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?
Milk thistle is sometimes used as a natural treatment for liver problems. These liver problems include cirrhosis, jaundice, hepatitis, and gallbladder disorders.
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. 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.
Researchers also have found that milk thistle improved insulin resistance, a key characteristic of type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a serious condition. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, as they may interfere with your medication. 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.
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.
Milk thistle may cause diarrhea. More rarely, it may cause nausea, bloating, gas, and upset stomach.
Women who are breastfeeding or pregnant should avoid using milk thistle.
If you have a ragweed allergy, you should also avoid milk thistle. Milk thistle may cause a rash or lead to severe allergic reaction.
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.
Serving Size 1 Softgel
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Milk Thistle Extract
250 mg **
(a 4:1 Extract, Equivalent to 1,000 mg whole herb)
*Daily Value not established.
Directions: For adults, take one (1) softgel once or twice daily, preferably with a meal.
WARNING: If you are pregnant, nursing, taking any medications or have any medical condition, consult your doctor before use. Avoid this product if you are allergic to ragweed or daisy-like flowers. Discontinue use and consult your doctor if any adverse reactions occur. Not intended for use by persons under the age of 18. Keep out of reach of children. Store at room temperature. Do not use if seal under cap is broken or missing.