Skip to content

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Milk Thistle (PDQ®): Complementary and alternative medicine - Health Professional Information [NCI] - General Information

The botanical name for milk thistle is Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn. Milk thistle is also referred to as holy thistle, Marian thistle, Mary thistle, Our Lady's thistle, St. Mary thistle, wild artichoke, Mariendistel (German), and Chardon-Marie (French). The plant is indigenous to Europe but can also be found in the United States and South America. Traditionally, the leaves have been used in salads, and the fruit of the flower has been roasted as a coffee substitute. The seeds of milk thistle are the medicinal parts of the plant.[1] The primary active constituent of milk thistle is silymarin, which is composed of the following isomers: silybin (consisting of silybins A and B), isosilybin (consisting of isosilybins A and B), silychristin, and silydianin. Most supplements are standardized according to their silybin content. Silybin and isosilybin are both mixtures of two diastereomers, silybins A and B and isosilybins A and B, respectively.[2,3] Special formulations of silybin have been developed to enhance the bioavailability of the herbal product; these forms are sold under the names Legalon, silipide, and Siliphos. Because of milk thistle's lipophilic nature, it is usually administered in capsule or tablet form rather than as an herbal tea. In Europe, silybin is administered intravenously as the only effective antidote for Amanita phalloides (Fr.) Link toxin.[4] Humans exposed to this mushroom toxin develop serious liver failure that ultimately progresses to death.

Several companies distribute milk thistle as a dietary supplement. In the United States, dietary supplements are regulated as foods, not drugs. Therefore, premarket evaluation and approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are not required unless specific disease prevention or treatment claims are made. Because dietary supplements are not formally reviewed for manufacturing consistency, ingredients may vary considerably from lot to lot; in addition, there is no guarantee that ingredients identified on product labels are present at all or are present in the specified amounts. It is important to note that the FDA has not approved the use of milk thistle as a treatment for cancer patients or patients with any other medical condition.

Recommended Related to Cancer

General Information About Paranasal Sinus and Nasal Cavity Cancer

Paranasal sinus and nasal cavity cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity. Paranasal sinuses "Paranasal" means near the nose. The paranasal sinuses are hollow, air-filled spaces in the bones around the nose. The sinuses are lined with cells that make mucus, which keeps the inside of the nose from drying out during breathing. Anatomy of the paranasal sinuses (spaces between the bones around the nose). There...

Read the General Information About Paranasal Sinus and Nasal Cavity Cancer article > >

    1|2
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    Colorectal cancer cells
    New! I AM Not Cancer Facebook Group
    Lung cancer xray
    See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
     
    sauteed cherry tomatoes
    Fight cancer one plate at a time.
    Ovarian cancer illustration
    Real Cancer Perspectives
     
    Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
    Blog
    what is your cancer risk
    HEALTH CHECK
     
    colorectal cancer treatment advances
    Video
    breast cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
     
    prostate cancer overview
    SLIDESHOW
    lung cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
     
    ovarian cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
    Actor Michael Douglas
    Article