It has, in fact, been used medicinally in Europe since Roman times.
So it can be used to treat cirrhosis and hepatitis whether the damage to the liver was inflicted by alcohol or even by "death cap" mushroom poisoning!
In it's routine use as part of a body detox programme it is used alongside other nutrients that support it's action.
For detox, in fact it is important that liver detox is done after the colon has been cleansed and issues of leaky gut and dysbiosis sorted out.
Many practitioners find that all or nearly all of their patients have leaky gut and prioritise that problem because until the gut is healthy eating the best food in the world can't really nourish you.
In particular the lining of the gut is often damaged and inflamed due to alcohol, anti-biotics or parasites. Special nutrients are needed to help the gut heal and if desired a Gut Permeability Test can be done to see how much healing has occurred.
Probiotics and fermented foods such as sauerkraut will help restore the "good" bacteria in the gut.
Once all that is done you can use liver detox herbs and the gut is healthy enough to cope with the toxins detoxed by the liver and dumped by the gall bladder into the gut!
Some of the bad experiences people have while on a detox programme are due to this important issue being overlooked.
Sometimes milk thistle supplements are a tincture of Silymarin the major active extract of milk thistle at other times a tea is made from the leaves.
The herb has anti-oxidant properties and protects the liver and gall bladder from inflammation from toxins and their damaging free radicals.
If suffering from gall stones or obstruction of the bile duct that issue must be dealt with first so that toxins in toxic bile may flow freely away from the liver. Stone root and barberry may be of some use in such cases.
Even workers exposed to very damaging chemicals such as toluene and xylene for many years showed an increase in their liver function and efficiency when treated with milk thistle for 30 days.
There is mixed advice about whether it is suitable for mothers breastfeeding but in general detox herbs and programmes should be avoided while pregnant or breastfeeding in my view.
A tea may be made from a teaspoon of the dried leaves or 1 or 2 ml of a tincture. In all cases read the label for any special advice and in case of doubt ask a suitable healthcare professional.
Although Milk thistle focuses on the liver it is also reported to relieve piles, calm muscle spasms and help menstruation.
Photo Credit: The Ken Cook