By Jo Finzi
For additional help with your spring detox, try the herbal remedy milk thistle. As thistles go, this is the big one. At more than six feet in height, it has large white veined leaves, and magenta spiky flowers. But its health secrets lie in its seeds, which contain a whole bunch of useful plant chemicals including silymarin, which has proven results in hundreds of surveys.
Milk thistle’s powers as a liver healer have been known for hundreds of years. In the seventeenth century, London’s famous herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper recommended its use for liver blockages and jaundice.
These days, we know that the liver performs more than 200 separate functions, ranging from production of the proteins that support the immune system to detoxifying the body’s waste products.
Liver damage, by toxins such as alcohol and other poisons, can cause inflammation which turns the liver cells into fatty tissue and causes cirrhosis.
The silymarin in milk thistle appears to stimulate the anti-oxidants that combat damaging free-radicals. At the same time it protects the liver from the entry of toxins, and speeds up its ability to regenerate itself. This boosting of regeneration is a great help in a range of liver diseases, from cirrhosis to hepatitis. Recent studies in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology support this finding.
There may be other benefits, as the Journal of Hepatology has discovered that silymarin can reduce both cholesterol and bile, thus minimising the risk of gallstones.
The best time to take milk thistle is at night, and it works well in combination with dandelion root as a good all round detox aid.
Make mine a thistle and tonic!