milk thistle

Milk Thistle. The Ultimate Detoxifying Agent. Unlock Body’s True Potential.

Updated: 12/6/23

Do you want to unlock your body’s full potential through detoxifying? Milk thistle may be exactly what you are looking for! As one of the oldest known herbal remedies dating back to Ancient Greek times, this power herb is considered a “safe haven” by many health conscious individuals. Bursting with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, milk thistle can help rid your body of toxic contaminants as it boosts cellular healing and metabolic capacity – allowing you to feel re-energized throughout the day. Not only that, the plant’s active ingredients have been shown to support healthy liver function and regulate cholesterol levels. Read on for more about this amazing superfood supplement that could open up a whole new realm of health optimization!

What is Milk Thistle?

The scientific name for milk thistle is Silybum marianum, and it is a flowering plant that belongs to the daisy family. The plant has a spiky, thistle-like appearance, with purple flowers and green leaves that have white veins running through them. The active ingredient in milk thistle is silymarin, which is a flavonoid complex made up of several different compounds. Silymarin is in the seeds of the milk thistle plant and is responsible for many of its health benefits.

Milk thistle is native to the Mediterranean region but can now be growing in many parts of the world, including North America, South America, and Australia. It prefers to grow in warm, dry conditions and is often found growing wild in fields, meadows, and along roadsides. Today, milk thistle grows commercially in many parts of the world, including the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Milk thistle has a long and useful history. For over 2,000 years, its healing properties have an admiration. Dioscorides, a Greek doctor, first described it back in 40 A.D. His written record includes milk thistle as a remedy for snakebite. It was also a common remedy in the Middle Ages for various liver problems.

In the 16th century, John Gerard wrote about its benefits for depression and emotional problems. Years later, a famous herbalist and doctor named Nicolas Culpeper mentioned milk thistle as an aid for “unblocking” the liver and curing jaundice. It has been a long-time remedy for liver and gallbladder dysfunction and was also employed to combat snake or mushroom poisoning and alcohol abuse symptoms. Milk thistle can even ward off varicose veins, menstruation problems, kidney and spleen conditions.

What Can Milk Thistle Do?

Milk thistle is a powerful herb that has been used for centuries to promote liver health and protect against various illnesses. This herb contains a potent antioxidant known as silymarin, which offers numerous health benefits and helps to combat oxidative stress in various organs. Milk thistle has been used traditionally to improve liver function and treat liver conditions such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, and fatty liver. However, this herb also has other powerful health benefits beyond liver health that you may not know about.

Milk Thistle Extract & Silymarin

Silymarin, found within the seeds, contains active agents that become concentrated in milk thistle extract. Some research has concluded that the silymarin may:

  • Cause liver cells to be less penetrable to toxins and drug poisoning
  • Stop hepatitis C cells from multiplying
  • Increase the regeneration of the liver by promoting DNA and RNA production
  • Disable free radicals
  • Increase glutathione (an important antioxidant) levels
  • Reduce inflammatory elements
  • Increase anti-inflammatory defenses
  • Stop tumor growth by triggering cancer-fighting cells

There are some challenging issues with silymarin, however. Silymarin is three main elements — silybin, silidianin and silychristine. Silybin is the most active component, but it manifests poor solubility in water, which inhibits its effectiveness. Stomach acid can also depress its active ingredients, making it unusable in the gut.

Researchers are exploring ways to give silybin a longer, more useful lifespan. Combining silybin with other flavonoids, fats or proteins may increase its absorption rate. Taking silybin in combination with berberine or vitamin E may enhance its power as well. Trials are ongoing to maximize the potential of the silybin — that lies within the silymarin — that is present within the milk thistle extract.

Milk Thistle Extract Benefits

Milk thistle extract has a long list of benefits for its users. Some applications are proven, while others are just now being studied with hopeful possibilities.

Promotes Liver Health

Milk thistle is perhaps best known for its liver-protective properties. It contains a group of active compounds known as silymarin, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the liver. Studies show that silymarin can help reduce liver damage caused by toxins, alcohol, and certain medications, and improve liver function in those with chronic liver disease and other liver-related conditions. By taking milk thistle extract, you can support your liver’s natural detoxification processes and keep this vital organ functioning at its best.

Supports Digestive Health

In addition to its liver-protective properties, milk thistle also has a number of digestive benefits. It can help reduce inflammation in the gut and improve digestion, making it a useful supplement for relieving symptoms of bloating, gas, and other digestive discomforts. Additionally, some studies suggest that milk thistle extract may aid in the management of inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.

Supports Brain Health

Milk thistle extract shows to be beneficial for brain health. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties help protect from age-related cognitive decline and oxidative stress. Milk thistle may also help improve brain function by reducing inflammation in the brain.

Antioxidant Properties

Milk thistle contains a powerful antioxidant called silymarin, which shows to have numerous health benefits. Silymarin helps protect the liver from damage by neutralizing harmful free radicals that can cause oxidative stress. It also helps reduce inflammation throughout the body and can help prevent chronic diseases such as liver disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Anti-inflammatory Properties

Chronic inflammation is a major contributor to many chronic diseases, including arthritis, heart disease, and cancer. Milk thistle shows to have potent anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation throughout the body. Its anti-inflammatory properties help reduce the risk of chronic diseases and can also improve overall health.

Fights Inflammation and Oxidative Stress

Inflammation and oxidative stress are two of the biggest contributors to chronic disease, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Milk thistle extract shows to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, making it an effective supplement for reducing inflammation and oxidative stress throughout the body. This can help protect your cells from damage, improve your immune system, and lower your risk of chronic disease.

Improves Cholesterol Levels

Recent studies have shown that milk thistle can help to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. This herb lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and increases HDL (good) cholesterol levels. This can help to improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Regulates Blood Sugar

Milk thistle extract is an effective supplement for regulating blood sugar levels in the body. It can improve insulin resistance and reduce blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Silymarin helps the pancreas to produce more insulin, reducing the amount of glucose in the bloodstream.

Supports Skin Health

Milk thistle extract may also have benefits for your skin. It contains compounds that can help protect your skin from damage caused by UV radiation and other environmental factors. Additionally, milk thistle shows to have anti-aging effects, helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and keep your skin looking young and healthy.

Boosts Immune System Function

Milk thistle extract may help support your immune system function. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects can help strengthen your immune system and reduce your risk of infections and other illnesses. Additionally, some studies suggest that milk thistle extract may have anticancer properties, making it a potentially useful supplement for those at risk of developing cancer.

Cancer Fighting Properties

Finally, some research has shown that milk thistle may have anticancer properties. According to several studies, the herb’s active compound, silymarin, may help slow down the growth of cancer cells in the skin, breast, prostate, and other organs. While more research needs to be in this area, milk thistle shows great promise as a complementary treatment for cancer patients.

milk thistle benefits

Milk Thistle Extract Side Effects

Stomach Upset 

One of the most common side effects of milk thistle extract is stomach upset. This usually manifests in the form of nausea, diarrhea, or bloating. This is due to the fact that milk thistle extract stimulates the production of bile, which can sometimes irritate the stomach lining. To avoid this side effect, start with a small dose and gradually increase it over time.

Allergic Reactions

Some people may experience an allergic reaction when taking milk thistle extract. This can cause symptoms such as itching, hives, rashes, and difficulty breathing. If you notice any of these symptoms, stop taking it immediately and seek medical help.


In some cases, milk thistle extract can cause headaches. This is usually due to the fact that it’s a potent detoxifier. As toxins are released from the body, they can sometimes trigger headaches or migraines. If you experience headaches when taking it, try reducing your dosage or taking it at a different time of day.

Hormonal Effects

In large doses, milk thistle extract can affect hormonal balance. Balance of hormones is important to maintain ideal health, as it helps with the growth, repair, and regulation of bodily systems. Consumption of it in large doses can lead to changes in hormone levels in the body, which may affect the menstrual cycle or lead to the development of breast tissue in men.

Lowered Blood Sugar 

It has been famous to lower blood sugar levels. This can be beneficial for people with diabetes but can also be dangerous for those who have low blood sugar. If you have diabetes, it’s important to monitor your blood sugar levels closely when taking the extract. If you have low blood sugar, it’s best to avoid milk thistle extract altogether.

Interactions with Medications 

It can interact with certain medications, so it’s important to speak with your doctor before taking it. Some of the medications that can experience affection by milk thistle extract include statins, anti-anxiety drugs, and blood thinners. If you’re taking any medications, it’s best to consult with your doctor before adding milk thistle extract to your regimen.

Liver Damage

Ironically, the supplement is in use to improve liver function can also lead to liver damage when taken in large doses. This may occur if the supplement is in use on a long-term basis. Also it is important to note that extract cannot be in use to treat liver diseases in moderate and high doses.

Can Milk Thistle be Harmful?

It is as a safe and gentle herb. Even so, anyone with allergies or who is pregnant or nursing should avoid taking it. Milk thistle is also not a recommendation for children, as there is not enough data on its safety. For the most part, however, milk thistle has a well-toleration by adults and has few side effects. That being said, it’s still important to consult your healthcare provider before taking any supplements, especially if you have a history of liver or kidney disease or take other medications.

Some studies have suggested that high doses of milk thistle may cause harm to the liver. However, these studies are a limitation and inconclusive, as high doses are rarely in use in clinical settings. In fact, milk thistle is often used in clinical settings to treat liver diseases such as cirrhosis and hepatitis, and many healthcare providers regard it as a safe, effective treatment option. However, it’s important to note that milk thistle should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment if you have a liver condition.

Is Milk Thistle Good For Your Liver?

Numerous studies have shown that milk thistle has a protective effect on the liver and can help prevent liver damage caused by toxins, alcohol, and medications. It also promotes liver cell regeneration and stimulates the production of bile, a crucial digestive fluid that helps us digest fats and absorb fat-soluble vitamins.

Can Milk Thistle Help Kidneys?

Milk thistle, also known as Silybum Marianum, is a flowering plant that has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. Its active ingredient, silymarin, is a powerful antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation. Studies have shown that silymarin can benefit kidney health by protecting them against oxidative stress and inflammation. Additionally, it may also help to reduce the risk of kidney damage caused by certain medications such as antibiotics or chemotherapy drugs.

It can also help to lower blood sugar levels, which is important for individuals with diabetes. High blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels in the kidneys, leading to kidney damage or even failure. A study published in the Journal of Renal Nutrition found that silymarin supplementation can significantly reduce blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

Furthermore, milk thistle has diuretic properties, which means that it can increase urine production and help to flush out toxins and waste products from the body. This can be beneficial for individuals with kidney problems as it reduces the workload on the kidneys and helps to keep them healthy.

Who Should Not Take Milk Thistle

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid it because there is not enough evidence to confirm its safety during these periods. If you are allergic to ragweed or related plants such as daisies, marigolds, or chrysanthemums, you may be at risk of developing an allergic reaction to milk thistle.  Milk thistle can interact with some prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including blood thinners, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, statins, and chemotherapy agents. If you are planning to have surgery, you should avoid taking it beforehand because it can increase the risk of bleeding. It has not been adequately studied in children under 18 years old, so its safety and effectiveness in this population are not established.


Milk thistle, even if in use daily, seems to be harmless for many. It comes in the form of an oral capsule, tablet, tincture, powder, liquid extract or IV solution. Doses are usually divided into three parts, spread out throughout the day. Taking it with fat or oil may increase its effectiveness. Dosage of the extract varies according to the health condition and should be given under the advice of a health professional.

  • Many people take a typical dose of less than 420 mc / day, which is divided into two or three doses
  • Patients with liver disease may take a dosage of 1.3 g per day for 6-8 weeks, with 280 mg / day to maintain good liver health
  • For viral hepatitis, some people take 2.1 g per day
  • In people with serious liver damage, an oral extract is ideal
  • In cancer patients, the top recommended dose was 13 g/ day
  • High doses are by way of IV solution for cases of mushroom poisoning
  • Consult your health practitioner for best recommended dosages

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The Bottom Line

While milk thistle is generally safe and has  well-toleration, it is not suitable for everyone. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, people allergic to ragweed, those on certain medications, individuals undergoing surgery, and children under 18 should avoid taking milk thistle. If you have any doubts or concerns, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional before starting any new supplement or treatment. Remember that your health is your priority, and you deserve the best care possible!

As you can see, milk thistle is a powerful herb that can provide many benefits for your overall health and wellbeing. Whether you’re struggling with liver disease, skin issues, digestive problems, or just looking to support your immune system and lower your cholesterol levels, milk thistle may be able to help. So why not give this natural remedy a try and see how it can help you feel your best? With its long history of use in traditional medicine and modern research to back it up, milk thistle is certainly worth considering as a way to support your health naturally.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease

Author: Ryan Quigley
Graduate of Longwood University in Virginia. Part-time sports journalist covering the Vegas Golden Knights.