I’ve been taking milk thistle seed for several weeks now. Thumbs up.

It’s been one of those herbs I’ve felt I’ve taken on faith. I’ve consumed plenty of it, recommended it to other people, but was never certain I’d actually FELT its effects.

I was studying my notes for the many iterations I’ve taken of Will Morris’ ‘Pulse Diagnosis for Western Herbalists’ class, trying to synthesize everything I’ve been taught on the topic into one coherent document. I was practicing reading my pulse over and over. Things change, move around. One thing stood out – strong on the superficial (chi) level, strong on the middle (blood) level and weak on the deep (organ) level. So what herbs do I think of when I think of strengthening the organs? Oh, my poor liver. So, milk thistle.

And so I decided this was my chance. Let’s see what happens when I focus on taking milk thistle long term. Let’s find out once and for all whether I can actually feel the difference and recommend it with real confidence. The answer? Yes.

For many years, my personal health indicator has been eczema on my hands. It’s like checking the health gauge of my body. How unwell am I right now? The palms of my hands will tell me. After a month of milk thistle, wow. Smooth, beautiful skin, like someone who doesn’t get eczema at all. In fact, the skin of my entire body looks smoother. But better yet, my mood! I’m prone to the kind of depression that comes from a backed up liver. It makes me want to intoxicate myself in order to stop feeling bad, which gets me in a cycle. And that has slipped away. I find myself somewhat despairing about the state of the world, but I can handle it. I feel motivated to move forward in my life’s purpose rather than tempted to hide in the haze of my cave, or having to waste energy on fighting that urge.

I looked up some science about milk thistle. It’s an incredibly well-researched herb and I knew that there were many studies. It’s got such strong liver protective qualities that it’s actually used in standard practice medicine – in emergency rooms – against mushroom poisoning. I looked at lots of studies where poor, innocent little rats were cut up in order to find out the molecular details of how it protects liver cell membranes. In summary, it helps keep liver cells alive longer, even when lots of poisons are coursing through the body. They’ve survived the onslaught, and the body doesn’t have to focus so much energy on making new liver cells or repairing damaged membranes. Then when things calm down, you’ve got a greater number of healthy liver cells to do the work that needs to get done. Many hands make light work.

Here’s a really interesting thing, though, that I hadn’t heard before. It has a similarly protective effect for the membranes of red blood cells. RBC’s are really interesting to me. For one thing, they aren’t actually true cells. They are cell fragments, in that they don’t have a nucleus. That means they have little capacity for self-repair. Most cells (like the liver cells I mentioned above) are constantly fixing themselves. Red blood cells are totally gonzo – they carry oxygen around in the blood circulation until they break, on average only a few months after they are made! But milk thistle helps them not break down so fast, so your body doesn’t have to work so hard to make new red blood cells. What a relief! A huge chi savings.

I was almost out of milk thistle seed, my experiment winding down. Checking my pulse, the difference is profound. There are other problems I can feel in there, but that deepest level is much stronger than before. So I bought more milk thistle seed. I checked to see if there are any precautions about taking it long term, and it looks for someone who is not allergic to it, the biggest problem is that it can change how prescription drugs are metabolized, what with the changes in liver function. So if I’m ever on pharmaceuticals, I’ll have to make sure I let the doc know that I take it. No problem. Milk thistle is in my life to stay.

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