Milk thistle is a member of the sunflower family that grows like a weed throughout North American and much of the world. Its leaves are lined with milky white veins and it blooms purple flowers from June to August. Its shiny black seeds are collected at the end of the summer and used for therapeutic purposes. Milk thistle has been used since Greek and Roman times and has recently undergone extensive studies to support its medicinal benefits, primarily in regards to healing liver disorders.
Milk thistle seeds contain three compounds, collectively known as silymarin; which can fortify the liver. The liver is involved with processing fats and other nutrients as well as with detoxifying alcohol and certain pollutants from the body. Serious complications can arise if the liver is compromised. Milk thistle helps bolster the liver by preventing the depletion of glutathione, which is essential to the detoxifying process. The milk thistle herb can also protect the liver from encountering too many toxins at a time. It promotes the regeneration of liver cells and can be helpful to those with a range of liver ailments - such as hepatitis, cirrhosis and alcohol abuse.
In addition to its liver-defending benefits, milk thistle reduces the inflammation and skin cell growth of psoriasis. The herb has also been used to treat endometriosis and gallstones.
Note: milk thistle is not very water soluble, so teas made with this herb may not be as therapeutic for the liver.