So, you’ve looked into the benefits of milk thistle and you’re keen to give it a go - great! But there is a lot of information out there about the best way to take milk thistle and exactly how long to take it for. In this article, we take a look at the different ways to take milk thistle, how much to take, and how long you should be taking it for.September 29, 2021 12:40 pm September 14, 2020 5:30 pm
Taking milk thistle
As a quick recap before we dive into dosage and timings: milk thistle is a plant with sharp, green leaves and an impressive, spiky purple flower.
It has been used for generations as a natural remedy. In fact, people have been using milk thistle as far back as 40 – 90 AD. Dioscorides, a Greek physician and pharmacologist and author of the enormous ‘De Materia Medica’ – an encyclopaedia of plant remedies – mentioned its healing qualities.
Later herbalists described how it helped with liver issues and even ‘melancholy diseases’.(1)
Modern science also has plenty to say about its impressive health benefits. It’s a natural detoxifier and cleanser, and is especially linked to liver health. Some studies have found that it can improve ailments ranging from alcoholic liver disease to hepatitis.(2)
Its oil is also rich in vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant and helps the body fight free radicals. This in turn supports skin and eye health as well as the immune system.
So, now that we’ve established that milk thistle is pretty good for you, let’s look at how and when to take it.
How to take milk thistle
Milk thistle is available in lots of different formats, including as a dietary supplement or capsule. When people decide to investigate it, they often gravitate towards a supplement.
However, while they’re popular, supplement capsules don’t always give you the best transparency over what you’re consuming.
For example, you might not be sure which part of the plant your supplement comes from. The leaves, seeds and fruit all have different nutritional profiles. Therefore, they might deliver differently on your desired result.
What’s more, supplement capsules themselves are made of a range of ingredients including collagen, gelatine or a plant-based starch.(3) So, if you’re following a vegetarian or plant-based diet, you’ll need to check carefully to make sure your capsules don’t contain animal products.
At Erbology we tend to believe that it’s better to bring health-boosting nutrients into your diet naturally through food. This often gives you better knowledge about what’s actually inside the product you’re taking. It also gives you more control over what you put into your body.
How to use milk thistle seeds
If you’ve decided to go with a natural source, you have a couple of options there too.
The most traditional way of taking it is in a tea, tincture or herbal infusion. This can be made using either the leaves or the seeds of the plant. It involves steeping the seeds or leaves in hot water to impart their flavour and health benefits You then drink the liquid as an infusion.
It might be the way that our ancestors in Bessarabia used to take it, but nowadays getting hold of fresh milk thistle can be difficult!
Some people might find a pre-prepared infusion more convenient. However, again you need to be careful with the ingredients list. Other ingredients might be included in the tea, and you may not be sure what dosage of milk thistle you are actually getting.
If you’d prefer to avoid the headache of sourcing and brewing your own tea, look for an easy way of taking pure milk thistle.
At Erbology, we make two milk thistle products which extract from the plant in different ways, depending on the benefits you’d like to see.
Milk thistle powder
Our organic milk thistle powder is made from 100% organic milk thistle seeds and nothing else. It’s rich in silymarin, a raw flavonolignan that can improve liver cell regeneration.
'Along with the vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids naturally found in milk thistle seeds, it also fights free radicals and can protect from oxidative damage.'
The seeds are not soluble in water and they have a distinctive, slightly bitter flavour, so the best way to eat our powder is to add it to another food you enjoy. It’s a bit like lemon zest – perhaps you wouldn’t eat a spoonful on its own, but it can bring the most delicious flavour to dishes with complementary flavours!
We recommend adding it to yoghurt, soup, or savoury dishes like our delicious pumpkin, tofu and sage galette..
How much to take (dosage)?
The amount of milk thistle you should take depends on the type of product. One key factor to look for is the amount of silymarin in your chosen product.
Our Milk Thistle Powder contains 4.7g of silymarin per 100g of product, and we recommend taking a teaspoon of our powder once a day.
When to take milk thistle powder
Combining it with other foods helps your body to digest it more easily. So, we recommend adding it into your favourite meals.
If you’re taking prescription medication, including birth control, speak to your doctor before you add milk thistle powder to your routine.
There has been very little research around milk thistle use in pregnant and breastfeeding women. To be on the safe side, we’d recommend avoiding it during this time.
It’s worth remembering that silymarin is a powerful cleanser and works especially hard in the liver. That means that if you’re taking medications processed by the liver, there might be some interaction.
How long to take it for a liver cleanse
The evidence for milk thistle’s liver cleansing properties comes mainly from traditional medicine. If you would like to try a liver cleanse with milk thistle, we recommend taking it every day for at least two weeks.
Milk Thistle Oil
Another great option to reap the benefits of milk thistle is our 100% organic Milk Thistle Oil.
Our oil is cold-pressed from milk thistle seeds. It has a slightly different nutrient profile, which makes it ideal for taking care of your skin and heart health. It’s also good for cleansing your body.
Our oil is rich in vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant which helps fight oxidative stress in the body. It also contains omega-6 fatty acids which, when they come from vegetable sources, are good for the body too.
It has a lovely, light and nutty taste which makes it perfect for salad dressings, soups and dips.
If you regularly eat Mediterranean and Middle Eastern foods, which often use flavoured oils in drizzles and dips, this could be a great option for you.
Alternatively, you can apply it to your skin.
When to take the oil, and how long to take it for
As it’s well tolerated by your body, you can really take milk thistle oil at any time of day. It won’t keep you up at night, and you can even take it on an empty stomach if you like.
However, it has a pleasant taste and pairs well with other flavours. So, we recommend combining it into your meals.
Think of it as a culinary ingredient rather than a supplement. It’ll still bring you a whole host of health benefits without any need to eat straight oil (unless you want to!).
Drizzle a little over salads or drips just as you would use olive oil. You should take about one tablespoon of milk thistle oil per day.
As with our powder, if you’re taking prescription medication, including birth control, have a chat to your doctor before adding it to your routine as there may be some interaction.
It’s also best to avoid it during breastfeeding and pregnancy. This is simply because very little research has been done around its use during this time.
Can you take it every day?
Yes, it is generally considered a safe addition to your diet and most people tolerate it well.
It might take a while for your body to get used to it, so why not start with a small dose and build up to our recommended amount?
There isn’t really a particular time of day you need to take it, either, so we’d recommend focusing more on the foods you think it will pair well with. You can take it with or without food.
Having a nutty porridge in the morning? A splash of milk thistle oil will complement its flavours. Or how about pasta for lunch? Make like the Italians but swap your olive oil for a drizzle of milk thistle as a finishing touch.
Be creative, have fun and explore how it fits best into your diet.
It’s important to remember that it is a pretty powerful ingredient. It is being researched extensively for its medicinal applications. In short, it isn’t an ingredient that will go unnoticed in your body!
As with every food you eat, listen to your body and experiment with amounts until you find the one that’s right for you. You might like to take milk thistle every day, or just now and again as an ingredient in your favourite dishes.
Whichever works best for you, your body will soon see the benefits of this fantastic plant.
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