Milk Thistle: A Detox Powerhouse

Milk ThistleAs part of an ongoing series about the potential health benefits of the medicinal plants and botanicals that make PurePower products so special, in this article we’re going to take a look at milk thistle, an unassuming little plant that packs in some serious detoxing power. 

What is Milk Thistle?

Milk thistle, or Silybum marianum, is also known colloquially as the blessed thistle or Marian/Mary’s thistle. Like most thistles, it grows tall with spiky leaves and pink-purple flowers. The name milk thistle comes from the white, milky sap that the plant’s leaves secrete when they are broken. 


Originally native to Asia and southern Europe, milk thistle is now found all over the world thanks to its hardy nature and quick growth cycle. In fact, in certain areas, it is now considered an invasive weed. Its leaves, roots, and flowers are edible and are used in salads or as a spinach substitute. When roasted, the seeds can be ground and used as a naturally decaffeinated coffee alternative. However, in many cultures the plant is most prized for its medicinal and therapeutic properties – hence its holy-sounding nicknames. 

How is Milk Thistle Used?

Milk thistle extract, which is taken from the plant’s seeds, contains a substance called silymarin, which has been shown to have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. For these reasons, the plant has been used in traditional European and Chinese medicine for centuries to treat conditions from diabetes to indigestion. Milk thistle extract is usually taken orally, though in cases of poisoning silymarin can be administered intravenously (though only by trained medical professionals). It can also be applied topically, especially to counteract the effects of radiation therapy. 

Liver and Kidneys 

In modern medicine, silymarin is mostly associated with managing conditions affecting the liver and kidneys, such as cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. In fact, silymarin has such powerful detoxifying properties that it is thought to help reverse or reduce liver damage resulting from poisoning, chemotherapy, drugs, and alcohol. It is perhaps most well-known as a treatment for poisoning from death cap mushrooms, which are just as dangerous as they sound. 

Blood Sugar and Diabetes

Silymarin also appears to work to lower blood sugar, and some people with diabetes take it in combination tree turmeric extract and their antidiabetic medication before meals to regulate blood sugar levels. 

Cholesterol and Heart Health

When taken in combination with tree turmeric, studies have indicated it could help to prevent cholesterol levels from rising, and could even help to lower cholesterol levels. 


Milk thistle appears to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and some studies have shown that it can be beneficial for managing digestive problems like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and inflammatory ulcers associated with chemotherapy. 

Anxiety and OCD

Initial research has shown that the plant could be effective at managing repetitive behaviors and intrusive thoughts associated with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

Side Effects 

It is rare to experience side effects from milk thistle, and the majority of people who take it report no adverse reactions, even when it is taken long-term. In a few cases, it can cause mild stomach upsets, including diarrhea, bloating, and nausea. People with an allergy to ragweed should avoid the plant, which can also trigger an allergic reaction. Pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding should only take milk thistle if instructed by a medical doctor. It can also interact with certain medications, especially those containing estrogen, so consult your doctor or pharmacist if in doubt. 

How to Take Milk Thistle 

Milk thistle can be taken in larger doses as directed by a medical professional for specific conditions, or in smaller doses as a daily supplement. 

PowerDown by PurePower, which is specially formulated to encourage profound relaxation and deeper sleep, contains milk thistle extract in addition to botanicals like passionflower, chamomile, and white willow bark, as well as vapor-extracted Performance CBD, all in a handy capsule.