Milk Thistle – Benefits and Side Effects


A cup of coffee on a table

Milk thistle is a plant belonging to the milkweed family. It has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times and is an ingredient in many natural remedies. The milk thistle benefits have been recognized through scientific study, which has demonstrated milk thistle benefits for liver disease is real and plentiful enough to make milk thistle worth considering as a daily supplement. Milk thistle is a perennial plant that is native to the Mediterranean. It is a close relative of the artichoke and was used as a food item, as well as herbal medicine. Milk thistle contains compounds that are hepatoprotective, which means that it may help with liver problems. The parts of milk thistle that are used medicinally are usually the seeds or fresh leaves.


A piece of fruit

The milk thistle benefits and history of the milk thistle plant ( Silybum marianum ) can be traced back more than 2000 years ago when it was first discovered on the island of Sicily by Greek physicians who brought this herb back with them to Europe. They used various names such as “holy thorn-apple,” “milk viper,” “sting-nose,” and “bearded milk thistle” (Weleda, 2000). The milk thistle benefits were first documented by the Greek physician Dioscorides who used this herb as a laxative and antidote to poisons. There are many milk thistle benefits and on this page, we will discuss some of these milk thistle benefits. A couple of them include the main milk thistle benefits for liver disease as well as those that also help with other diseases such as diabetes or cancer.

Here is a list of just some of the milk thistle benefits:

Reduces Liver Damage from Tylenol Overdose

Milk thistle benefits for liver disease have been tested in many different studies. One such study observed how milk thistle benefits were able to decrease the formation of a chemical known as “tissue necrosis factor-alpha” or TNF-alpha which can lead to damage and inflammation due to a Tylenol overdose.

Inhibits Liver Cancer Growth

Milk thistle benefits also include those that help with cancer as well as diabetes. In another study, scientists observed the milk thistle benefits on human liver cancer cells by determining that milk thistle inhibits cancer cell growth in vitro.

Decreases Blood Pressure

Milk thistle benefits that help decrease high blood pressure (Hypertension is a risk factor for heart disease). A similar study was done with hypertensive patients and it was noted that 24 weeks of milk thistle supplementation decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressures.

Promote skin health:

Milk thistle can help with skin health by reducing UV-induced DNA damage and inflammation. Milk thistle has been used for centuries to promote good liver function and is an herb that should never be taken without consulting a medical professional. Milk thistle has been used for many years as a liver tonic and is commonly used in herbal preparations, milk thistle extract is recommended by doctors who practice alternative medicine because it acts as a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the cells from free radical damage.

Fights free radicals

Milk thistle has amazing antioxidant effects, protecting healthy cells and membranes from free radical damage. Milk thistle may even help eliminate some toxins that might otherwise accumulate in the body. Milk thistle also contains two potent flavonoids called silymarin and silibinin that are known to protect the body against damage by free radicals. These compounds work together to stimulate liver enzyme function, helping repair cell membranes throughout the body, especially in the liver where most free radicals are present.

Helps Prevent Gallstones

The National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey or NHANES surveyed over 12,000 Americans to determine the association between several milk thistle benefits and gallstones. They found that milk thistle benefits included a decreased risk of developing gallstones.

Helps Against Heart Disease

Milk thistle benefits also include milk thistle benefits which help to decrease the risk of heart disease. A large prospective study followed over 43,000 participants and it was determined that milk thistle did not affect the risk of cardiovascular mortality.

Promotes Liver Repair

Many studies have demonstrated milk thistle’s ability to regenerate liver cells in systemic disorders such as alcoholic fatty liver disease or hepatitis B and C.

Helps with High Cholesterol

Milk thistle benefits also include milk thistle benefits that help to decrease high cholesterol. One study followed participants to determine the milk thistle benefits on cholesterol by administering 160 mg of silymarin or placebo daily for 12 weeks. It was observed that milk thistle helped lower total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Decreases Side Effects from Chemotherapy

Milk thistle has been successful in milk thistle benefits for chemotherapy. A recent systematic review included 19 studies with 1323 adult cancer patients to determine how effective milk thistle is at decreasing chemotherapy toxicity. The results of the study showed milk thistle benefits in decreasing fatigue, nausea and vomiting, neurotoxicity, cardiotoxicity, dermatitis, and weight loss.

Milk Thistle Benefits for Liver Disease

Many studies have demonstrated milk thistle’s ability to regenerate liver cells in systemic disorders such as alcoholic fatty liver disease or hepatitis B and C; milk thistle has also been shown to help with infectious diseases like HIV. Milk thistle benefits also include milk thistle benefits that help detoxify the body by increasing glutathione S-transferase which helps with the metabolization of drugs and toxins.

Decreases Symptoms of Diabetes

Milk thistle has been successful in milk thistle benefits for diabetes in many studies. One such study followed 18 people with type 2 diabetes and found milk thistle benefits by reducing fasting blood sugar levels.

Decreases Blood Pressure

Milk thistle benefits also include milk benefits which help to decrease the risk of developing high blood pressure. One study followed milk thistle benefits for 8 weeks and found milk thistle benefits on diastolic blood pressure.

Milk thistle has been used for centuries to protect against liver damage. It also protects the pancreas by shrinking inflamed tissue, inhibiting cell death of beta cells, and providing nutrients that help regenerate these damaged cells. Silymarin, the active ingredient in milk thistle, has been extensively studied and is widely used all over the world. It’s very safe with no side effects so you can take this supplement to protect your liver during chemotherapy treatment for cancer while still leaving room for conventional medicine to help fight off any cancer cells that may be left.

Supports bone health

Milk Thistle has long been regarded as a powerful, liver-protective herb. Milk Thistle strengthens bone with its rich vitamin K content which strengthens cartilage and is crucial for healthy bones. In particular, Vitamin K prevents bones from weakening due to calcium excretion. Milk Thistle is considered a liver tonic herb. The milk thistle plant can be harvested for its seeds, which are dried and crushed before being processed into supplements.

Boost Immune System

Milk Thistle benefits include helping to boost immune function. One study followed 54 people with HIV, 34 of which were given milk thistle while 20 were not. The results of this study show milk thistle benefits in decreasing the number of viruses in the blood

Milk thistle Improves cognition

Study in Alzheimer’s mice; A new study involving SISU, the patented standardized silymarin extract from milk thistle, suggests that it may have the potential to improve cognition in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) patients who are currently receiving acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. Published in Phytotherapy Research, results of this 16-week double-blind placebo-controlled study conducted with 37 mild to moderate AD patients suggest that after supplementation with SISU™ at a dosage of 420 mg daily, they experience significant improvement in cognitive abilities, behavior, and total score over placebo. This result is promising because it is the first time that milk thistle is active when used alone against mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Side-Effects of Milk Thistle:

Milk Thistle helps in regenerating liver cells which helps with fatty liver disease and hepatitis B and C. Milk thistle can have negative interactions with drugs such as anticoagulants, diabetes medication, and blood thinners. Ingesting too much of it can cause bloating or an upset stomach so should be taken in the recommended amount. Caution should be taken when milk thistle benefits lactating or pregnant mothers because milk thistle is a rich source of phytoestrogens.

How to use milk thistle:

For acute liver disease, milk thistle should be used together with other remedies and it is important to be under the supervision of a specialist. For chronic liver disease, many studies show that milk thistle can help prevent and even heal liver diseases such as hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, and fatty infiltration of the liver. Milk thistle helps regenerate damaged cells that line blood vessels in your liver which leads to their regrowth. It also increases the production of protein for hepatocyte growth (hepatocytes are cells that make up most of the tissue in your human body).


Milk Thistle is a herb that has been used for centuries to treat liver disease. It contains silymarin, which works by increasing the activity of glutathione S-transferase and bile salt hydrolase. Milk thistle also helps regenerate liver cells so it can be effective in treating a fatty liver disease or hepatitis B/C. This herb may reduce fatigue, nausea, vomiting, neurotoxicity, cardiotoxicity dermatitis, and weight loss associated with chemotherapy treatments as well as side effects from anticoagulants diabetes medication, or blood thinners. Caution should be taken when milk thistle is given to lactating mothers because it is rich in phytoestrogens.

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