Milk Thistle: Benefits, Side-Effects, Supplements, Uses, And Capsules

Milk thistle, or Silybum marianum, is a flowering plant that has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries to treat a variety of health conditions. The term “Silybum” was given by the Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides meaning “edible thistle”. The word “marianum” comes from an urban legend that the white veins on the plant’s leaves were drops of milk from the Virgin Mary, thus, the name “Milk.” It contains silymarins, which according to Abenavoli, Capasso, Milic, & Capasso, is the most well-known component of milk thistle to heal liver injury in research.

The plant’s extracts are primarily beneficial in healing the liver, improving gallbladder function, and detoxifying the body against chemical and environmental toxins.

Milk thistle supplements are available in soft gel capsules, tablets, and liquid forms. Each form offers many health benefits. The herb promotes breast milk production, prevents age-related memory decline, improves cognition, promotes bone health, treats allergic symptoms, prevents and treats cancer, and detoxifies the liver from snake bites and other environmental poisons. The milk thistle has an immunomodulatory role in the immune system, depending on its dose. It also helps boost one’s protection against infectious agents.

However, some potential side effects are associated with milk thistle supplements, including bloating, nausea, dyspepsia, and diarrhea. It is always important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting supplementation. Popular producers of milk thistle supplements include Pure Encapsulations, Gaia Herbs, Jarrow Formulas, Herb Pharm, Solgar, and Nature’s Way. 

This article will discuss the benefits of milk thistle supplementation, side effects, dosages, and how to take milk thistle capsules.

What Are The Benefits Of Milk Thistle?

Some of the benefits of milk thistle include:

  • Provides liver protection
  • Increases protein biosynthesis and liver regeneration
  • Removes toxins by its potent antioxidant activity
  • Prevents excess inflammation during illness and stress
  • Increases lactation 
  • Decreases fibrosis, especially in liver cells 
  • Possesses immuno-modulation activity
  • Increases insulin sensitivity
  • Regulates drug transporters of medications

According to Khazaei, Seidavi, & Bouyeh, the main component of the plant, silymarin, provides most of its health benefits. Kroll, Shaw, & Oberlies describe silymarin as consisting of flavonolignans called Silibinin, isoSilibinin, silychristin, and isosilychristin silydianin, and a flavonoid. Among these, silybin has the most significant biological impact. Milk thistle’s most studied effects are liver protection and regeneration, antioxidant provision, and the body’s toxin detoxification.

1. Supports Liver Health

According to Abenavoli, Capasso, Milic, & Capasso, F, most research on the medicinal application of milk thistle seed has focused on liver problems, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, and prevention and treatment of xenobiotic-mediated liver harm. 

Khazaei, Seidavi, & Bouyeh suggests that milk thistle’s components affect the liver through four mechanisms. First, milk thistle extracts contain antioxidants that scavenge free radicals and increase the body’s natural glutathione production. In the liver, it does this by boosting the activity of the cells, minimizing free radicals induced by fungal toxins, and increasing protein synthesis for the repair of damaged cells. This is attributed to the composition of the plant; a mixture of flavonolignans, generally called silymarin, which has robust antioxidant effects. Second, the silymarin component acts as a cell membrane stabilizer and gatekeeper to inhibit the entry of hazardous chemicals into liver cells. In a study by Loguercio, milk thistle extract given within 48 hours after intake of the poisonous mushroom, Amanita phalloides, neutralizes the poison and prevents severe liver damage. In another study by Abenavoli, Capasso, Milic, & Capasso, researchers found these components occupy binding sites and block several transport proteins at the membrane to prevent poisons from being absorbed into the hepatocytes. Third, milk thistle extracts stimulate the production of healthy cells for hepatic cell renewal. Fourth, it acts as an inhibitor of myofibroblasts which cause liver cell destruction, like those induced by alcohol. Myofibroblasts deposit collagen in the liver, causing cirrhosis. The hepatic protective properties are contributed by the flavonolignans silandrin, silybinum, silihermin, myristic acid, palmitic, and acetic acids.

According to Federico, Dallio, & Loguercio, silymarin also protects the cell from acute or chronic destructive damage, irrespective of the cause of liver cell diseases. It has been shown to help in viral hepatitis, alcoholic liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. 

In viral hepatitis, silymarin’s anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties regulate the inflammatory cascade while boosting the immune system. Furthermore, Federico, Dallio, & Loguercio found that silymarin used concurrently with antivirals results in improved liver function compared to antivirals alone. The study used 1200 mg/day endovenous silymarin, 1200 mg/day ribavirin, and 6000 UI/day vitamin D for 238 days.

Alcohol Liver Disease results from the decreased ability of the liver to process other metabolites and toxins due to excess ethanol metabolism. This leads to an imbalance tipped more towards toxin accumulation, damaging the liver’s cell membrane function, eventually leading to death. An animal study by Song et al. showed that silymarin (200 mg/kg) could reduce oxidative stress from these toxins.

The mechanism of repair induced by silymarin differs in Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). According to Federico, Dallio, & Loguercio, Silybin, a silymarin component, can act as an insulin sensitizer. As such, it can reduce liver fat deposition and subsequent inflammation. It also decreases the overall fat deposits in the serum and other body parts. In this way, there is a lesser amount of fat lobules that create a fatty liver. To normalize hepatic function and improve fat deposition on ultrasound, participants were given 88 mg of silybin, 388 mg of phosphatidylcholine, and 180 mg of vitamin E per day for 12 months.

In cirrhosis and liver cancer, inflammation plays a role in starting and worsening fibrosis.

This is due to the production of “pro-inflammatory cytokines,” which create fibrous collagen from stellate cells while also replicating by the action of growth factors from Kupffer cells. This is the picture of cirrhosis in the liver. According to a study cited by Federico, Dallio, & Loguercio, Silymarin at a dose of 50mg/kg for 12 weeks effectively interferes with this process. 

Together, the therapeutic effects derived from silymarin’s properties include antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, immune-regulation, liver cell repair, and a decrease in excessive lipid and collagen production. According to Gholamreza Karimi, for liver health, consumption of 120 mg of silymarin twice daily for two months can significantly reduce aspartate transaminase (AST) and alanine transaminase (ALT), produced by damaged liver cells. 

2. Promotes Skin Health

Vostálová, Tinková, Biedermann, Kosina, Ulrichová, & Rajnochová Svobodová studied the effects of milk thistle on the skin and found that its components are useful agents in skin health. The components of milk thistle, they found, provide skin protection against the harmful effects of solar radiation while slowing skin aging. They also have the potential to inhibit skin cancer.

According to Loguercio, silymarin is an extract from milk thistle seeds. It comprises 70-80% flavonolignans and 20-30% of polymeric and polyphenolic compounds. The main active component in silymarin is Silybin. Both silymarin alone and Silybin have been extensively studied for their potential in preventing and slowing down the progression of degenerative diseases. This is due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and their ability to regulate the immune system and modulate various signaling pathways.

Milk thistle has skin antioxidant potential and can reduce UV-B damage. It has a sunscreen potential that is also utilized in dermatological and cosmetic products. There are two primary processes by which sunscreen protects the skin from UV rays. First, sunscreen products may scatter the UV rays blocking their entry into the skin, as titanium and zinc oxide do. Second, these products may directly absorb the UV rays so the body can destroy it. Silymarin and its polyphenols absorb the UVB and UVA wavebands and create chemical bonds with them so they can slowly break it down and release it as heat. 2,3-dehydrosilybin (DHSB) showed the highest antioxidant activity among the components, evidenced by efficient scavenging of oxygen free radicals. It also has the highest UVA protection factor (PF-UVA). 

Silymarin and its polyphenols also affect the activity of enzymes that play a role in the photoaging process. They have the potential to inhibit collagenase enzymes, which break down skin collagen; elastase, which destroys elastin; and hyaluronidase, which inhibits the formation of a basic structure for the skin cells. Among the components,  2,3-dehydrosilybin (DHSB) also has higher anti-elastase activity. Together, this results in firmer and less damaged skin.

Topical milk thistle extracts afford skin cancer protection. The most common environmental carcinogen is UV radiation from the sun. Overexposure to UV radiation produces sunburn, inflammation, oxidative stress, DNA damage, and immune system suppression– all of which contribute to skin cell destruction, basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. According to Katiyar, skin cancer prevalence in mice was decreased by topical silymarin treatment in terms of tumor incidence and the tumors ability to multiply and progress. As an antioxidant, silymarin halts the tumors’ initiation and promotion stages of skin carcinogenesis.

Lastly, milk thistle extracts are used for their anti-inflammatory benefit to the skin. The inflammatory conditions of the skin can include dermatitis, psoriasis, and acne. According to Juráňová, et al., silymarin downregulates excessive chronic inflammation in dermatitis. In acne, silymarin can scavenge by-products of oxidative stress aside from its anti-inflammatory action, according to Sahib, Al-Anbari, Salih & Abdullah. The anti-inflammatory activity of silymarin is bolstered because it dramatically reduces UV-induced leukocyte infiltration. 

Thus, according to Vostálová, Tinková, Biedermann, Kosina, Ulrichová, & Rajnochová Svobodová, the use of silymarin in combination with sunscreens or skincare lotions may provide an effective method for minimizing the harmful biological effects of solar UV radiation. The result is skin protection from numerous sun-related skin illnesses. For sun protection, only about 0.024% weight per volume of milk thistle extracts was used in studies compared to commercial sunscreens preparations in a concentration of 2–15%. This means that the higher the concentration of milk thistle extracts, the more it affords the benefits of sunscreen. 

3. Reduces Cholesterol

In humans, high serum lipids and lipoproteins increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, fatty liver, cancer, peripheral vascular disease, and atherosclerosis. Lipoproteins come in 3 different forms. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is traditionally called the “good” cholesterol; low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or traditionally called “bad” cholesterol, though modern research has shown that both of these types of cholesterol have optimal levels that are required in the body. Very low-density lipoprotein is another type of “bad” cholesterol because it carries formed fats into the tissues for deposition. Both LDL and VLDL result in atherosclerotic plaque build-up when associated with inflammation and metabolic disease.  

Hypercholesterolemia is also a component of metabolic syndrome. According to Tajmohammadi, Razavi, & Hosseinzadeh, metabolic syndrome is a composition of metabolic risk factors such as obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes. It is a worldwide health problem with serious morbidity.

Milk thistle has been studied for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia. A study conducted by Tajmohammadi, Razavi, & Hosseinzadeh showed milk thistle’s benefit on cholesterol reduction. It does this by three mechanisms:

The silymarin component of milk thistle can reduce triglyceride and cholesterol by increasing ABC transporters, which are involved in eliminating cholesterol. They are responsible for cholesterol drainage from the hepatocytes into the bile. Silymarin also increases HDL level, which has an important role in absorbing cholesterol and carrying it back to the liver to metabolize and excrete it. Silymarin also inhibits 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase, reducing cholesterol synthesis.

Moreover, silymarin can decrease cholesterol absorption, the plasma level of cholesterol, and the liver content of VLDL. There is also a decrease in VLDL production in the intestine and inhibition of intestinal cholesterol absorption. The polyphenol compounds of silymarin inhibit acyl-CoA, a critical enzyme that produces lipids. They also bind to cholesterol and bile acids to stop the formation of fat lobules. 

According to Gobalakrishnan, silybin is an antioxidant that inhibits lipid peroxidation, which increases cholesterol plaque build up in the arteries. Silybin increases the excretion of fecal bile acids, which causes hepatic bile acid production to increase. This hepatic bile acid leads to the development of hepatic LDL receptors. These receptors clear the blood from  LDL, IDL, and VLDL. As a result, hepatic cholesterol levels drop. 

According to Tajmohammadi, A., Razavi, B., & Hosseinzadeh, some persons with metabolic syndrome have genes that predispose them to have higher cholesterol than others. Silymarin also affects lipid metabolism and oxidative stress management by modifying genes involved in these processes. The use of silymarin for four weeks improved triglycerides, LDL, HD levels and decreased the accumulation of liver lipid stores. 

In animal studies, as performed by Gobalakrishnan, 300 and 600 mg/kg of silymarin causes a significant increase in hepatic HDL while modulating other lipid profile parameters.

4. Supports Weight Loss

Milk thistle’s ability to regulate weight is closely related to two concepts. Obesity, as a product of insulin resistance and obesity as a chronic pro-inflammatory state, according to MacDonald-Ramos, Michán, Martínez-Ibarra, & Cerbón. In this connection, the components of milk thistle are studied in research.

Obesity resulting from insulin resistance makes it a part of the metabolic syndrome. According to Hardy, Czech, & Corvera, the mechanism underlying obesity comes from visceral fat itself being inherently diabetogenic. It secretes adipokines, which increase insulin resistance in tissues like the liver and muscle. As the depot of fat increases, these adipokines also increase leading to more insulin resistance. Another mechanism for insulin resistance is that visceral fat storage is a proxy for lipid accumulation because the liver and muscles are too overwhelmed to handle them. In visceral fat, there is also increasing insulin resistance. MacDonald-Ramos, Michán, Martínez-Ibarra, & Cerbón relate that these mechanisms are targeted by silymarin. It can modify the aberrant signaling of molecules in the liver and therefore downregulates this lipid production and its resultant insulin resistance. 

According to MacDonald-Ramos, Michán, Martínez-Ibarra, & Cerbón, obesity is also a pro-inflammatory state. Hardy, Czech, & Corvera explain that visceral adipose tissue macrophages release inflammatory cytokines. The idea that peripheral tissues and cytokine generation in visceral adipose tissue result in increased inflammatory response also contribute to systemic insulin resistance. In obese states, there is an elevation of fatty acid levels that increase reactive oxygen species production and oxidative stress. In an animal study by MacDonald-Ramos, Michán, Martínez-Ibarra, & Cerbón, silymarin treatment reduced weight and fat mass by ameliorating and decreasing inflammation. This was evidenced by lower pro-inflammatory cytokine levels, reduced oxidative stress indicators, reduced damage to the liver cells, and improved insulin resistance.

The evidence suggests that silymarin is a promising treatment for chronic metabolic illnesses, including obesity, according to MacDonald-Ramos, Michán, Martínez-Ibarra, & Cerbón. Animals treated with Silibinin, the main component of silymarin, at 100 mg/kg/day for 12 weeks resulted in weight reduction.

5. Reduces Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is the central pathology affecting persons with diabetes mellitus. In insulin resistance, muscles and fat cells have a decreased response to insulin action, and hyperinsulinemia ensues. This defect in insulin signaling is due to poor insulin binding at its receptor that alters the functionality of downstream proteins. This means a decrease in enzyme activity and GLUT4 transporter expression. GLUT4 is an important messenger that delivers insulin to the target organs; without it, the body cannot utilize glucose, leading to high blood sugar. Silymarin aids in regulating this process. It increases insulin and glucagon formation, maintains normoglycemia, and attains recovery of insulin serum levels. It also corrects the defect in insulin signals. Because the signaling proteins are also involved in inflammation, proper function results in decreased pro-inflammatory cytokines like TNFα and Interleukin-6.  Silymarin also increases GLUT4 formation so the musculoskeletal cells can uptake and utilize glucose. 

In chronic insulin resistance of diabetic patients, Huseini et al. add that aldose reductase enzyme levels increase. Aldose reductase is a crucial enzyme that reduces glucose to sorbitol. Because of high glucose concentrations, there is an excessive accumulation of intracellular reactive oxygen species in the heart, eyes, vasculature, kidneys, and neurons. Silymarin inhibits this aldose reductase. It also has antioxidant benefits that scavenge harmful reactive oxygen species. This effect may inhibit hyperinsulinemia, further insulin resistance, and diabetic complications. 

In a study by Kazazis, Evangelopoulos, Kollas, & Vallianou, Silybin from milk thistle enables glucose utilization in the same way the medication thiazolidinediones does. Thiazolidinediones regulate Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPAR), which are receptors that modulate the signaling of insulin in cells. This results in the attainment of normoglycemia.

In persons with diabetes mellitus with cirrhosis, insulin resistance is a combined result of the progressive defect in insulin secretion and development of hepatic insulin resistance leading to hyperglycemia. According to Abenavoli, Capasso, Milic, & Capasso, Silymarin reverses the destruction of the liver’s cell membrane and concomitant insulin resistance, resulting in a significant reduction in endogenous insulin overproduction. There is a reduced need for insulin treatment, lowering daily insulin doses by about 25% in patients.

The study gave a group of patients an oral dose of 600 mg of silymarin per day, along with antidiabetic medicines. After four months of treatment, the silymarin group attained significantly reduced fasting blood glucose levels and mean daily blood glucose levels.

6. Improves Allergic Asthma Symptoms

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease caused by immunological and inflammatory processes. According to Nasab, Athari, Ghafarzade, Nasab, & Athari, immunological and inflammatory mediators are useful targets for managing asthma symptoms. Milk thistle extracts decrease cough, difficulty breathing, mucus production. 

The T-helper2 cells in the immune system release cytokines called interleukins (IL) that are important in the development and progression of asthma. For example, IL-4 causes immunoglobulin E (IgE) overproduction, IL-5 activates eosinophils and sends them toward the airways, and IL-13 stimulates mucus production in the lungs. As a result, the main pathology in asthma is produced: airway hyperresponsiveness and airway smooth muscle spasm.

According to Choi et al., milk thistle’s Silibinin component regulates these pro-inflammatory processes that cause asthma. It does this by suppressing the nuclear factor-kappa B (NFjB) pathway, reducing eosinophil infiltration, and reversing airway hyperresponsiveness.

In asthma, according to Nasab, Athari, Ghafarzade, Nasab, & Athari, nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-jB) plays a key role in immunological and inflammatory responses. Its enhanced activation has been observed in the lungs after introducing an allergen. It also increases the number of airway epithelial cells and macrophages, which are important immune cells. Silibin administration decreases the activity of NF-jB, resulting in a decrease in T-helper2 cells and the interleukins they produce. Overall, there is modulation of airway inflammation and airway hyperresponsiveness.

Chronic airway inflammation, which is characterized by increased infiltration of leukocytes such as eosinophils and significant mucus secretion into the airways, is another key component in the development of asthma. According to Possa, Leick, Prado, Martins, & Tibério, eosinophils, in particular, have long been recognized as the primary effector cell in asthma. Their release of toxic granule proteins plays a pathogenic role in the disease as well. They release toxic granule proteins, reactive oxygen species, cytokines, and lipid mediators– all of which are responsible for the immune response to an allergen. Silibinin reduces eosinophilic infiltration into the airways, according to Choi et al. It inhibits the action of cytokines and toxic granule proteins, which activate the inflammatory reactions. According to Esmaeil, Anaraki, Gharagozloo, & Moayedi, Silibinin also has potent antioxidants to eliminate the reactive oxygen species by the action of superoxide dismutase and increasing glutathione concentration.

The abnormal increase in airflow limitation in response to a triggering event is a clinical sign of asthma called airway hyperresponsiveness. It presents as bronchospasm or difficulty in breathing. Inflammatory mediators generated during allergic inflammation play an important role in its development. Nasab, Athari, Ghafarzade, Nasab, & Athari describes that Silibinin effectively reverses this immune response to infection. It mediates a reduction in TNF on the lining of the lungs reversing bronchospasm. It also decreases the major proteins that mediate allergic inflammation.

A study by Esmaeil, Anaraki, Gharagozloo, & Moayedi recommends that silymarin be used at a low dose of 10 and 50mg/kg to inhibit T-helper cell function and lower inflammation. High doses of silymarin at 250mg/kg can activate the inflammatory processes, worsening allergic symptoms. 


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7. Limits The Spread Of Cancer

According to Bosch-Barrera and Menendez, preclinical research has implicated milk thistle’s high efficacy against cancer cells’ migratory and invasive properties, as well as propensity to spread to other organs. It has been tested by Polachi et al. for cancer therapies against breast, liver, lung, skin, prostate, colon, bladder, ovarian cancers. The study demonstrated Silibinin’s inhibitory effects on these cancer cell lines. 

Several mechanisms have been proposed in a review of Hoh et al. to explain how Silibinin may interfere with cancer. These mechanisms inhibit “tyrosine kinase” receptor signaling in cancer cell development, disrupt cell cycle progression, and contribute to anti-angiogenesis. Silibinin may also modulate the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) pathway. IGFs are cell survival mediators because they suppress apoptosis and regulate differentiation in various normal and malignant cell types. 

In addition, the study by Lah examined the effects of Silibinin on the growth of human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells and discovered that these compounds could inhibit cancer cell growth. Silibinin binds to the pathways and complexes that promote the progression of the cancer cell cycle. These suggest that Silibinin reduces the number of liver cancer cells by regulating the processes that favor their proliferation.

By regulating the nitric oxide pathway, Polachi et al. claim that Silibinin has enormous therapeutic promise for cancer cells’ effective and selective destruction. Nitric oxide (NO) plays a dual role in specialized tissues and cells, acting as both an antioxidant and a pro-oxidant. It is a physiologic signaling molecule that mediates different cell processes in the brain, immune system, and heart. When overexpressed, NO can cause cytotoxic and cancerous effects. Silibinin injection to breast cancer patients resulted in a small reduction in serum NO levels to avoid overexpression.

The same study also looked into the role of Silibinin in anti-angiogenesis. Angiogenesis, a process of creating blood vessels in cancer cells, is a critical aspect of tumor invasion and survival. Blood markers associated with angiogenesis also indicate a tumor’s metastatic potential. Silibinin showed a significant reduction in these angiogenesis markers when tested in breast cancer patients. It also decreased the tumor’s micro-vessel density, a poor prognostic factor in metastatic breast cancer. 

The study by Lah also points out Silibinin’s potential to stop the spread of cancer cells by promoting apoptosis or cell death. In this way, Silibinin has high efficacy in targeting cancer cells’ migratory and invasive features. Hoh et al. add that oxidative stress produced by the cancer cells is an important stimulus for more carcinogenic potential. Silibinin and other flavonoids, as potent antioxidants, counters this increased stimulation to prevent cancer cell proliferation.

Abenavoli, Capasso, Milic, & Capasso summarize that Silibinin regulates the balance between cell survival and apoptosis by interfering with the expressions of cell cycle regulators and apoptosis-related proteins. Silymarin also has anti-inflammatory, anti-angiogenic, and anti-metastatic properties. The authors add that the clinical application of Silibinin to prevent or reduce chemotherapy is promising. According to Hoh et al., doses of about 450 or 900 mg Silibinin per person daily show a modest reduction in cancer cell potential in the liver and colonic cancers. 

8. Supports Bone Health

Metabolic bone illnesses, such as osteoporosis, are caused by defective bone integrity and an imbalance between bone creation by osteoblasts and bone resorption by osteoclasts. According to Ji & Yu, osteoporosis is closely linked to insufficient estrogen; therefore, postmenopausal women are at risk for primary osteoporosis. During the menopausal transition period, the decline in estrogen causes greater bone resorption than production, resulting in osteoporosis.

Silymarin-rich milk thistle extract (MTE) has been the subject of most osteoporosis studies because of its activity to afford bone protection. According to Kim, Kim, Kang, Gong, Han, & Kang, the flavonolignan Silibinin, the major active constituent of silymarin, creates more healthy bones and balances osteoclasts’ and osteoblasts’ activity. In the same study, the researchers found how the following mechanisms of Silibinin extracted from milk thistle help in bone health.

First, Silibinin promotes the activity of osteoblasts, or bone-forming cells, while inhibiting osteoclasts, or bone-degrading cells. This is the osteoprotective effect of Silibinin. 

Additionally, milk thistle extracts contain isoflavones, which work synergistically to reduce the incidence of osteoporosis. Isoflavones are a plant source of estrogen-like biological activity. In animal studies given 10 mg/kg of Silibinin, the composition of bone became stronger. 

Milk thistle extracts also inhibit serum RANKL, whose increase is a result of estrogen deficiency. RANKL is a protein that serves as the key signal for bone loss. Due to estrogen deprivation, this rapid bone turnover and bone loss are accelerated. Milk thistle’s Silibinin component could be used as an alternate medication for postmenopausal osteoporosis prevention. 

Finally, Silibinin also decreased osteoclastic bone resorption by inhibiting the enzymes TRAP and cathepsin K activity. As a result, Silibinin-containing milk thistle extracts helped prevent bone loss caused by estrogen deprivation by increasing bone creation and inhibiting bone destruction.

According to Kim, Kim, Kang, Gong, Han, & Kang, natural products and dietary components such as milk thistle extracts have been demonstrated in numerous studies to benefit bone remodeling, particularly by reducing bone resorption. In animal studies, bone mineral density (a measure of both strength) is enhanced and nearly restored by supplementing 10 mg/kg of milk thistle extracts.

9. Improves Cognition

According to Borah et al., Milk thistle is also a potential neuroprotective agent. It delivers additional benefits for neurologic illnesses like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cerebral ischemia by modulating pathways such as amyloid protein accumulation, inflammatory mechanisms, cellular apoptotic machinery, and estrogenic receptor mediation.

Milić, Milošević, Suvajdžić, Žarkov, & Abenavoli have implicated the component Silibinin in the improvement of cognition. According to the authors, silymarin binds reactive oxygen species in the CNS and boosts protein synthesis involved in antioxidant activity. Together, these aspects protect against neurodegenerative disease. For example, in persons with diabetes who experience cognitive loss, Silibinin contributes to DNA protection from oxidative stress. Silibinin in persons addicted to methamphetamine (METH) counteracted memory loss, hallucinations, delusions, and sped up the time it took to recognize new things. Silibinin’s anti-inflammatory effects give protection against METH-induced neurotoxicity. METH induces a pro-inflammatory cascade and releases cytokines and lipopolysaccharides, damaging the brain.

Inflammatory responses mediated by macrophages in the central nervous system (CNS) lead to neurodegenerative illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. According to their findings, silymarin reduces the formation of inflammatory mediators, including TNF- and nitric oxide (NO), both of which are powerful oxidants.

Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by increasing cognitive impairment and oxidative stress-induced protein plaque deposition. In Alzheimer’s disease, Silibinin pretreatment enhanced memory and energy metabolism in the brain, reduced neuron dysfunction, and avoided the formation of lipid peroxides. Several investigations have found that altered brain energy metabolism is a crucial event in the etiology of Alzheimer’s disease. Pretreatment with Silibinin decreased metabolic energy disturbance, lowered reactive oxygen species levels, and boosted glutathione antioxidant activity.

In Parkinson’s disease, dopaminergic neurons degenerate due to low glutathione levels, DNA damage, iron deposition, and, most importantly, oxidative stress. This stress causes an imbalance in oxidative phosphorylation and energy metabolism, resulting in dopaminergic neuron death. Silymarin prevented cell death by delaying oxidative damage to neurons via influencing RNA renewal in neurons.

In an animal study by Murata, Murakami, Ozawa, Kinoshita, Irie, Shirasawa, & Shimizu, Silibinin dose at 16 mg/kg/day showed a decrease in protein plaque deposition in Alzheimer’s.  In another animal study of diabetic rats by Roghani, Khalili, Baluchnejadmojarad, & Ahmadi, long-term administration of Silymarin at a high dose produces an enhanced memory and recall ability. However, this high-dose silymarin was not defined. Gholamreza’s study notes that Silymarin, at a dose of 200 mg/kg/day, reduced protein deposition in some regions of the brain called the hippocampus and cortex of elderly rats.

10. Boosts The Immune System

The immunostimulatory effect of milk thistle extracts may benefit one’s immunity from infectious diseases. According to Wilasrusmee, Kittur, Shah, Siddiqui, Bruch, Wilasrusmee, & Kittur, the most potent immune-boosting capacities are due to a mixture of silybine, isosilybine, silycristine, silydianine, and taxifoline; Silybin and its isomers having the most significant potential. 

These components induce lymphocyte proliferation. The proliferation of lymphocytes is the first stage in a good immune response to produce effector cells, which are needed to destroy a present antigen, or memory lymphocytes required to eliminate the same antigen the host may meet in the future.

They also increase the number of cytokines, which produce interleukins. Intercellular messengers called cytokines are the source of soluble regulatory signals that start and stop inflammatory responses to infections and injury.

Milk thistle extracts also strengthen macrophage activity. According to Hirayama, Iida, & Nakase, macrophages are immune effector cells that engulf bacteria and release other pro-inflammatory and antibacterial mediators during a pathogenic attack. Furthermore, macrophages play a critical function in eliminating damaged cells via programmed cell death. Macrophages eat and digest dead cells, debris, tumor cells, and foreign materials, among other things. According to Tager et al., milk thistle components silymarin and Silibinin restore macrophage cellular thiol status. The rise in thiol in macrophages strengthens their capacity to mount an effective immune response.

According to Esmaeil, Anaraki, Gharagozloo, & Moayedi, silymarin stimulates inflammatory processes at a high dose of 250 mg/kg.

The imbalance between antioxidant defenses and oxidative stress is the cause of oxidative stress. Following stress, there is the formation of reactive oxygen species that causes oxidative damage to macromolecules. The brain is especially vulnerable to oxidative stress. This has been linked to age-related cognitive decline, according to Galhardi, Mesquita, Monserrat, & Barros.

Milk thistle’s main compound, silymarin, is a flavonolignan. Flavonoids are antioxidant chemicals that can prevent reactive oxygen species from forming. Studies have shown that flavonoids act through mechanisms like increased glutathione production. In addition, silymarin increases ribosomal protein synthesis. These ribosomal proteins are the target of reactive oxygen species, and their damage causes neuronal cell death.

Silymarin has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties by inhibiting neutrophil migration into inflamed areas. Neutrophils cause small-vessel damage and edema by producing reactive oxygen species and proteolytic enzymes. Silymarin also inhibits microglia activation as the production of these cells stimulates pro-inflammatory processes that in excessive amounts cause neuronal death.

Normal aging is followed by a loss of dopamine and serotonin-producing cells’ function due to neuron degradation. In the study by Schliebs, & Arendt, the overall decrease in the production of inflammatory agents caused by silymarin also reduces damage to dopaminergic and serotonergic neurons. Preserving these neurons leads to slowing down of age-related brain atrophy and aging-associated cognitive impairments.

According to Neha, Kumar, Jaggi, Sodhi, & Singh, a high-fat diet is regarded as the primary cause of dementia. This is due to two mechanisms. First, fatty acids degrade the integrity of biological membranes, impairing the function of membrane proteins. The second is mild chronic insulin/IGF elevation signaling that occurs with a high-fat diet, which hastens neuronal degeneration. Silymarin has been further reported to decrease total serum cholesterol levels and directly lower liver cholesterol metabolism. This prevents the progression of age-related cognitive decline in dementia.

In animal studies by Neha, Kumar, Jaggi, Sodhi, & Singh, the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective effects of silymarin were attained with the treatment of 100 and 200 mg/kg oral doses.

12. Helps You Produce Breast Milk

Milk Thistle is a known galactagogue. Galactagogues are pharmaceuticals, foods, or herbal supplements that help women start, continue, or increase their breast milk supply. Forinash, Yancey, Barnes, & Myles theorizes that this milk-secreting ability is secondary to an increase in prolactin levels. In the study by Zapantis, Steinberg & Schilit, silymarin supplementation from milk thistle increased milk production by 64% after 30 days. After two months of supplementation, a higher increase of 83% in expressed milk was noticed. There was no trace of silymarin passage in these expressed milk, nor was there a change in the chemical composition of the milk.

The exact mechanism of how silymarin works as a galactagogue remains unclear. However, in animal studies by Capasso, there was an increase in prolactin, the primary lactogenic hormone. Furthermore, silymarin in milk thistle is a mixture of four flavonolignans. Flavonolignans have a steroid-like structure that stimulates prolactin production. They may also operate on estrogen receptors by reducing the antagonism of endogenous receptors with milk production.

Another explanation proposed by Capasso is the involvement of dopamine D2 receptors in lactation. Some hormonal, environmental, and genetic factors regulate dopamine. Dopamine acts to inhibit prolactin synthesis and release. In animal studies, silymarin causes minimal suppression of dopamine D2 receptors, thereby increasing prolactin levels.

In the light of these results, Zapantis, Steinberg & Schilit consider milk thistle or silymarin as a good candidate for treating lactation insufficiency. In another study by Abenavoli, Capasso, Milic, & Capasso, another extract of milk thistle called Silitidil was administered to increase the serum prolactin levels further. In this study, the treatment of animals with Silitidil at 25-200 mg/kg for 14 days significantly increased the serum levels of prolactin. 

What Are The Risks and Side-Effects Of Milk Thistle?

According to Abenavoli, Capasso, Milic, & Capasso, Silymarin is said to have an excellent safety profile. However, some case reports list the following risks and side-effects of milk thistle:

  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Dyspepsia
  • Diarrhea
  • Severe sweating
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Joint pains
  • Urticaria
  • Anaphylactic shock. According to Polachi et al., this risk increases in persons with known allergies to the Asteraceae/Compositae plant family like daisies, ragweed, chrysanthemum, and marigold.

There are also risks associated with the intake of milk thistle. Caution should be practiced when the following concurrent medications are taken:

  • Diazepam, Warfarin. Milk thistle may cause elevation of the levels of these medications.
  • Antidiabetic medications. Milk thistle may cause low blood sugar levels when used concurrently.
  • Raloxifene. Milk thistle may cause higher levels of the drug in your bloodstream.
  • Sirolimus. Immunosuppressants can further low immunity when taken together with milk thistle.

How Does Milk Thistle Work Within The Human Body?

Abenavoli, Capasso, Milic, & Capasso, describes the following processes that take place in the human body after ingestion of milk thistle. This is based on the study involving Silibinin, the main component of silymarin. After oral treatment, around 20–50% of silymarin is absorbed. About 80% of the dose is eliminated in the bile, and 10% enters the liver and gastrointestinal circulation. The final site of action for silymarin is the liver, where it finally concentrates, according to the study by Gholamreza. From there, there is a systemic distribution to the target organs. 

The bioavailability of Silibinin, or the proportion of the substance that reaches the organs, is low; adding “solubilizing” chemicals to the extract can improve its systemic bioavailability.

This bioavailability is reached at approximately two hours after ingestion. After this, an elimination half-life was noted at around 6 hours. Between 3% to 8% of an oral dose is eliminated in the urine, while 20–40% are glucuronide and sulfate conjugates from the bile. The remainder was eliminated unchanged in feces.

How Do You Determine The Correct Milk Thistle Dosage?

The correct milk thistle dosage will depend on a person’s usage purpose, the concentration of milk thistle used, and how the drug is administered.

Based on usage purpose, different dosages should be given:

  • To promote general health and well-being: silymarin 420–600 mg daily is effective
  • For hepatoprotection: oral silymarin 420 mg/day three times a day for 6-8 weeks
  • For chronic alcoholic liver disease: an oral dose of 420 mg/day of silymarin for 6 months 
  • As an antifibrotic: oral administration of silymarin 50 mg/kg reduces the collagen content in the liver
  • For anti-inflammatory benefit: oral administration of 750 mg/kg/day
  • For antioxidant benefit: oral administration of 100 mg/kg
  • For Liver cirrhosis: an oral dose of 420 mg/day
  • For persons with diabetes: an oral dose of 600 mg/day of silymarin plus standard therapies

Based on milk thistle concentration:

  • Standard milk thistle should consist of 70-80% of silymarin. The silybin content will, ideally, be noted on the product. It should account for about 40% of the total. If the concentration is lower than these values, higher doses may be required.

Based on drug route of administration:

  • IV dosages are given at higher dosages, up to 2g/day.

What Are The Most Common Questions For Milk Thistle Usage?

The most common questions for milk thistle usage focus on:

  • The therapeutic effects of milk thistle, such as what milk thistle does to the body’s organ systems.
  • Its benefits on health. Most questions are centered on liver issues.
  • Its risks and side-effects. Precautions on the use of milk thistle are also important questions.
  • Duration of milk thistle use without causing significant side effects.
  • The adequacy of milk thistle administration.
  • Milk thistle’s effects on the kidneys.
  • The best time to take, and when not to take, milk thistle.
  • How milk thistle affects sleep.

What Are The Facts About Milk Thistle?

Most facts about milk thistle in the literature are connected to its health benefits. 

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) has been used as a herbal medicine, mainly in Southern Europe, for various disorders for over 2,000 years, focusing on liver, kidney, and gall bladder issues.

The only available and proven antidote for death cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides) poisoning is milk thistle. By shutting down protein production in liver cells, ingesting this toxic fungus can kill the liver. Milk thistle protects the liver by neutralizing its harmful poison.

Traditionally, Ayurveda makes use of milk thistle as a hangover remedy. For this use, ten drops of milk thistle liquid extract are mixed with a glass of water. Intake 20 to 30 minutes before alcohol ingestion is claimed to help in recovery from hangover symptoms.

The milk thistle plant’s leaves and stem are edible and can be used in salads or eaten raw. Until the end of the nineteenth century, the plant was grown as a vegetable in Europe. At present time, it is widely used for its medicinal properties.


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What Is The Nutritional Profile Of Milk Thistle?

According to Aziz et al., milk thistle has a moisture content of 4.48%, a total protein average of 23%, fatty acids content of 26.05%, ash content of 1.93%, crude fiber content of 5.48%, and a carbohydrates content of 87.2%. Abenavoli, Capasso, Milic, & Capasso further explain that milk thistle also contains the fatty acids linoleic acid or omega 3 (about 60%), palmitic (about 9%) acid, and oleic (about 30%). Its sugars comprise of arabinose, glucose, rhamnose, and xylose. It also contains 0.038% of tocopherol, 0.063% sterols, and flavonoids like quercetin, taxifolin, eriodictyol, and chrysoeriol. Flavonoids are responsible for most of the activity of milk thistle extracts. It also contains the minerals potassium at 15.28%, calcium at 13.20%, and copper at 8.94%. It also has magnesium, zinc, copper, and cadmium. The B vitamin, B9 is also present at 10.43% and vitamin E at 0.038%. The Nuclear Institute for Food and Agriculture adds that milk thistle has ten amino acids with markedly high amounts of essential amino acids such as lysine, isoleucine, leucine, valine, and threonine.

How Is Milk Thistle Processed?

According to Abenavoli, Capasso, Milic, & Capasso, flavonolignans, are the most active components that provide milk thistle’s benefits. They are produced after adding products like alcohol, phenylpropanoid alcohol, and taxifolin. This mixture, known as silymarin, makes up 1.5–3% of the dry drug weight in commercial products and contains silybin (50–60%), isosilybin (5%), silychristin (20%), and silydianin (10%), as well as silimonin, isosilychristin, and isoSilibinin.

A two-step defatting and extraction technique, employing organic solvents, is usually used to obtain these silymarin components. First, the fruits are defatted in n-hexane for six hours; then, silymarin is extracted in methanol for another five hours.

Wallace, S., Carrier, D., & Clausen adds that Milk thistle seeds must first be defatted to eliminate the 25% lipid content before being extracted for flavonolignan content. Lipid removal is a key extraction step because defatted material delivers twice the silymarin concentration. After which, commercial flavonolignan extraction techniques require the use of organic solvents such as petrol, methanol, and acetonitrile. Although some potential degradation was found when extracting defatted milk thistle seeds with organic solvents, extraction with ethanol yielded the maximum silymarin yield. If Silibinin A were the diastereoisomer of choice, methanol would be the extraction solvent of choice.

Silymarin benefits both health and the economy. The pharmaceutical and dietary supplement industries both use silymarin as a basic ingredient. AbouZid, Chen, McAlpine, Friesen, & Pauli states that between 20% and 50% of European and American people take herbal-based dietary supplements. This trend is gradually expanding, with billions of dollars spent on herbal-based dietary supplements each year. Milk thistle extract, Silybum marianum, is one of the most popular and best-selling herbal-based nutritional supplements in the United States.

What Are The Supplement Forms Of Milk Thistle?

After processing, milk thistle is available as extracts or supplements. Milk thistle supplements come in powder, capsule, or tablet forms. 

1. Milk Thistle Extract

Milk thistle extract is the initial extract of crushed milk thistle seeds added to ethanol or other alcohols. It is 65 to 80 percent silymarin and 20 to 35 percent fatty acids, such as linoleic acid. They are widely used as a liver tonic and are currently studied for their cancer-protective potential. It is also used in cases of mushroom poisoning. Because it undergoes less processing, it contains the purest flavonoid concentrations. However, due to the inherent structure of milk thistle, it has a low bioavailability. 

Why Is Milk Thistle Extract Useful?

According to Hackett, Twedt, & Gustafson, milk thistle extract is beneficial because its antioxidant, antifibrotic, and hepatoprotective potentials enable its utilization in liver diseases like hepatitis, cirrhosis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and even hepatocellular carcinoma. 

2. Milk Thistle Supplement

Milk thistle supplements undergo processing to extract their intended components. During processing, the extracts are partnered with a carrier molecule to increase their bioavailability. These products are then marketed as dietary supplements for cirrhosis, hepatitis, jaundice, indigestion, diabetes, and other conditions.

Abenavoli, Capasso, Milic, & Capasso, explain the processes required to produce different supplement forms. In addition to alcohol extraction, filtering, and evaporation, the formulation may include pressing, heat drying, and combining with additional chemicals. Some products may include Choline, inositol, artichoke, turmeric extract, whole herb powder, licorice, dandelion, Curcuma, iron, or vitamins A and C. For example, Madaus Legalon®, a water-soluble Silibinin derivative, is available in Europe and is used for Amanita phalloides poisoning. Silipide® is a compound of one part silybin and two parts phosphatidylcholine. This formulation is more bioavailable than standardized silymarin for liver health in healthy people, cirrhotics, and those patients who underwent gallbladder surgery.

3. Milk Thistle Powder

Milk thistle powder is a type of supplement with higher ceiling doses. Its uses are studied to promote breast milk production, prevent age-related memory decline, improve cognition, promote bone health, treat allergic symptoms, prevent and treat cancer, and liver detoxification from snake bites and other environmental poisons. In the immune system, the milk thistle is immunomodulatory, boosting one’s protection against infectious agents.

Milk thistle in powder form can be used in a single dose of 300 mg to 600 mg. Its dry extract can also be used at a dose of 200 mg daily, according to the European Union’s herbal monograph on Silybum marianum.

4. Milk Thistle Pills And Capsules

Other concentrated oral formulations include tablets and soft gel capsules. Because the extracts are concentrated, there is a narrower margin of safety compared to powder forms. Pills and capsules do, however, offer the advantage of being easily portable and masking the taste and aroma of the extract when consumed. There is also typically higher bioavailability because of other substances mixed in, like phosphatidylcholine. The Silybin content in Silipide®, for example, is approximately tenfold greater than the silybin content of standard milk thistle preparations. 

Pills and capsules are also used as immunomodulators, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatories. It is also used for liver, heart, and bone health and the prevention and treatment of cancer and liver disorders. It also alleviates allergic symptoms and age-related memory decline. 

What Are The Milk Thistle Types?

Other plants are also called milk thistle include:

  • Solo Milk Thistle
  • Snow Mountain Milk Thistle
  • Sonchus asper or rough milk thistle
  • Sonchus arvensis, or field milk thistle
  • Sonchus oleraceus, or common milk thistle
  • Lactuca serriola

What Is The Etymology Of The Milk Thistle?

Milk thistle or Silybum marianum gets its name from the Greek physician, Pedanius Dioscorides. He called it “Silybum” or sillybon, referring to an edible thistle, and “marianum” which appears to be a reference to the Virgin Mary. Mythology claimed that the white veins running through the plant’s leaves, the ‘Milk’ element of Milk Thistle, were created by a drop of the Virgin Mary’s milk.

What Place Does Milk Thistle Have In Society And Culture?

In society and ancient culture, the milk thistle’s primary role is health. Milk thistle was first used as a liver toxin antidote in the Middle Ages. Culpepper, a British herbalist, employed it to ease liver blockages in the Middle Ages but its therapeutic potential has since expanded. Eclectic physicians Felter and Lloyd discovered the herb’s benefits for liver, spleen, and renal “congestion” in 1898. Native Americans utilized milk thistle to heal boils and other skin conditions. Homeopaths have utilized seed concoctions to treat a range of ailments, including jaundice, gallstones, peritonitis, hemorrhage, bronchitis, and varicose veins. Milk thistle is currently used to treat liver dysfunction. Today, its primary indications, according to the German Commission E, include dyspeptic complaints and liver problems, such as toxin-induced liver damage and hepatic cirrhosis. It can also also be used as supportive therapy for chronic inflammatory liver diseases.

What Are Some Food Recipes That Contain Milk Thistle?

Milk thistle is utilized as an ingredient in some:

  • Tea
  • Homemade cheese
  • Salad
  • Pie
  • Soup
  • Smoothies
  • Seasoning

What Are The Milk Thistle Parts?

There are four basic parts of the milk thistle:

  • The narrow oval-shaped leaves taper to a point at each end and measure 15-60cm in length. They are hairless and have milk-white veins on a lustrous green background.
  • Hairless bracts surround the flower head with triangular, spine-edged appendages and a thick yellow spine at the apex.
  • There are four sections of the fruit namely the pericarp, seed integument, albumen, and embryo. The epidermis, subepidermal layer, and membraniform layer are the three layers that make up the pericarp. The dark brown substance in some of the cells of the subepidermal layer is responsible for the fruits’ speckled look. The seed integument is made up of the integument’s epidermis and a few cell layers containing calcium oxalate crystals. The albumen is made up of a single layer of cells that store protein. Two big cotyledons with fat as storing material are present in the embryo. The principal silymarin components, flavonolignans, have been found in the fruit’s exterior layer, encompassing all cell layers from the pericarp epidermis to the albumen.

What Is The History Of Milk Thistle?

Milk thistle is native to southern Europe, Asia Minor, southern Russia, and northern Africa. Still, it has been grown and eventually established a population in North America, South America, and southern Australia.

According to Abenavoli, Capasso, Milic, & Capasso, the use of milk thistle dates back to ancient physicians and herbalists, largely in southern Europe. Milk thistle has been used to treat various liver and gallbladder disorders, including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and jaundice. It also protects the liver from chemical and environmental toxins, such as snakebites, insect stings, mushroom poisoning, and alcohol poisoning. The Bible contains one of the first records of milk thistle. In the Book of Genesis, when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, God told them that “thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.”

Ancient Greek and Roman physicians and herbalists were among the first to utilize and write about milk thistle, with each having their own name for the herb. It was known as ‘silybon’ by Dioscorides, ‘sillybum’ by Pliny, the Elder, and ‘pternix’ by Theophrastus. The usage of milk thistle by Dioscorides is one of the earliest recorded references to the plant’s therapeutic use. He recommended putting it in tea ‘for those who serpents have bitten.’ Pliny the Elder, another prominent ancient herbalist, recommended combining the plant’s juice with honey for ‘carrying off bile.’

Its use appears to have spread to Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, where it was recommended as a liver ‘tonic.’ Presently, it is used for breast milk production, treating depression, and detoxification against poisoning by Amanita phalloides mushroom known as Death Cap.

What Are The Other Plants That Are Called Milk Thistle From Time To Time?

Milk thistle is also called the following:

  • Silybum marianum
  • Marian thistle
  • Christ’s crown
  • Mary thistle
  • Saint Mary’s thistle
  • Blessed milk thistle
  • Cardus marianus
  • Mediterranean milk thistle
  • Variegated thistle
  • Venue thistle
  • Scotch thistle 
  • Heal thistle

What Are The Most Common Questions For Milk Thistle Usage?

Most questions on milk thistle are centered on its therapeutic uses, dosage, and timing of use. They are as follows:

Are Milk Thistle Supplements Approved By The Authorities?

No. The Food and Drug Administration regulates health supplements like milk thistle as dietary supplements, not as drugs. That means that these supplements don’t need prior approval from the FDA to be sold on the market. However, once they are on the market, the FDA starts exercising its safety monitoring function. It reviews supplement labels and promotional materials as its resources allow and monitors whether there are safety complaints about the product. The supplement manufacturer itself is required to report any of these complaints to the FDA within 15 days upon receipt of the same.

Is Milk Thistle A Diuretic ?

No, milk thistle is not a diuretic. There are no studies performed on the diuretic function of milk thistle in humans and animals.

Can You Take Milk Thistle At Night?

Yes, you may take milk thistle at night. There are no studies that specify the timing of intake.

Can You Take Milk Thistle After Meals?

Yes, you can take milk thistle after meals. However, it is best to take it on an empty stomach for better absorption.

Can You Take Milk Thistle Every Day?

Yes, it is safe to take milk thistle every day. No adverse reactions are noted with its daily consumption.

Can A Child Take Milk Thistle?

The safety of children using milk thistle is not evaluated in most studies.

Can Your Pet Consume Milk Thistle?

Yes, dogs and cats can consume milk thistle. 

Which Tree Produces The Milk Thistle?

The tree that produces Milk thistle is Silybum marianum. This Asteraceae species produces its flowers once or twice a year. The flowers of this common thistle range from scarlet to purple, and the leaves are a lustrous pale green with white veins.


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What Are The Top Current Scientific Research Topics For Milk Thistle?

The top scientific research on Milk thistle focuses on:

  • Milk thistles’ past, present, future uses
  • Milk thistle chemistry, pharmacological, and nutraceutical properties and how they are utilized in liver diseases
  • The safety and toxicity profile of its main component, silymarin
  • Milk thistle’s potentials in cure of diabetes
  • The chemistry, bioavailability, and metabolism of its component, silybin
  • Milk thistle’s therapeutic potential in metabolic syndrome
  • Milk thistle’s safety for use as an antidote to toxicities

Can Milk Thistle Help Fatty Liver?

Yes, Milk Thistle can help resolve fatty liver due to its antioxidant activity, as shown in repeated research studies.  

How To Determine The Correct Milk Thistle Dosage For Fatty Liver?

In the study by Salamone, Galvano, Cappello, Mangiameli, Barbagallo, & Li, Silibinin-containing milk thistle at a dose of 20mg/kg slows the progression of injury in a fatty liver. 

What Are The Health Effects Of Milk Thistle To The Kidney?

Milk thistle also has beneficial effects on the kidney. It protects the kidney in the following ways:

  • In kidneys exposed to the toxic effects of paracetamol, it stimulates the synthesis of DNA repair molecules in the cells, increasing their capacity for protein synthesis, and reducing the toxic effects of paracetamol. 
  • It scavenges the oxygen free radicals in kidneys which acquire damage after radiocontrast agents are given
  • It regulates the immune response in chemically damaged kidneys by cisplatin and vincristine
  • It also is immunomodulatory in diabetic nephropathy
  • It prevents blood vessel death and reperfusion renal injury caused by nephrotoxic drugs like cisplatin, doxorubicin, aminoglycosides, vincristine, cyclosporine, and acetaminophen in vitro studies.


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