milk thistle

Milk Thistle Power Unleashed: Unlocking the 6 Science-Based Health Benefits

Milk Thistle Power Unleashed: Unlocking the 6 Science-Based Health Benefits

This article will thoroughly explore the benefits of milk thistle, also known as the herbal miracle.

People always look for a perfect “supplement” that promises to do wonders for their health. They want a magic bullet of herbs and remedies for whatever afflicts them. But are those miracle remedies really backed by science? And is their efficacy a hit or miss?

Take, for example, milk thistle has sparked curiosity about its potential benefits. Healers around the world have used it for centuries. But is there any scientific evidence to support its use? Is it a truly safe remedy that delivers on its health claims?

Let’s discuss the insights and uncover the truth behind milk thistle’s allure!

What is Milk Thistle?

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a flowering herb native to Europe and Mediterranean countries. It’s related to daisies and ragweed and is distinguished by purple flowers and spiky leaves. Herbalists have traditionally used it for liver and gallbladder issues.

The active ingredient in it is silymarin (65–80% of plant extract). It’s a flavonoid with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Milk thistle is available as an oral capsule, extract, and tablet. People use it as a supplement to maintain optimal health. The plant’s compounds work synergistically to contribute to therapeutic effects.

Health Benefits + Research Evidence

1. Blood Sugar Level Regulation

Milk thistle is a useful complementary support to improve glycemic control and manage optimum blood sugar levels.

study showed its potential for lowering insulin resistance. Decreased fasting insulin levels help protect against diabetes. 

2. Liver Protection

Milk thistle is often promoted for its protective liver benefits. It can be used as an additional support against liver damage due to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, alcoholic liver disease, hepatitis and liver cancer. 

For people with NAFLD, milk thistle helps reduce the levels of liver enzymes alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST).

It is also beneficial against amatoxin, a liver toxin from the death cap mushroom. If ingested, it can be deadly. Milk thistle can also help reduce liver inflammation.

3. Helps Reduce Inflammation

The anti-inflammatory properties of milk thistle are believed to help with chronic inflammation in conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis.

A 2022 study indicated that silymarin can suppress inflammation and regulate cytokines (proteins involved in the body’s inflammatory response).

4. Managing Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome involves a group of conditions that increase the possibility of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. 

There is some evidence that milk thistle extract can help decrease haemoglobin A1C, total cholesterol, blood glucose levels, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. It can then protect against the metabolic syndrome effects.

5. Acne Control

Acne is an anti-inflammatory skin condition caused by oxidative stress and other reasons that may lead to scarring. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of milk thistle can be useful for people with acne.

study indicated a 53% decrease in acne lesions in people with acne who took 210mg of silymarin daily for eight weeks. However, the research in this area is limited, and more data is needed for conclusive evidence.

6. Bone Health

Several studies in animal models suggest the use of milk thistle to strengthen bones. It stimulates bone mineralization and is a useful therapy for delaying bone loss. However, the effectiveness is unclear due to minimal studies on humans.

Safety and Side Effects

Risks: Milk thistle may trigger allergic reactions in people who are allergic to artichokes, marigolds, ragweed, kiwis, daisies, and chrysanthemums. It also alters blood sugar, so people with diabetes and endometriosis should consult a doctor before taking it. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also check with a doctor before usage.

Side Effects: Milk thistle is usually safe when taken by mouth. However, long-term use may lead to diarrhoea, intestinal gas, fullness, loss of appetite, nausea, and possibly headache.

Interactions: If you take medications, consult your doctor before using milk thistle. It can interact with medicines that treat high cholesterol, insomnia, infections, diabetes, and blood pressure. Avoid it if you have breast cancer, endometriosis, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, or uterine fibroids.

How to Add Milk Thistle to Your Routine?

The supplement milk thistle is available in capsule or pill form. It is formed from an extract of milk thistle seeds that contain active ingredients. Some people also use the plant’s stem and leaves in salad.

There is no specific milk thistle dosage, and the well-tolerated range is up to 700 mg. It varies depending on the manufacturer because the products are standardized based on their silymarin content, which usually ranges between 70% and 80%. Standardized herbal extracts ensure consistent levels of active ingredients, offering predictable efficacy, quality control, and regulatory compliance in a single product. Milk thistle is safe to take daily, and digestive side effects are minimal. It’s also safe when applied to the skin for small intervals.

Summing Up

The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of milk thistle make it a good herbal support to be used as a supplement. It’s safe to use and well-tolerated when taken moderately. Utilize it as a dietary preventive supplement to promote overall health and vitality.

Dietary supplements and herbal medicines are minimally regulated by the FDA and may not be appropriate for everyone. The information provided here is for informational purposes and not a substitute for medical advice. Consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new remedy for professional and personalized advice. 

Supporting Research

  • Achufusi TGO, Patel RK. Milk Thistle. [Updated 2022 Sep 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541075/
  • Abenavoli, L., Capasso, R., Milic, N., & Capasso, F. (2010). Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future. Phytotherapy research : PTR24(10), 1423–1432. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.3207
  • Ward, J., Kapadia, K., Brush, E., & Salhanick, S. D. (2013). Amatoxin poisoning: case reports and review of current therapies. The Journal of emergency medicine44(1), 116–121. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jemermed.2012.02.020
  • Vargas-Mendoza, N., Madrigal-Santillán, E., Morales-González, A., Esquivel-Soto, J., Esquivel-Chirino, C., García-Luna Y González-Rubio, M., Gayosso-de-Lucio, J. A., & Morales-González, J. A. (2014). Hepatoprotective effect of silymarin. World journal of hepatology6(3), 144–149. https://doi.org/10.4254/wjh.v6.i3.144
  • Achufusi TGO, Patel RK. Milk Thistle. [Updated 2022 Sep 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541075/
  • Bosch-Barrera, J., Queralt, B., & Menendez, J. A. (2017). Targeting STAT3 with silibinin to improve cancer therapeutics. Cancer treatment reviews58, 61–69. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctrv.2017.06.003
  • Kazazis, C. E., Evangelopoulos, A. A., Kollas, A., & Vallianou, N. G. (2014). The therapeutic potential of milk thistle in diabetes. The review of diabetic studies : RDS11(2), 167–174. https://doi.org/10.1900/RDS.2014.11.167
  • Effects of Oral Antioxidants on Lesion Counts Associated with Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Patients with Papulopustular Acne. (n.d.). https://www.longdom.org/open-access/effects-of-oral-antioxidants-on-lesion-counts-associated-with-oxidative-stress-and-inflammation-in-patients-with-papulopustular-acne-2155-9554.1000163.pdf
  • Kim, J. L., Kim, Y. H., Kang, M. K., Gong, J. H., Han, S. J., & Kang, Y. H. (2013). Antiosteoclastic activity of milk thistle extract after ovariectomy to suppress estrogen deficiency-induced osteoporosis. BioMed research international2013, 919374. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/919374
Share
You Might Like
Close