Ever wondered how to use milk thistle seeds?
They're incredibly versatile!
Here are 5 of our favorite ways to incorporate an antioxidant punch into any meal, plus the many benefits you stand to gain by doing so.
What Are Milk Thistle Seeds?
Milk thistle is a well-known herb that’s gaining popularity in natural medicine. The reason why is because of its versatile and potent active ingredient called silymarin, which is extracted from the seeds of this plant.
Silymarin is a flavonoid that studies have shown contain powerful antioxidant properties.
What Are the Benefits of Milk Thistle Seeds?
At face value, there seem to be several benefits of milk thistle seeds. Although the liver benefits of milk thistle are praised the most, there are several studies that suggest it can also lower the levels of cholesterol in the body and manage the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.
We always like to explain the “why” behind a plant’s benefit, so let’s take a closer look at how milk thistle seeds act within the body:
Benefits for your liver
- It has anti-inflammatory effects, which help prevent the progression of liver disease.
Milk thistle is an immunomodulating agent, meaning it boosts the ability of the immune system to fight diseases.
Silymarin has antifibrotic properties that help to prevent liver fibrosis.
Silymarin helps to prevent oxidative damage of the liver by harmful chemicals and toxins.
Milk thistle also has the ability to regenerate the liver, so it can help the liver heal itself in some cases.
Effects on cholesterol
- Milk thistle has been shown to cause weight loss in animal-based studies.
A 2006 study showed that milk thistle helped reduce the levels of cholesterol
Effects of milk thistle on type 2 diabetes
Milk thistle reduces insulin resistance and improves the symptoms of type 2 diabetes due to its potent antioxidant effects. Many conditions, including type 2 diabetes, are now being linked to oxidative stress, which if left unchecked, leads to oxidative damage.
Other benefits of milk thistle
- It improves respiratory symptoms in patients with asthma due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Studies have shown that it can limit the spread and progression of cancer.
- It helps prevent bone loss in patients who have estrogen deficiency such as in post-menopausal women.
How to Harvest Milk Thistle Seeds
Milk thistle is characteristically thorny. You might want to put on some protective gear like thick gardening gloves before you set out for harvesting.
The spines that are predominant in the leaves are prickly and can easily penetrate deep into your skin.
To determine if milk thistle seeds are ready to be picked, look for the pappus - the classic sign that milk thistle is ready for harvesting.
Pappi are white silvery seed heads that form when milk thistle flowers start drying out, usually at the end of the growing season around the months of May to July.
Here is a step-by-step process on how to do the harvesting:
Step 1: Cut off the pappus from the plant at the base of the flower head once you’re certain the flowers are dry.
Step 2: Dry the flower heads further by putting them in a clean paper bag or container and setting them in a warm location. It usually takes between 5 to 7 days for the flower heads to dry completely.
Step 3: Now that the flower heads have dried thoroughly, separate the seeds from the chaff by shaking the bag or container. You can also press on them with your hands to help separate.
Step 4: Separate the chaff further by winnowing – where you put a large bucket on the ground and pour the seeds into the bucket against the wind so that the wind blows away the chaff. If any chaff falls into the bucket, just pick them out by hand.
Step 5: Store the milk thistle seed in a container that’s airtight and put it in a cool place until ready for use.
Milk thistle plants typically yield up to 190 seeds per flower - that’s roughly 6350 seeds per plant!
5 Ways to Use Milk Thistle Seeds
1. Grind and Mix into Baked Goods
Milk thistle seeds can be easily ground and incorporated into baked dishes like bread. To do this, put the milk thistle seeds into a blender or a coffee grinder. Grind the seeds into a fine powder.
You can then sprinkle the powder onto your baked goods, use the powder to bake, and/or add some texture to burger patties or any other snack.
2. Serve up a smoothie
Just like in baked goods, you can add ground milk thistle seeds to your smoothies for a healthy and tasty breakfast. Here’s a delicious recipe, but know that this is super customizable. Just adjust to your taste buds!
Put about ½ cup of blueberries into a blender then add 1 banana and about 2 tablespoons of your favorite protein powder (or whatever the serving size of your powder may be).
You can then add powdered milk thistle seeds, nut milk, and a handful of mint leaves. Blend this mixture and puree until smooth. Serve and enjoy!
3. Sprinkle on salads
Adding raw milk thistle seeds to your salads instantly impacts the antioxidant value of your lunch. These seeds have an oily taste, are somewhat sweet, but can be bitter at the same time.
Although the taste is not unpleasant, some people don’t like it, so try it in small amounts until your taste buds adjust.
4. Make trail mix
You can make your own trail mix with milk thistle seeds. The best practice is to mix them with other healthy seeds like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flax seeds.
You can also add some roughly chopped nuts such as cashews, almonds, and walnuts. Dried fruit and raisins can also be added to the mixture to boost the flavor of your trail mix.
5. Brew as a coffee alternative
Milk thistle tea is warm and has significant cleansing properties. It’s an excellent alternative to coffee. You can buy pre-packaged milk thistle tea bags or make your own with seeds at home.
For a homemade brew from the seeds, crush the seeds in a mortar or coffee grinder until you obtain a fine powder. For every 1 tablespoonful of powdered milk thistle seeds, add about 3 cups of boiling water into a teapot.
Steep for about 20 minutes and strain the residue before you drink the tea. You can add a little honey to improve the taste.
Milk thistle seeds have incredible health benefits. They are not only easy to use but are also easy to cultivate, generating high yields per plant.
We love the protective benefits of milk thistle so much that we’ve incorporated it into a convenient, easy to use tincture that can be used for many applications. Check it out here!