Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle. (Edited transcript below from my You Tube video)

You may have this herb growing in your paddocks or in your garden. Brilliant, brilliant herb.

Traditionally, it’s been used to support the liver and I’ve had a few clients’ horses who have had liver problems. The liver was tested, and the results had shown enzyme elevation.

In these cases, the owners’ have given the horses milk thistle for a few months. Later, when they’ve had the horses tested again, the liver enzymes have gone right back down to normal.

Milk thistle can be used to help increase the flow of milk if the mare isn’t producing enough milk.  Fenugreek can be added too.

Milk thistle supports the kidneys as well as the liver.

It also has an anti-inflammatory action – probably not one of the main herbs I would choose for inflammation, but it does have an anti-inflammatory action.

It may be useful with laminitis because it helps to get rid of the endotoxins in the laminae and in the horse’s system.

Containing several active constituents, Milk thistle protects the liver by preventing the toxins entering into the livers’ cells and also stimulates and regenerates the damaged cells and increases the glutathione (antioxidant) by about 40% in the liver.

It also increases oxygen in the blood and helps to synthesize new protein which also helps regeneration which is what we’re talking about for laminitis.

Milk thistle has been known to increase the gastric enzyme secretion so it may be useful for digestive problems.

It may also be useful for allergies because it supports the liver.

I would use milk thistle if my horse had to have drugs. Maybe it’s been on antibiotics, Bute or something else from the vet. I would then follow up with milk thistle to support the liver that’s been working really hard to process drugs.

I’d also use milk thistle after worming my horses.

Milk thistle may be useful for hormonal mares because the liver is what is affected and therefore creates the imbalance of hormones in mares so it’s worth trying a little bit of powdered milk thistle; maybe in combination with other herbs which are helpful for hormones.

In Chinese medicine the liver meridian is very important tendons and ligaments, so you could support ligaments and tendons by feeding milk thistle.

I find the ground milk thistle seeds is really easy for the horse to digest. I take the whole seed, I pop it into the coffee grinder and then I put it into a jug, jar or bowl and pour boiling hot water over it; let it cool and pop that all in the horses feed. You could use the whole seed and just pour hot water over it to soften the seed and allow it to cool before adding it all to the feed.

How much would you feed? It depends on the size of the horse and what problem the horse has or whether you are just feeding it as a general liver support.

If your horse is sensitive to things always start with a pinch of the ground seed, but for average size horse half a tablespoon may be useful.

Remember that herbs are not to be used to replace veterinary advice.

If you want to know more about herbs for horses I have the Herbal Hoof and Leg available at, both as an ebook and the print version.  

Secret Recipes for Horses is also available on in ebook and print versions.

Wishing you and your horses all the very best of health and happiness!

Fiona Adams