Milk thistle (silymarin) is a flowering herb related to the daisy and ragweed family. It is native to Mediterranean countries. Some people also call it Mary thistle and holy thistle.
What Is Milk Thistle Used For?
Some claim milk thistle may also:
- Provide heart benefits by lowering cholesterol levels
- Help diabetes in people who have type 2 diabetes and cirrhosis
Does Milk Thistle Work?
Silymarin is the main active ingredient in milk thistle. Silymarin is both an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It’s unclear what benefits, if any, this may have in the body.
Is Milk Thistle Good for the Liver?
At this point, there is not enough scientific data to say whether or not milk thistle can help liver problems. Some early research suggests milk thistle may aid people with alcohol-related liver disease. Other studies show no improvement in liver function in this group of people.
Some studies also show milk thistle may offer a possible benefit for people whose liver is damaged by industrial toxins, such as toluene and xylene.
More information is needed before doctors can say milk thistle actually benefits the liver. Get the facts on milk thistle for the liver.
Can Milk Thistle Help People With Diabetes?
Medical research does suggest that milk thistle, combined with traditional treatment, can improve diabetes. Studies have shown a decrease in blood sugar levels and an improvement in cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.
Is Milk Thistle Good for the Heart?
By lowering LDL "bad" cholesterol levels, milk thistle may help decrease the chance of developing heart disease. However, studies on possible heart benefits only have been done in people with diabetes. People with diabetes often have high cholesterol. It’s unclear if milk thistle may have the same effects in other people.
Milk thistle can also be taken in conjunction with cholesterol lowering medications, like statins. It can help prevent elevation of liver enzymes, which can be a side effect of the medication. Find out more on the side effects of statins.
How Do You Take Milk Thistle?
Milk thistle can be taken orally in supplements or in tea. Milk thistle can be combined with other herbs.
Does Milk Thistle Have Any Side Effects?
Usually, milk thistle causes few, if any, serious side effects. Studies show that it’s safe when taken for up to 41 months.
Since milk thistle may mimic the effects of estrogen, some women should avoid this herb. This includes women who have fibroid tumors or endometriosis. Additionally, women with breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers should not take milk thistle.
Always tell your doctor of any supplement you are taking. Milk thistle may interact with certain medications. Get more information on milk thistle for the liver and gallbladder.