Milk Thistle and Alcohol

By James Madeiros


Wetting Your Whistle? Think Milk Thistle

You might be surprised to find that a weed found growing along most any country road in America could help save your life if you’re in the habit of wetting your whistle with alcoholic beverages.

Milk thistle, also known as lady’s thistle or holy thistle, is a green flowering plant with a pinkish or purple bloom. This bloom, the seeds and seed pods of milk thistle contain silymarin and silybin, which are believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can prevent and help repair damage to the liver resulting from alcohol abuse.

Milk thistle is native to the Mediterranean, but is very hardy and can be found anywhere that has a growing season, hence it being casually maligned as a “weed.” Weed or no, it has been used for 2,000 years to treat liver and gallbladder problems. Although reviews are mixed as to its efficacy, that seems like too much time to have wasted on bunk science.

The more than 300 scientific studies on milk thistle catalogued by the U.S. Library of Medicine have revealed that its flavonoid constituents are powerful protective agents for the liver, suggesting that it could be effective in treating liver cirrhosis and inflammation caused by hepatitis C. It is also known to increase levels of glutathione, which aids in liver detoxification, and can help repair damaged liver cells.

Given the quality and quantity of these studies, and the fact that side effects (unless you’re allergic) are almost nonexistent, some may argue that not taking milk thistle for a healthy liver just because the Food and Drug Administration has failed to evaluate it may be a bit shortsighted.


Of course, I should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, you should work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).

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