Herbal teas are delightful treats that highlight the beauty of tea drinking with herbs, spices, and flowers. Milk thistle tea is one of the most popular herbal teas thanks to the plant's storied health benefits.
Milk thistle tea is named after the creamy liquid that emerges from the leaves of the milk thistle plant when they are cut. The seeds of the milk thistle plant have been used for centuries as a natural remedy to treat liver disease.
This handy guide will show you everything you need to know about milk thistle tea. Discover the unique flavor profile and unearth the health benefits, side effects, and brewing techniques of milk thistle tea.
Milk thistle tea is an herbal tea made from the milk thistle plant known by the botanical name silybum marianum. This flowering plant belongs to the same scientific family as daisy flowers. The milk thistle plant is native to the Mediterranean region, although it is commonly found across the globe.
Milk thistle is also commonly known as holy thistle and Mary thistle. The tea can be made by infusing the leaves or seeds of the plant in hot water. Milk thistle tea is naturally-caffeine free so it can be consumed at any time of day without disrupting sleep patterns.
Milk thistle tea boasts a mild flavor that is slightly sweet. It is often compared to dandelion tea with mild earthy undertones and stronger floral notes. The tea is commonly sweetened using honey or milk to increase the creamy texture of the tea.
Milk thistle tea has historically been used to support healthy liver function and treat liver problems. Most research shows that the liver health benefits can be attributed to a compound called silymarin. Silymarin is a flavonoid in milk thistle tea that has antioxidant powers to support health.
A study published in Pharmaceutical Biology examined the effects of silymarin on mice with liver damage. Researchers found that mice that were given silymarin had significantly lower obesity rates, even without dietary changes. Silymarin also reduced liver damage by decreasing inflammation (1).
More research in human studies is needed to validate the use of milk thistle tea in treating liver problems. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve milk thistle tea as a treatment of liver problems such as cirrhosis or jaundice. Until more research is completed, it's best to use milk thistle tea as a complementary treatment instead.
Milk thistle tea has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and improve insulin tolerance. A study published in Phytotherapy Research found that the silymarin in milk thistle tea helped to decrease overall cholesterol levels and bad LDL cholesterol in particular. The active ingredient in milk thistle tea also contributed to a decrease in fasting blood glucose levels. This means drinking milk thistle tea may help regulate blood sugar levels (2).
The tea works to improve insulin resistance thanks to the anti-inflammatory properties of its antioxidants. While more research is needed, researchers have reason to believe milk thistle tea may be a supportive treatment for people with high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.
The animal study that showed silymarin was useful in protecting liver health also demonstrated the compounds effect on weight loss. The mice that were given milk thistle tea were also fed an unhealthy diet that would cause them to gain weight. The ingredients in milk thistle tea actually resulted in incidences of weight loss rather than weight gain, despite the unhealthy diet.
This study suggests that milk thistle tea may be a beneficial part of traditional weight loss programs. More research is needed in human clinical trials to establish milk thistle weight loss benefits.
Like green tea, milk thistle tea is packed with antioxidants that support skin health (3). Milk thistle tea helps protect skin health by eliminating free radicals that have been linked to premature aging. Free radicals are pollutants that break down healthy cells through a process of oxidative stress. These free radicals have been linked to a host of other health issues including colorectal cancer and breast cancer.
Other research studies have shown that milk thistle improves inflammatory skin conditions in animals. These benefits were more prominent when milk thistle was applied topically rather than consumed as a tea (4).
The anti-inflammatory properties of milk thistle tea are also beneficial for heart health. Antioxidants and flavonoids decrease inflammation, which helps to improve blood circulation and reduce the risk of blood clots. Since milk thistle tea may also lower cholesterol, drinking this tea can help protect you from serious heart disease.
Milk thistle extract may help protect bone health. In a study published in BioMed Research International, experts examined the effects of milk thistle on bones in people who had estrogen deficiency-induced osteoporosis. Individuals who were given milk thistle had significantly better bone density and less indicators of bone loss than others (5).
Like many herbal teas, milk thistle tea can help boost immune health and fight off the common cold and flu. A study published in the Journal of British Poultry Science found that dietary consumption of milk thistle led to improved immune performance (6). The tea features antibacterial and antiviral properties that help fend off pathogens that can make you sick.
Milk thistle tea may cause allergic reaction in people who are allergic to the milk thistle plant and other daisy plants. People who are allergic to ragweed should also avoid consuming milk thistle tea. If you experience a skin rash, difficulty breathing, or an itchy throat, stop using milk thistle tea and consult a healthcare professional.
Milk thistle may mimic the function of estrogen and cause complications for people who have breast cancer or uterine cancer. Women who have fibroid tumors or endometriosis should not drink milk thistle tea. Always seek medical advice before implementing alternative medicine into a treatment plan.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not drink milk thistle tea. Since it mimics estrogen, milk thistle tea may cause you to get your menstrual cycle and increase risk for miscarriage.
Milk thistle tea can be found as a fresh or dried loose leaf tea. It is also commonly sold in tea bags. Use these tips to brew the perfect cup of milk thistle tea.
1. Bring water to a boil and add milk thistle seeds, leaves, or tea bag.
2. Steep the milk thistle tea for 20 minutes.
3. Strain using a fine mesh strainer and add flavorings such as milk or honey. Enjoy!
Brew up a pot of milk thistle seed or leaf tea and toast to your health. Milk thistle benefits include improved liver function, supportive heart health, and increased immune protection. Organic milk thistle may help improve the look of your skin and prevent serious illness.
While many of these health benefits are still being research, adding milk thistle tea to your diet is a great way to unwind and enjoy the art of tea. Pour yourself a hot cuppa or let it cool and refresh yourself with an iced milk thistle tea.