Milk thistle is an herbal remedy derived from the milk thistle plant, also known as Silybum marianum.
The active ingredients in milk thistle are a group of plant compounds collectively known as silymarin. The silymarin extracted from milk thistle is known to have antioxidant, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties.
It has traditionally been used to treat liver and gallbladder disorders, promote breast milk production, prevent and treat cancer, and even protect the liver from snake bites, alcohol, and other environmental poisons.
Milk Thistle Benefits
- Protect the liver against toxins like amatoxin.
- May help reduce liver inflammation and liver damage.
- It may help prevent age-related decline in brain function.
- It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
- Could protect against bone loss.
- May improve cancer treatment.
- It can boost breast milk production.
- Promotes skin health.
- Can lower blood sugar levels for people with diabetes.
- Reduces cholesterol.
- Supports weight loss.
- Improve allergic asthma symptoms.
- Boost the immune system.
Milk Thistle contains 1.5-3% Silymarin before extraction in its dry weight. It is extracted from the seeds for supplement use via ethanol and contains 65-80% of Silymarin, which is a specific polyphenol called a flavonolignan. Silymarin has 7 flavonolignan constituents unique to milk thistle: Silybinin, Isosilibin, Silychristine, Sildydianin, and Taxifolin (a nearly undetectable level of Quercetin called dihydroquercetin) (1).
Milk Thistle’s hepatoprotective (liver protective) effects are believed to be due to its ability to increase protein synthesis in liver cells and facilitate repair of liver cells after injury. Milk Thistle has been shown to decrease elevated levels of liver enzymes such as bilirubin, alanine transaminase, and aspartate transaminase while improving the health of cells at a histologic (microscopic) level.
The research in animals and in vitro has suggested its ability to act as an antioxidant specifically targeting liver cells and working as a mediator in decreasing and protecting neural cells from oxidative demise.
Milk Thistle has also been useful in cases of poisonous mushroom toxicity because the Silibinin in Milk Thistle extracts can block cellular mushroom toxins (amatoxins) from being recirculated through the liver.
Milk Thistle Capsules & Dosage
Milk Thistle Capsules provide 250 mg of Milk Thistle Seed Extract (80% Silymarin) per 1 capsule.
Suggested use for adults is 1 to 2 capsules by mouth daily for best results, or as directed by your healthcare practitioner.
Milk Thistle Side Effects and Toxicity
Milk Thistle is generally well tolerated. Side effects are rare and may include gastrointestinal symptoms such as pain, nausea, or vomiting, and very rare reports of rash, pruritus, eczema, and anaphylaxis.