Think Your Liver May Be Damaged? Add Milk Thistle To Your Daily Routine
Our livers do so much to help our bodies detoxify unwanted compounds, and thanks to an influx in modern environmental toxins (e.g., heavy metals, harsh chemicals, air and water pollutants, etc.), they need more support than ever before. When you factor in additional periods of overindulgence in alcohol (hello, college!), refined sugars, or even stress1, your liver may be begging for some extra TLC.
What causes liver damage?
The liver filters everything from food and alcohol to prescription drugs and dietary supplements. Excess amounts of anything can lead to damage, and unaddressed damage can cause long-term harm—or even death. According to a 2019 review from the Journal of Hepatology, approximately 2 million people2 around the world diet annually as a result of liver diseases. Cirrhosis (severe scarring of the liver) causes about 58% of these deaths.
The good news is that the liver is incredibly regenerative, and with the right support from lifestyle habits and tailored nutrition and supplementation choices, we can aid its natural detoxification process and ensure optimal function.
One herb in particular has been used safely for centuries to help protect and restore the liver: Let’s talk about milk thistle.
How milk thistle helps protect & repair the liver.
An active compound in milk thistle called silymarin exhibits antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions that can be utilized to both support the liver’s natural detox pathways and help restore damage caused by an excess burden of toxins.
According to a 2020 Advances in Therapy review, silymarin helps protect the liver3 from cellular damage and cytotoxicity by scavenging free radicals and modulating enzymes associated with cirrhosis and fibrosis (a reversible wound-healing response to acute and/or chronic liver injury). When it comes to overall antioxidant balance, silymarin is also known to enhance synthesis and maintain healthy levels of glutathione4 (the body’s “master antioxidant”) in the liver, per a 2014 World Journal of Hepatology review.
Beyond its hepatoprotective properties, silymarin has also been shown to promote liver cell regeneration5. In other words, milk thistle helps support the liver’s ability to physically repair itself. If you’re trying to rebuild your liver to its former glory or protect it from modern toxins, milk thistle is a valuable tool to add to your detoxification toolbelt.
How to add milk thistle to your daily regimen.
Wondering how you can add this wonderful botanical to your wellness routine? Milk thistle teas are available, but the most common way to consume milk thistle is via quality supplementation.
You can find this herb in single-ingredient capsules, or choose a targeted liver health supplement with additional ingredients that deliver hepatoprotective effects. Check out mindbodygreen’s roundup of the best liver detox supplements to find a supplement with milk thistle that can support your unique liver health needs.
We can often look to nature for support with our health needs, and liver protection and support is no different. To help bolster your liver’s natural detox pathways and optimal function, consider adding a milk thistle supplement or tea to your daily routine.
Morgan Chamberlain is a supplement editor at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in magazine journalism and a minor in nutrition. Chamberlain believes in taking small steps to improve your well-being—whether that means eating more plant-based foods, checking in with a therapist weekly, or spending quality time with your closest friends. When she isn’t typing away furiously at her keyboard, you can find her cooking in the kitchen, hanging outside, or doing a vinyasa flow.