Adding a few organic milk thistle seeds to your diet is an easy way to reap some of the benefits of milk thistle if you prefer not take it as a supplement. Milk thistle extracts have been successfully used to treat a number of health conditions, but if you just want a general daily health booster this level of potency may not be required. Munching a handful of milk thistle seeds is an excellent way to enjoy the health benefits of milk thistle in a natural, whole foods-focused way.
Benefits of Milk Thistle Seeds
Milk thistle seeds have been used medicinally for more than 2000 years to protect the liver and prevent illness. Modern science, taking note of this lengthy history,has studied the medicinal properties of milk thistle fairly extensively. The active component in milk thistle is a flavonoid-lignan compound known as silymarin. silymarin extracts have been examined for their antioxidant, detoxifying and anticancer properties. The National Cancer Institute details pre-clinical studies that have identified the following benefits to silymarin:
- Cell Protection: silymarin acts to protect body cells by strengthening cell walls, stimulating the production of enzymes to neutralize toxins and by acting as an antioxidant to prevent free radical damage.
- Liver Support: Several clinical trials have demonstrated the abilities of milk thistle seeds and silymarin to assist patients suffering from chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver and other liver disorders.
- Anti-Cancer: Medical scientists have paid a great deal of attention to silybin, the primary active compound in silymarin. In pre-clinical trials, this compound has been shown to enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs, reduce the harmful effects of the same treatments, and directly combat cancer cells in breast, colon, prostate and cervical tissues.
Most studies have focused on critically ill patients, and have used very potent milk thistle extracts. Healthy individuals probably don't require this level of treatment on a daily basis, but you might want to enjoy the protective benefits of milk thistle seeds as a healthful part of your daily diet. By choosing organic milk thistle seeds, you can be sure that you are not inadvertently ingesting any pesticide residues and that your seeds are from the same non-genetically modified stock that has been in use without ill effect for thousands of years.
How to Enjoy
Milk thistle is an introduced species in North America, most likely originally imported as a coffee substitute. Like coffee, milk thistle seeds have a mildly bitter taste that makes them unpalatable eaten plain. Unfortunately, because silymarin is not water-soluble, drinking tea made from the seeds is not the most effective way to enjoy milk thistle benefits. Instead, try one of the following easy ways to add a few teaspoons of milk thistle seeds to your diet daily:
- Sprinkle whole or ground seeds over salads, soups or sandwiches
- Add to smoothies or trail mix
- Sprout the seeds and use in place of lettuce or alfalfa sprouts
- Add to your favorite bread, muffin or cookie recipe.
Buying Organic Milk Thistle Seeds
Despite the established health benefits, milk thistle seeds are not likely to make an appearance on your grocery store shelves. Check natural food stores, whole food markets or organic seed companies. To buy online, try one of these retailers:
- Mountain Rose Herbs: Carries certified organic whole milk thistle seeds as well as a ground variety.
- Oregon's Wild Harvest: Sells organic, non-GMO seed.
- Nuts Online: Organic seeds shipped throughout the United States and Canada.
Start by adding a small amount of seeds to your favorite dishes to see how you tolerate them in terms of digestion and palatability, then increase your intake over time. However you choose to enjoy them, you are sure to benefit from adding a few organic milk thistle seeds to your diet each day.