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Milk Thistle Tea – Health Benefits, Side Effects & How to Make It

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Milk thistle tea is a popular herbal remedy used for many purposes from detoxing and curing hangovers to improving liver health.

It’s a centuries-old natural cure that contains silymarin, a unique and powerful ingredient with many research-backed benefits. Read this guide and learn what is milk thistle tea, how to make it, and what health benefits and possible side effects it has.

milk thistle tea benefits

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What is Milk Thistle Tea?

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a flowering annual or biennial plant that belongs to the same family (Asteraceae) as daisy flowers. It can grow up to 6 feet tall and produces red-purple flowers and large oblong-shaped leaves.

The name milk thistle comes from the milky liquid that emerges from the flowers and leaves of the plant when they are cut.

milk thistle
A flowering milk thistle plant

It’s a hardy plant that can survive in different types of climates. Native to the Mediterranian region it has later spread all over the globe. In addition to using the milk thistle plant for making tea, its roots and leaves can be eaten raw or boiled.

Milk thistle herbal tea is made by steeping the seeds and/or leaves the plant in freshly boiled water. This herbal tea is naturally caffeine-free and features a mild floral flavor with some natural sweetness.

Milk Thistle Tea Health Benefits

Humans have discovered the healing powers of the milk thistle plant thousands of years ago. In traditional medicines, it has been used for many purposes such as treating liver disease and stimulating breast milk production. The main beneficial compounds found in milk thistle belong to a flavonolignan complex called silymarin, which consists of seven different flavonolignans.

Silymarin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties. In addition to silymarin, milk thistle tea also contains other beneficial components including antioxidants and flavonols such as quercetin.

1. Liver Protection

Milk thistle is known for its liver-protective capabilities and has been used for treating many conditions including fatty liver, hepatitis, and liver cancer.

There is also research that backs up its ability to protect the liver. A study conducted on mice found that milk thistle improves diet-related liver damage. Another study recognizes its potential in treating patients with alcoholic cirrhosis.

Although these results look promising, more adequately conducted, and reported randomized clinical trials on human subjects are needed to validate milk thistles’ effectiveness in treating liver diseases.

2. Boosts Immune System

The antibacterial and antiviral properties of milk thistle may boost our immune system and help us fight many pathogens including the common cold and flu.

A study from 2015 found milk thistle to be effective in improving immune performance.

3. Increases Breast Milk Production

Milk thistle is known to be a galactagogue meaning that it promotes or increases lactation.

A placebo-controlled study conducted with 50 healthy women found that silymarin extracted from milk thistle increased breast milk production by 64% more compared to placebo. The study also concludes that it is a safe and effective herbal product for improving milk production.

4. Improves Insulin Resistance

According to recent research, silymarin can be useful in treating type-2 diabetes.

A study from 2018 found it to be effective in improving blood sugar levels and lipid profiles of type-2 diabetes patients.

5. Supports bone health

A study from 2013 indicates that milk thistle may be useful in improving bone health and preventing osteoporosis. The study found that it increased bone density and decreased bone loss in people suffering from estrogen deficiency-induced osteoporosis.

In addition to the benefits mentioned above milk thistle can also be used to treat common digestive problems such as bloating, constipation, and stomach cramps.

Its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components also support skin health and can prevent oxidative damage, which may help in the treatment of neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Here is a short video about the medicinal properties of milk thistle:

4 Potential Benefits of Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle Tea Side Effects

In general, milk thistle tea is considered safe. Even when high doses of milk thistle extract were consumed for long periods, only approximately 1% of the individuals experienced any side effects. The possible side effects are diarrhea, nausea, and other gut problems.

There are a few things to keep in mind when consuming milk thistle tea:

  • Allergies: Some people are allergic to the Asteraceae family of plants, and they should be careful with drinking milk thistle tea, as it might cause an allergic reaction.
  • Pregnancy: As with many other herbs and supplements, we can not be 100% sure that it is safe to consume milk thistle tea during pregnancy.
  • Breast/uterine cancer: Milk thistle may have estrogenic effects that can cause complications for individuals with breast or uterine cancer.

How to Make Milk Thistle Tea?

Preparing a cup of tasty and healthy milk thistle herbal tea with ground or crushed seeds or leaves of the plant is easy. If you have acquired whole seeds you need to crush them first.

I recommend adding some other herbs to make the tea even tastier and to get more health benefits. I usually mix milk thistle with peppermint, ginger, or licorice root, or why not all of them! You can also add some sweetener, such as organic honey if you prefer.

milk thistle seeds
Milk thistle seeds

From Seeds

Here are the instructions for preparing milk thistle tea from seeds:

  1. Take about 1 tablespoon of milk thistle seeds and crush them with mortar and pestle. You can skip this step if you have bought seeds that are already crushed/ground.
  2. Put the crushed seeds into a saucepan or a tea kettle, add 3 cups of water, and bring to boil. You can also add some additional ingredients at this stage.
  3. Remove from heat, cover, and let the tea steep for about 20 minutes.
  4. Pour into cups through a strainer. Enjoy!

From Leaves

You can also make milk thistle tea from the plant’s leaves.

Here is how to do it:

  1. Take 1 or 2 milk thistle leaves (fresh or dried) and chop with a knife. Place the chopped leaves in a kettle or teapot. Add other herbs and ingredients according to your preference.
  2. Pour 1 cup of freshly boiled water over the leaves and let steep for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Pour into a cup through a strainer and enjoy!
milk thistle with leaves
Milk thistle has large oblong-shaped leaves

Where to Buy Milk Thistle Tea?

The easiest way to obtain high-quality milk thistle for making tea is to order it online. You can also harvest wild milk thistle or grow it in your garden.

Harvest It

As mentioned earlier, milk thistle is quite common almost everywhere in the world, so much that in many places it’s considered an invasive species. This also means that you might be able to find wild milk thistle where you live. It grows mostly in areas that are sunny or lightly shaded and have dry and rocky soil.

You can also plant milk thistle in your garden. It is very easy to cultivate and grows well in most types of soil. However, you should remember that it is often considered a weed and it can spread easily. In some places growing it can be even illegal as it is being targeted for eradication.

You can harvest fresh milk thistle leaves and use them for making tea or dry them for later use. You can also harvest the more potent milk thistle seeds by cutting the flowers and drying them. If you are planning to grow and harvest milk thistle, or gather wild milk thistle, here is a guide with all the necessary information.

Buy Milk Thistle Tea Online

The most convenient way to prepare milk thistle tea is to buy milk thistle tea bags online. You can also buy loose milk thistle tea or a blend consisting of milk thistle and other herbs. Let me introduce my favorite milk thistle tea products.

Buddha Teas Organic Milk Thistle Tea Bags

Buddha Teas offers tea bags that contain organic and high-quality milk thistle seeds and leaves.

The Republic of Tea Organic Milk Thistle Superherb Detox Herbal Tea

This tasty detoxifying blend consists of organic milk thistle, organic orange peel, and natural grapefruit flavor. The air-tight tin contains 36 unbleached teabags.

The Republic of Tea is one of my favorite tea companies because their products always seem to be very tasty and excellent quality. This refreshing and fruity blend makes no exception, it’s just soo delicious!

Terravita Milk Thistle Herb Tea

Terravita offers a great quality milk thistle tea that comes in a 4-ounce bag. If you prefer to have your milk thistle tea in a loose form, this is the best option!

Experience the Benefits of Milk Thistle

Are you ready to try milk thistle tea and experience its healing powers? Go ahead and try one of the products introduced above.

If you decide to get the pure milk thistle tea, you can also experiment by adding other herbs in the mix. For example, start by adding some fresh peppermint leaves and maybe a bit of honey to sweeten it up.

Milk Thistle Tea FAQ

What are milk thistle tea benefits?

The most important science backed health benefits of milk thistle tea include liver protection and its ability to boost our immune system. It may also help in increasing breast milk production, supporting bone health, and improving insulin resistance, especially with type-2 diabetes patients.

Does milk thistle tea have any side effects?

In general, milk thistle tea is considered safe and only about 1% of people experience side effects that may include diarrhea, nausea, and other gut problems. Some people can also be allergic to the plant. Pregnant women and individuals with breast or uterine cancer should also avoid consuming any milk thistle products as they might cause some issues.

What is a good milk thistle recipe?

My favorite milk thistle recipe is a tea made with milk thistle seeds, peppermint, ginger, and licorice root. First, you can crush 1 tablespoon of milk thistle seeds with a mortar and pestle. Then add 3 cups of water, dried or fresh peppermint, ginger, and licorice, and bring the water to a boil. Simmer for about 10 to 20 minutes and strain into cups.

Enjoy your herbal tea and stay healthy!


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2 thoughts on “Milk Thistle Tea – Health Benefits, Side Effects & How to Make It”

  1. Hi,
    I was so amazed at the in-depth of your knowledge about milk thistle tea, thanks for the insight about how it can be helpful for nursing mothers. Can this tea help boost body immune system against COVID 19 too?

    • Hi Charles,

      Great to hear that you liked my article!

      Boosting your immune system can be beneficial against COVID 19. However, there is no evidence that milk thistle, or any other herb or medicine, would be effective against COVID 19.


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