Milk thistle is an herb that offers some benefits, such as promoting liver and heart health. While others consider the plant an invasive weed, preppers know that milk thistle is useful when turned into a potent extract. (h/t to SurvivalSullivan.com)
Health benefits of milk thistle
Some studies also suggest that milk thistle helps promote liver and heart health.
It helps boost liver health
Milk thistle is often used to address liver problems.
In a 2016 study, scientists discovered that milk thistle improved diet-induced liver damage in mice. Researchers theorize that humans can also reap the same benefits since milk thistle contains an active ingredient called silymarin that functions as an antioxidant and helps reduce free radical production.
According to the researchers, silymarin had a detoxifying effect linked to milk thistle’s benefits for liver problems. While milk thistle isn’t recommended as a primary treatment option for liver problems, it can be helpful as a natural and complementary treatment.
It can help lower your cholesterol levels
Having high cholesterol may cause problems with heart health and increase your stroke risk.
The results of a 2006 study revealed that milk thistle can be used to naturally manage cholesterol levels. Scientists reported that cholesterol levels were lower in the volunteers who were given milk thistle to treat diabetes than those who received a placebo.
How to use milk thistle extract
While you can buy milk thistle extract from a specialty store, it’s better to learn how to make it at home to save money and avoid harmful chemicals in store-bought products. (Related: Urban prepping 101: How to grow medicinal herbs in an apartment.)
When made and stored properly, the extract should be shelf-stable for one to two years and it can remain potent for a minimum of five years.
Findings suggest that silymarin in milk thistle has antioxidant properties that offer benefits when used to treat cirrhosis and liver problems, along with kidney and spleen issues. Silymarin can also help with weight loss, insulin resistance and skin conditions like rashes.
Making milk thistle extract and tincture
To make milk thistle extract, you need to mix it in equal parts with alcohol or glycerin. If you need to make a milk thistle tincture, you need one part natural matter (herbs) to three parts alcohol or glycerin.
Use seeds from the milk thistle flower cones to make the extract. Once the seeds are crushed, the silymarin is released through cracks in the seed shell.
You can also use milk thistle tea in this manner, but it’s not as potent as the extract.
Milk thistle extract can be used to treat boils, skin rashes, or as a wound wash. To make any of the items on the list below, add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of the extract to the recipe to prevent chapped skin, promote cell growth and promote faster healing.
- Anti-itch ointment
- Burn ointment
- Lip balm
- Moisturizing cream or mask
- Shaving lotion
- Sore muscle salve or oil
Milk thistle extract recipe
- 1 Cup of lukewarm water
- 1 Cup of 100 proof alcohol (You can use vodka.)
- 3/4 to 1 cup of milk thistle seeds, ground if possible
- Sterilize the Mason jar by placing it in boiling water for approximately 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can place the jar on the rack in your oven at about 250 F for 15 minutes.
- Pour all of the ingredients into the Mason jar. Place a new lid on the jar then screw it in place firmly with a ring.
- Shake the jar vigorously for at least one minute.
- Set the jar aside in a cool, dark place for five weeks. Shake the jar once a day and make sure the milk thistle seeds don’t float to the top. This will also fully infuse the seeds with the alcohol and water.
- After five weeks, strain the milk thistle away from the liquid using a fine-mesh strainer and keep the liquid. You can also use a small colander or line a colander with several coffee filters to decrease the size of the openings.
- If the liquid level in the jar drops lower than the milk thistle seeds, check if the lid and ring are completely sealed. Add enough 100 proof alcohol to fill the jar above the seed level again. If you experience this, add one more week for the processing time.
If you’re not used to taking milk thistle extract, consult your physician to check for possible drug or allergic interactions.
Once you’ve confirmed that you can safely take milk thistle extract, use it to naturally treat liver conditions and maintain your heart health.
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