
It has been valued as a medicinal plant since ancient times. Even Pedanios Dioskurides, a Greek doctor who lived in the 1st century, used milk thistle: for problems with the tendons, as a biliary agent, against snake bites and to induce vomiting (emetic). In the Middle Ages, the plant came to Central Europe. Paracelsus used them in the mentioned areas of application, but also in the case of internal stabbing pain (Marien “distel”). Later in the 18th century, the doctor J.C. Rademacher intensely with the milk thistle. He brought her affinity for the liver to the fore.
Milk Thistle: Effect
The main indication is the liver. For liver diseases caused by substances that damage the liver, such as alcohol, medication, viruses and environmental toxins, this is the treatment of choice. The regular intake of the plant prevents the penetration of hepatotoxic substances. Even with cirrhosis of the liver caused by alcohol or other liver toxins, the medicinal plant can extend life expectancy somewhat. Milk thistle should also be considered for existing fatty liver. The earlier the plant is taken, the more helpful this is. In the case of chronic hepatitis C, the transaminase values are also improved by taking it.
A rather rare indication is poisoning with a tuberous agaric - milk thistle should also be considered here. The plant compounds are administered intravenously, displacing the toxins contained in the fungus and thereby protecting the liver from cell death. However, immediate emergency treatment is always advisable when consuming a toadstool!
Complaints such as gas and bloating also respond well to milk thistle fruit intake. At the same time, the plant has a protective effect on the gastric mucosa.
In naturopathy, the phrase "fatigue is the pain of the liver" applies. It is therefore essential to consider the use of this liver plant here. The patients get fitter, the general condition and physical performance improve.
Milk thistle is generally very well tolerated - only occasionally there is bloating, abdominal pain and a slightly laxative (laxative) effect. Anyone who is allergic to daisies should not use this plant. It is contraindicated in pregnancy and lactation.
The medicinal plant can of course be used as tea. However, the effect is very small. The important ingredients of silymarin can unfortunately hardly be dissolved in water. However, the tea can relieve minor ailments such as gas and bloating. To really do something for the liver, milk thistle capsules, tablets or drops should be used, which contain the plant active ingredients in a much higher concentration. However, self-medication is not recommended. A doctor or naturopath will advise you and recommend the appropriate preparation and the right daily dose.
Preparation of the tea
A quarter liter of boiling water is poured over two teaspoons of the crushed, dried milk thistle fruits, the whole is stripped after about 10 minutes and three cups a day, preferably lukewarm, are drunk. The tea is not very tasty. If lightly tossed fennel seeds are added, however, the taste is a bit milder and the tea becomes easier to drink.
The liver is a very important detoxification and metabolic organ and therefore has a lot to do day and night. If it is overloaded, we feel this in the form of tiredness ("tiredness is the pain of the liver"). If we ignore this indication and if we expose our liver to more and more harmful substances, further symptoms arise, such as impaired concentration, vision problems. Itchy skin, night sweats, sleep disorders, depressive moods and sudden leaden fatigue.
The liver produces the bile, it is involved in fat digestion, it regulates blood sugar, it stores fats, it creates cholesterol, it produces proteins, it breaks down hormones - and much more. This organ achieves top performance and that day and night - so we should also handle it a little more carefully. But that's not all - it is also an organ that is extremely keen to regenerate. It is only important to deal responsibly with this vital organ. To strengthen them, a cure with a milk thistle preparation is recommended. And if the liver already suffers - especially then.
The liver is related to the psyche. Who does not know the expression "something went over my liver"? Every naturopath knows about the connection between liver and depression, which means that in a naturopathic practice, patients with depressive moods should always get a liver plant - preferably over a longer period of time. Here the medicinal plant is the appropriate means of choice.
Various tea blends with milk thistle
Tea blends for detoxification and as a support for the liver or bile often contain milk thistle. Since it does not have such a great effect as the sole tea ingredient, a mixed recipe is often the better choice. All types of tea, or tea blends, must not be drunk continuously for longer than 6 weeks.
To detoxify the liver and kidney
For this tea, goldenrod, milk thistle, nettle and dandelion are mixed in equal parts. A heaped teaspoon of the tea mixture is brewed with a quarter liter of water and then has to brew for about seven to eight minutes. One cup three times a day, over a period of four weeks - this is a good support for a spring cure to remove the slags from the body and to counteract the spring fatigue.
Another tea blend to detoxify the body is as follows:
Stone clover (1 part), milk thistle (2 parts), nettle (2 parts), yarrow (1 part) and dandelion root (2 parts) are mixed. The preparation and application correspond to the detoxification tea described above.
Care for the liver
This tea can be used to care for the liver. It consists of milk thistle (2 parts), herbaceous herb (1 part), liverwort herb (1 part), centaury herb (2 parts), fennel (1 part) and marigold flowers (1 part). A tablespoon of the mixture is poured over with half a liter, after seven to eight minutes it is strained and the tea is distributed throughout the day, drunk in sips.
To help you lose weight
To help you lose weight, this tea can be helpful. Nettle, milk thistle, dandelion, elder, oat and goldenrod are mixed in equal parts. You can see the preparation and application of the detoxification teas. This mixture is also suitable for the spring cure.
An important plant
It has become an important plant not only in naturopathy, but also in conventional medicine. It protects the liver cells, it helps the liver against penetrating toxins and it can also support the liver in its regeneration and healing process. Milk thistle is also ideal for prevention. (sw)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Susanne Waschke, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Cooperation Phytopharmaka GbR: www.arzneipflanzenlexikon.info (accessed: October 29, 2017), milk thistle
- The herb book: www.kraeuter-buch.de (accessed: October 27, 2017), milk thistle
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