Milk thistle tea is not usually at the top of most people's lists. The tea is rather obscure and made from a plant that is known more as a weed and nuisance than a healthy elixir. Made from the petals and leaves of the spiky milk thistle plant, this tea offers a new frontier for tea drinkers looking to mix things up. Learn more about the benefits of milk thistle tea and discover a new flavorful experience for your next cuppa.
Milk thistle tea is made from the flowers and leaves of the milk thistle plant known by the botanical name Silybum marianum. In some regions, the tea is also brewed using milk thistle seeds. The milk thistle plant is native to the Mediterranean region and the North American continent. Milk thistle is also commonly called holy thistle or Mary thistle. The plant is easily recognized by vibrant purple-pinkish petals and jagged leaves.
The plant also features prickly spines that are well-known by hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. While the plant can be a pain when hiking in the great outdoors, it also offers extensive health benefits when brewed as a tea or developed into milk thistle extracts.
One of the main ways milk thistle has been used in alternative medicine and ancient medicines is as a liver health booster. Milk thistle contains antioxidants that work to detoxify the body and eliminate harmful actors such as free radicals.
Free radicals are uncharged cells that increase the risk of oxidative stress, which has been linked to serious mental ailments including Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's Disease as well as premature aging.
A study published in Pharmaceutical Biology examined the effects of milk thistle on liver health in mice, Researchers found that milk thistle consumption decreased inflammatory response and decreased insulin resistance (1). These results show possible benefits for individuals who suffer from type 2 diabetes.
A second study published in AHRQ examined the effects of milk thistle on liver disease. The study focused on cirrhosis, which is also known as alcoholic liver disease. Excess consumption of alcohol can cause liver damage and severe health issues. Researchers found that milk thistle demonstrated protective effects on liver cells. These effects were attributed to the presence of antioxidants, toxin blockades, anti-inflammatory properties, and enhanced protein synthesis (2).
Milk thistle tea may offer beneficial effects for the heart. That's because milk thistle may help to lower high cholesterol levels that have been associated with heart disease. A study published in Phytotherapy Research found that milk thistle helped to decrease cholesterol on a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. In addition, researchers found that milk thistle helped to decrease fasting blood sugar levels in addition to overall cholesterol levels (3).
Applying milk thistle extracts topically may help to improve skin conditions such as rosacea and acne. Milk thistle contains anti-inflammatory properties that work to decrease inflammation, redness, and swelling. Animal studies have pinpointed silibinin as the active ingredient behind these skin effects (4).
A second study was conducted on human skin cells in a laboratory setting. Researchers found that milk thistle contains antioxidant properties that boast anti-cancer and anti-aging effects (5).
Drinking milk thistle tea can help accelerate weight loss when paired with a healthy diet and exercise regimen. Milk thistle tea is naturally calorie-free and is a great replacement for sugary sodas and soft drinks. Just remember to keep additives like sugars to a minimum.
Small studies have shown that milk thistle may offer protective effects against certain types of cancer including breast cancer. One such study published in the Journal of Biomedical Research examined the effects of silibinin — a compound in milk thistle — against colorectal cancers. Researchers found that silibinin worked to kill cancer cells and decreased their ability to propagate (6).
Milk thistle may also be good for bone health. A study published in BioMed Research international investigated the impacts of milk thistle supplements on bone loss in women with estrogen deficiencies. Researchers found that ingredients in milk thistle helped to decrease bone loss when taken regularly (7). Further human trials are needed to reaffirm these potential benefits. It's also unknown whether milk thistle only affects bone loss related to estrogen or in other deficiencies as well.
Milk thistle tea is safe when consumed in moderate amounts. The main side effects associated with milk thistle tea are allergic reactions. People who are allergic to the milk thistle plant should avoid drinking this tea. People who have allergies to plants in the Asteraceae family should also avoid this tea.
Milk thistle tea may interact with certain medications. Always seek medical advice from a healthcare professional when treating an ailment. The FDA does not approve milk thistle tea as a cure or treatment for any diseases.
Milk thistle tea offers benefits for heart health, immune health, and skin health. The tea has classically been used to treat liver conditions and boost the immune system. Drinking this tea also offers the opportunity to try a new flavor and experience a new herbal tea. Always opt for high-quality tea blends to reap the most from flavor and health benefits.