Milk thistle is a flowering plant that belongs to the Daisy family. Like all thistles, it has sharp prickles to protect it from animals. The milk thistle plant has a long history in alternative medicine and has been studied many times for possible medical applications. The important component of milk thistle is silymarin, which is a mixture of molecules that are considered to be of potential medical benefit. Milk thistle has been used as a liver tonic for centuries and is reported to protect and improve the function of this important organ. It has also been suggested that milk thistle can prevent and repair damage to the liver from toxic chemicals and medicines. Although many outstanding claims are made about the potential benefits of this plant, the current scientific research shows mixed results. Today, much milk thistle is grown commercially, but it still grows wild in many areas.
Where does milk thistle grow?
Today, milk thistle is grown around much of the world to provide natural medicine companies with extracts of the plant. However, milk thistle is native to Northern Africa, the Middle East and to the Mediterranean areas of Europe. In many of these regions milk thistle still grows wild today. Not only was milk thistle used to treat liver conditions, but the plant was also used as a source of food. Almost all of the milk thistle plant can be eaten.
Although the benefits of milk thistle to the liver is widely accepted (even by many medical professionals), there are many other uses of milk thistle that are so far unproven. These include; a reduction of cholesterol levels, reducing cancer growth in certain types of cancer and reducing the effects of a hangover. As with any medicine, you should consult a medical professional before taking milk thistle supplements.