Milk thistle for recovery?

Photo by Jeffrey Hamilton on Unsplash

What is milk thistle extract good for?

Milk thistle is one of the most popular natural hangover recovery solutions. A natural detoxifier, known for its liver protecting properties, it’s been used by herbalists since the times of the Ancient Greeks and the leaves can be used in salads and teas. The plant is spiky and beautiful, with distinctive, vibrant purple flowers and white veined leaves; an effect that was once believed to have been caused by the Virgin Mary’s milk falling onto the plant.

The seeds of the milk thistle plant are rich in silymarin; a powerful compound that fights free radicals, detoxes and is believed to have anti-inflammatory powers. It’s great for the digestion too, and has been used for hundreds of years as a treatment for upset stomachs. That’s why you might want to try milk thistle if you’ve got a hangover or you want to rid your body of toxins such as alcohol.

Milk thistle extract contains between 65% and 80% silymarin and is becoming increasingly popular with those who are seeking a natural remedy for liver damage. It is also often taken as a preventative measure, protecting the liver before embarking on a night of over indulgence. Other uses include improving insulin sensitivity and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, so some people believe it works in a similar way to diabetic medications. It’s also thought to help prevent osteoporosis (weak and fragile bones), and has been found in scientific tests to promote healthy mineral levels in bones.

How milk thistle could help the body with recovery

When you drink alcohol, toxins are left behind in the body. These cause inflammation, particularly in the stomach, liver and brain.  The more you over indulge, this inflammation causes scarring, which over time may lead to cirrhosis of the liver.  Studies into the benefits of milk thistle/silymarin suggest that it can break down the harmful compounds found in alcohol, helping to protect the liver in the process.  Because it also acts as an antioxidant, it is also thought to be able to neutralise the dangerous free radicals produced by the body as it metabolises alcohol.

Milk thistle at a glance:

  • Milk thistle is native to Europe, so you may see it when you’re out and about in the countryside. (please note - don’t try to make your own tea or supplement from plants you find in the wild - it’s much safer and more effective in a proper scientifically controlled dose!)
  • The terms “milk thistle” and “silymarin” are often used together
  • Used for hundreds of years to protect the liver and detoxify
  • Sometimes promoted as a herbal supplement for gallbladder problems, jaundice, hepatitis, diabetes and indigestion

In most cases milk thistle seems to be well tolerated, with few allergic reactions or side effects. Those who do report side effects mention nausea, bloating and gas - although this is usually when the supplement is taken in very high doses.

As with any herbal supplement, it is advised that you speak to your doctor before taking milk thistle, to be sure that it will not interact with any other health conditions or medicines you’re taking.  Please note: we do not recommend taking milk thistle as an alternative to any other prescribed medicines.