Wine pros swear by it
Milk thistle has been a staple in many a wine connoisseur's cabinet for years. British wine critic Jancis Robinson (she picks out wines for the Queen's cellar!), whose new book The 24-Hour Wine Expert comes out in September, has been touting the herb's magical liver-healing benefits since she first wrote about it on her website in 2001. "I take it regularly when I have a heavy day’s tasting or a heavy night's feasting," she says. And while she acknowledges that some of milk thistle's power may be the placebo effect at work, she definitely notices a difference.
"It may or may not be fanciful, but I do think I feel much less affected by the after-effects of alcohol (let's not use the H-word) when I take milk thistle," she adds. "My co-author of Wine Grapes, José Vouillamoz in Switzerland, is a professional specialist in medicinal plants, and has not uncovered any evidence to contradict taking it to stave off the harmful effects of toxins such as alcohol."
It helps undo some of the damage
Drinking in abundance isn't great for your credit card bill or Tinder correspondence, but it's downright garbage for your liver. Enter milk thistle to help undo some of that booze-induced damage.
"The active ingredient of milk thistle, silymarin, helps to improve liver function tests by acting as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in the hepatic cells," says Dr. Westin Childs. "It also helps the liver metabolize toxic compounds, lowering the damage to liver cells in the process."
Although it's helpful, Dr. Childs adds it's not a cure-all; it doesn't reduce all of the damage from drinking in excess. "It can help heal the process once the person has quit drinking, but by itself is not enough to counteract all of the effects of the alcohol," he notes, though if you're trying to go on a serious detox, you may just want to add milk thistle.
The Germans recommend it for liver protection
Beer is essentially water for the Germans, according to the stereotypes, which are always true. Suffice it to say that people drink lots of it over in Deutschland. Luckily, Germany's Commission E, which is roughly equivalent to the Food & Drug Administration in the United States, is ahead of the game. It recommends milk thistle to treat liver toxicity, and if milk thistle is good enough for ze Germans, it's damn well good enough for you.
The National Cancer Institute says it protects the liver
Right here in the good ol' United States, the National Cancer Institute claims that silymarin "protects against cell damage and stimulates repair of liver tissue." So popping some milk thistle on the reg could act like a shield on your poor, poor liver.