How to Make Milk Thistle Extract

Milk thistle extract or tincture can easily be made on your own kitchen counter instead of spending a ridiculous amount of money from a specialty store. When made and stored properly the extract should be shelf stable for at least two years. In my experience, it remains potent for a minimum of five years.

One of the primary and most vital active ingredients in milk thistle is silymarin. When an extract is made from this edible and medicinal plant, the silymarin, a flavonoid, is extracted.

milk thistle extract

It is believed to boast antioxidant properties that may help treat liver problems, cirrhosis, kidney and spleen issues, help with weight loss, help with insulin resistance, and skin rashes.

The Difference Between an Extract and a Tincture

Basically, the difference between making an extract and a tincture is the amount of natural matter – or herbs, infused in alcohol or glycerin that is being used in the infusion recipe.

To make an extract with the milk thistle, mix it in equal parts with the alcohol or glycerin. When making a milk thistle tincture, use 1 part natural matter to three parts alcohol or glycerin.

The seeds from the milk thistle flower cones are used to make the extract. Once they are crushed, the silymarin is released through the cracks in the seed shell. Milk thistle tea can also be used in this manner, but will not be as potent.

How Is Milk Thistle Extract Used?

In addition to being used to treat boils, skin rashes, and as a wound wash, milk thistle is becoming a common ingredient in many beauty products. If you make any of the items on the list below, simply add ¼ to a ½ of a teaspoon of the extract to the recipe to help prevent chapped skin, promote cell growth, and foster healing.

  • Lip balm
  • Moisturizing cream or mask
  • Anti-itch ointment
  • Shaving lotion
  • Burn ointment
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Sore muscle salve or oil
milk thistle extract
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4 from 1 vote

Milk Thistle Extract Recipe


  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 cup 100 proof alcohol I use vodka
  • ¾ to 1 cup milk thistle seeds ground if possible


  • Sterilize the Mason jar being used by placing it in boiling water for approximately 10 minutes, or by placing it on the rack in the oven at about 250 degrees for 15 minutes.
  • Pour all of the ingredients in a Mason jar.
  • Place a new lid on the jar, and screw it in place firmly with a ring.
  • Shake the jar vigorously for about 1 minute.
  • Put the jar in a cool dark place for five weeks.
  • Shake the jar daily to ensure the milk thistle seeds do not float to the top, and get fully infused with the alcohol and water.
  • At the end of the designated number of weeks, strain the milk thistle away from the liquid through a fine mesh strainer – keeping the liquid. If you do not have a fine mesh strainer, use a small colander and/or line a colander with several coffee filters to decrease the size of the openings.


How to Make Milk Thistle Extract

If the liquid level in the jar drops lower than the milk thistle seeds, check the lid and ring to make sure it is completely sealed. Add enough 100 proof alcohol to fill the jar above the seed level again. If a situation like this occurs, add 1 more week onto the processing time.

The scientific studies regarding the uses and benefits of milk thistle are not conclusive and remain ongoing. I am not a medical professional of any type, and am sharing information about how to make milk thistle extract based upon my personal experience for educational and entertainment purposes only.

Always check with your doctor before embarking on a natural remedy routine. Simply because nature provides the ingredients does not mean they are safe for everyone to use.

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5 thoughts on “How to Make Milk Thistle Extract”

    1. I had the same question. I thought the addition of water would just dilute it and make it a tincture instead of an extract.

    1. 4 stars
      I have read (In “The Science of Skinny,” by Dee McCaffrey, CDC) that silymarin, the active ingredient in milk thistle, is not water soluble and must be extracted using alcohol.

  1. No, of course it isn’t. With serious liver conditions, it is recommended to use capsules of the ground herb. However, for most people, the small amount of alcohol in the dropper is fine…. it only amounts to the same amount as the alcohol in a ripe banana.

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