Milk thistle - a good helper for the liver

Why the prickly plant has a beneficial effect on the detoxification organ.

Marina Cluysen

05 April 2021


"Whew, the food is so heavy in my stomach again!" "I couldn't eat another bite". "I can't go to the bathroom." "I feel so bloated!" "Ow, my head, if only I hadn't drunk so much!" Are these phrases that you frequently say? Or is it sometimes embarrassing to have flatulence and burps not under control? Then it could be that your digestion or your liver and gall bladder are disturbed. But nature can help - with milk thistle!

Milk thistle (Carduus marianus or Silybum marianum, also known as "wild artichoke") is traditionally used in products to protect the liver and aid digestion. But what exactly causes its effect?
The beneficial effect is mainly due to the substance silymarin in the seeds. Silymarin does not dissolve in water, so milk thistle tea does not help much. However, in preparations such as tablets or a tincture, the silymarin present has beneficial effects on digestive problems, such as:

  • Belching and flatulence
  • Indigestion and nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Headaches due to poor diet, medication or too much alcohol

Milk thistle can also have a calming and soothing effect on long-term liver problems. Due to its spasmolytic and cholagogue effect, a product with milk thistle can also be used for problems with the gall bladder.

When the liver is overloaded

The liver is one of the most important organs in the human body. It functions like a chemical factory that breaks down, converts and builds up substances. It is involved in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Toxic substances can be excreted by the body via the liver, among other things. The organ also provides the bile acids for fat breakdown. Our organism stores vitamins and trace elements such as iron, copper, zinc and manganese in the liver.

Many digestive problems occur because the liver is overloaded or not functioning optimally. As a result, the bile also functions less well. This in turn has consequences for intestinal function, cholesterol balance and digestion in general.

The power of milk thistle

Certainly, it is always good to seek medical advice for problems with digestion. But in advance you can also do some things yourself. A number of herbs provide relief from liver problems: Artichoke, dandelion and milk thistle.

Milk thistle has already been intensively researched and it has been proven that its extract contains, among other things, flavonoids, a group of substances to which the active ingredient silymarin also belongs.

It can protect the liver in three ways:

Silymarin changes the structure of the outer cell wall of the liver cells. As a result, substances that could damage the liver do not reach the nucleus of the liver cells.

Silymarin stimulates the activity of the enzyme polymerase A, so that ribosomal protein synthesis (DNA synthesis during cell renewal) increases. This means that silymarin promotes the recovery capacity of the liver and stimulates the production of new liver cells.

Some other active ingredients of milk thistle:

Sterols, including cholesterol and sitosterol. They ensure that less cholesterol is absorbed from the intestines.

Bitter substances. These are known to aid digestion and have a mild laxative effect. Bitter substances make the bile function better. They have a bile-forming and cholagogue effect. This in turn has a beneficial effect on triglyceride levels (blood fat levels).

Antioxidants. These have a protective effect on the liver cells. They counteract the ageing of the body's cells and thus help to stay healthy.


European Union herbal monograph on Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn., fructus (
Silybum marianum (milk thistle) and its main constituent, silymarin, as a potential therapeutic plant in metabolic syndrome: A review - PubMed ( ))

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Milk Thistle is used to treat liver, spleen and gall bladder disorders. This liver care remedy …
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