Milk Thistle: A weed for our livers?

For this week’s Self-care Sunday, we are going to take a closer look at our largest internal organ…the liver. We will also learn about oxidation, free radicals and a weed called milk thistle. Interested in how they are all connected? Read on, my friends.

The Liver

Our liver is the organ responsible for cleansing our blood. As part of our digestive system, the liver also aids in processing nutrients from our food and drink. Since our liver plays a major role in how our body receives nutrition and how it detoxifies, making sure we support our liver is important.

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is a plant originating in the Mediterranean that has been used for its healing properties for centuries. The first description of its beneficial properties was recorded by a Greek physician in the early first century. Today, milk thistle’s main claim to fame is as an antioxidant. Silymarin, a grouping of compounds including silybin, is the effective antioxidant that is sought after in the plant. While many studies are ongoing, including tests to understand if milk thistle may be effective against cancer and Hepatitis C, milk thistle’s most common use is as a liver protectant. Surveys have shown that milk thistle is the most commonly used liver protectant by patients in gastrointestinal clinics in the U.S. (Source)

As a liver protectant, silymarin is believed to work in helping the liver to detoxify the body. It may help to strengthen liver cell walls and support liver regeneration. As an antioxidant it helps to protect the body from free radicals. I have also read that silymarin may be a glutathione preserver. Glutathione is known as our “Master Antioxidant” because it is the most potent detoxifying and antioxidant agent in our bodies. It works within cells in the oxidation-reduction process.

Not sure about oxidation and free radicals? Here is what you should know.

The process of oxidation in the human body occurs when oxygen is metabolized and free radicals (molecules that steal electrons from other molecules) are created. This process can damage different parts of the cell including cell membranes, cellular proteins and even DNA. Some free radicals are normal and the body uses certain free radicals to its advantage, but it is a build-up of free radicals that can cause bigger problems. Free radicals have been linked to a variety of diseases including heart disease and some cancers. They are also linked to degeneration and aging. None of which we want.

Enter antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds found in foods that naturally seek out and neutralize free radicals. That is why antioxidants are so popular and why certain marketing campaigns for different foods make sure to let the consumer know that their food contains antioxidants. Antioxidants are mainly found in fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants are the good guys, and we want them.

Here is a list of some of the top antioxidant foods…

  • Goji berry – 25,000 ORAC score (Gojis are also knowns as wolfberries & are found in Ningxia Red from Young Living)
  • Pecans – 17,000 ORAC score (good thing we are headed to Alabama right now)
  • Wild blueberries – 14,000 ORAC score (unfortunately, unless you live in Maine and know where they grow, you probably aren’t getting the wild version)
  • Elderberries – 14,000 ORAC score (making a big comeback in the U.S. due to flu fighting properties)
  • Artichokes – 9,400 ORAC score (also a great liver food)

Our bodies naturally produce glutathione our “Master Antioxidant”, but many of us are deficient due to its depletion by stress, some pharmaceutical drugs, toxic chemicals, and other lifestyle factors. Having a way to preserve our glutathione and combat the free radicals certainly sounds like a great idea to me!

I supplement with milk thistle, originally because it was recommended to me by a Naturopath, and now because every time I stop taking it, I feel a big difference. It is an easy way to support my liver, without having to do coffee enemas! Here is the brand I take…


How are you supporting your liver?

Learn how we use elderberry syrup!

2 comments on “Milk Thistle: A weed for our livers?

  1. Hi Jen,
    Hope you are enjoying Alabama….we just came back from Louisiana to pick up our 5th wheel. We wanted an Excel product so we traveled from NH to get it! We encountered some wild weather!
    I was wondering, as we prepare to go full time…what size Berkey did you get for your 5th wheel?
    Enjoy being on the road! I cannot wait to do this! We plan to by next fall, in the meantime we will be ripping out flooring and working on window valances things like that. Your 5th wheel looks great!

    • Hi, Karen! That is sooo exciting! Congratulations on the 5th wheel – you sure broke it in with a good trip! For the Berkey, we have a Big Berkey – you can see a photo here: http://towanderfreely.com/the-best-water-filter-for-your-rv-or-home/. We purchased it for our home before we were RVers and then just brought it right on the RV with us. They do have a smaller size (Travel Berkey). If you are really tight on space in the RV, then a Travel Berkey is a good option. If you can manage it, then the Big Berkey is a better option – we drink a lot of water, and we refill ours about every 3 days or so. We use the purified water in cooking too, and I know that some of our readers who have now purchased one are using it even for their dog’s water. You will be surprised by how much you use the purified water. With the smaller option, you will be refilling more often. Hope that helps! Chris and I are actually working on some detailed posts from our Reno, so keep your eye out for that, as you may be interested in it. Our sincerest best wishes with the renovations and again, a big congratulations on your 5th wheel purchase! -Jen

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