by Elizabeth Seward – Staff Writer
Milk thistle, an annual or biennial purple flowering plant that is in the daisy and sunflower family (Asteraceae), is known by many names. If you haven’t heard it referred to as milk thistle, perhaps you have heard it referred to by its scientific name, silybum marianum, or one of its other common names: Marian Thistle, blessed milk thistle, Mary Thistle, Scotch thistle, Mediterranean milk thistle, variegated thistle, cardus marianus, or Saint Mary’s Thistle.
Regardless of what you call it, milk thistle is now found throughout the world and the ripe seeds are often used medicinally. The active ingredient found in the seeds is silymarin. The seed of milk thistle has been used medicinally for thousands of years.
Although milk thistle is used for treating various ailments, which include type II diabetes, liver cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, obsessive compulsive disorder, Hepatitis C, and heart disease among others, one of the most common uses for milk thistle is hangover prevention. The milk thistle tincture is bitter and has been credited as a hangover cure. The idea is that milk thistle, especially when taken before drinking begins but also as late as the morning after drinking, helps the body’s organs to eliminate toxins following an episode of heavy drinking.
What Does The Research On Milk Thistle And Hangover Say?
The available scientific research on milk thistle demonstrates that milk thistle is effective in cleansing the liver via preventing and repairing damage done to the liver. Research has shown that taking milk thistle daily for 30 days increases overall liver function. Whether the liver has been damaged by chemotherapy or alcohol consumption or something else entirely seems as though it might be irrelevant – milk thistle seems to do a good job at restoring the liver regardless of the cause of damage. A Telegraph writer compared a few different hangover cures and thought milk thistle was the most effective one.
Other Ways To Prevent Hangover
If you want to keep a hangover at bay after a night of drinking, taking milk thistle before you drink or after will likely help you to feel better and at least experience reduced hangover symptoms. However, you can also reduce your risk of hangover through:
Drinking water – a good rule of thumb is to have one glass of water for every drink you consume. You can also make a point to order drinks that have ice (“on the rocks”) so that the ice melts and dilutes your drink, keeping you slightly more hydrated than if you hadn’t ordered ice with your drink.
Avoiding carbonated beverages – researchers have discovered that when carbonated beverages, like soda, are used as mixers that the rate of alcohol absorption in the blood is increased. Consider mixing your drink with juice or water instead or at least spacing your carbonated mixed drinks out a bit more.
Drinking clear liquor – congeners are the chemicals that give an alcohol its specific taste, smell, and color. Research has shown that darker liquors, like bourbon, tend to have many more congeners than lighter liquors, like vodka. Cheap liquors also tend to have more congeners than expensive liquors. These rules have exceptions, of course, but steering toward lighter-colored and more expensive booze is probably a good idea.