Milk thistle tincture recipe, benefits and dosage – all you need to know


Milk thistle (Ostropest plamisty in Polish; Sylibum marianum in Latin) is an extremely popular herb recently. Its natural positions can be found in countries with a Mediterranean climate and in some regions of Asia, such as Pakistan and India. In Poland, it is a typically cultivated plant with very characteristic white spots on the leaves.

How to make milk thistle tincture? You will need 4 oz (120g) of milk thistle, grinded or crushed. Pour it into an airtight jar, add 2 cups (16 fl oz / 480 ml) 70% spirit, leave for 14 days in a warm and dark place. After this time, filter and keep in a dark and cool place, you can use it when needed.

Milk thistle fresh and tincture

Do you want to know more about milk thistle tincture? Keep reading – I will cover uses, benefits, dosage, contraindications and at the end of the article you can also find a list of equipment that might be useful (here link to my article about supplies) when you will be making a milk thistle tincture by yourself. I’m making tinctures from 2001 and have gathered and read dozens of books about them, so information that you will find in this article should be helpful 🙂

Where to buy milk thistle for tincture?

If you are not using fresh fruits you can find dried chokeberry on Amazon here – Starwest Botanicals Organic Milk Thistle Seed, 1 Pound.

Dried milk thistle

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Milk thistle tincture uses, what is it good for

The most important pharmacological activity of milk thistle is its beneficial effect on the liver. It supports cell regeneration and prevents collagen accumulation in them, thus inhibiting necrotic changes. In addition, it protects the liver against the effects of toxic agents by sealing cell membranes and inhibiting the penetration of toxins inside. Additionally, it works gently cholagogue. It is worth carrying out such a treatment (ground milk thistle is its most common form) after long-term antibiotic therapy, intoxication with alcohol or mushrooms, or after hepatitis. We owe this action to the presence of silymarin.

Milk thistle tincture benefits 

This tincture owes its beneficial properties to the presence of a complex of flavonolignans called silymarin. Milk thistle includes:

  • essential oil,
  • bitterness compounds,
  • sterols,
  • vitamin E,
  • sugars,
  • amines – histamine and tyramine.

The way to use milk thistle is therefore not limited to one method – it can be used in many different ways.

The fruit of milk thistle also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and reduces cholesterol synthesis and lipid oxidation, which is important in preventing the formation of atherosclerotic lesions. Studies show that taking silymarin also increases the regenerative capacity of the kidneys and prevents the breakdown of red blood cells. One of the compounds isolated from this plant – taxifolin probably has a beneficial effect in the treatment of osteoporosis.

Milk thistle tincture dosage

Most sources suggest using 15 drops of milk thistle tincture dissolved in tablespoon of boiled water 3 times a day. 

Milk thistle tincture recipe and preparation

Most often, it is recommended to obtain milk thistle fruit from proven sources, e.g. your own or a well-known garden. However, it is not a frequently occurring plant, so we are most often forced to buy the raw material in a herbal store. However, it is worth making sure before buying that it will come from an ecological source, where no harmful plant protection products have been used and the plant has not been excessively fertilized.

To prepare homemade milk thistle tincture, you should prepare 2 oz (60 g) of dried and crushed milk thistle seeds and 2 cups (16 fl oz / 480 ml) of pure 40% vodka. 

Milk thistle seeds should be placed in a sufficiently large airtight jar, next pour alcohol over them. Then you need to thoroughly mix the whole thing, close the jar carefully and set aside for 2-3 weeks in a warm and dark place. As with other tinctures, the jar should be shaken from time to time. After the maceration period is over, the herbal mass must be thoroughly squeezed into the liquid and then filtered through gauze or filter paper. Milk thistle tincture can be poured into one large dark glass bottle or several smaller ones.

Milk thistle tincture recipe without alcohol

Alcohol tinctures are probably the most potent way to get healing and balancing benefits of herbs for our use.

But if you can’t or don’t want to consume alcohol, or you should not give it to kids, as a substitute you can make a glycerin-based, alcohol-free herbal extract, also called an herbal glycerite. Such extract is not as strong or long-lasting as alcohol tinctures, but it takes only up to 3 days to make it.

Recipe to prepare milk thistle glycerite without alcohol: put 4 tablespoons of herbs in a jar, fill to the top with glycerine. Cover and put in a slow cooker (or Instant Pot with a slow cooker feature) that’s lined with a towel and filled with water — run on low for 3 days. After that remove and strain, keep in a dry and cool place in dark glass bottles.

Milk thistle tincture contraindications and side effects

As per webmd.com, in some people, taking milk thistle extract can cause diarrhea, nausea, intestinal gas, fullness, loss of appetite, and possibly headache.

Milk thistle may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae plant family. Members of this family include ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, and many others. If you have allergies, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking milk thistle.

Certain chemicals in milk thistle might lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. Dosing adjustments to diabetes medications might be necessary.

Milk thistle extracts might act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don’t use these tincture.

What type of alcohol is used for milk thistle tincture?

Most spirits used for drinking will work, but vodka or other grain alcohols that are at least 40% alcohol by volume work best. 

How long does milk thistle tincture last?

When stored in a cool, dry place, milk thistle tincture lasts at least three years, if not longer. If you use dark bottles, it will last longer because the light will not damage it. If your area is humid or hot several months out of the year, try storing it in the refrigerator during the hot and humid season.

Recommened edequipment – what you may need to have to make such tincture at home

I hope that you have found my article useful. Below I’ve gathered all items that I am using when making my tinctures, some of them, like airtight jars, are necessary, some are just handy, you do not need to have them all to be able to make a good tincture.  

recommended tincture equipment
Tincture equipment examples
  1. Airtight jars.
  2. Mortar for herbs – granite.
  3. Mortar for herbs – stainless steel.
  4. Funnels for filling bottles.
  5. Large bottles, dark glass.
  6. Medium bottles, dark glass.
  7. Small bottles with dropper, dark glass.
  8. Cloth for tincture filtering.
  9. Coffee filters for tincture filtering.
  10. Alcohol meter to check how strong is your vodka/spirit.
  11. Tincture press for better extraction.

    Here you can also find a more detailed post with list of equipment that might be useful.

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Damian from PolishTinctures
Best regards from Kraków!

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Other names of milk thistle

It is also known under such names: Artichaut Sauvage, Blessed Milk Thistle, Cardo Lechoso, Cardui Mariae Fructus, Cardui Mariae Herba, Carduus Marianum, Carduus marianus, Chardon Argenté, Chardon de Marie, Chardon de Notre-Dame, Chardon Marbré, Chardon-Marie, Épine Blanche, Holy Thistle, Lady’s Thistle, Lait de Notre-Dame, Legalon, Marian Thistle, Mariendistel, Mary Thistle, Our Lady’s Thistle, Shui Fei Ji, Silibinin, Silybe de Marie, Silybin, Silybum, Silybum marianum, Silymarin, Silymarine, St. Mary Thistle, St. Marys Thistle.

Sources: if you would like to check more info about the milk thistle here you can find a webmd.com article about it.

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