milk thistle, marian thistle, Mary thistle, silibinin, silicristin, silidianin, silmar, silybin, silybum, silymarin,
Milk thistle is an annual or
biennial plant. It has reddish-purple flowers. It grows to 3 feet tall. It’s often
considered a weed. It comes from Europe. It grows in dry, rocky soils. Milk thistle
seeds (Silybum marianum) have been used for hundreds of years to treat liver and
Milk thistle contains a group of
bioflavonoids. These are called silymarin. They’re made from the seeds of the thistle.
The most active of the group is silybin. These may protect the liver from damage. It
works by stopping toxins from attaching to the liver cells. It also stops free radicals.
It’s been used to treat toxic mushroom poisoning, cirrhosis, and hepatitis.
Medically valid uses
Within the last 30 years, silybin
has been used to protect the liver. It treats liver issues. These include:
Milk thistle has been studied to
check if it protects liver cells from inflammation. The results are mixed.
A large study looked at the use of
milk thistle for hepatitis C. It found that people had fewer symptoms and better quality
of life. But there was no change in the level of virus activity or liver
A few early studies suggest that
taking 200 mg of silymarin 3 times per day for 4 months with conventional treatment may
have health benefits in people with type 2 diabetes. These include decreasing:
There may be benefits that have not
yet been proven through research.
Milk thistle may protect the kidneys and pancreas against the effects of chemotherapy. It may also protect against breast cancer. Studies are ongoing.
Follow the instructions on the package for the correct dose.
Side effects, toxicity, and interactions
Milk thistle can cause allergic
reactions. Your risk may be higher if you’re allergic to other plants in the same family
Milk thistle may lower blood sugar
levels. If you have diabetes or low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), talk to your healthcare
provider before using it. You should also talk to your healthcare provider if you take
medicines or supplements that affect blood sugar levels.
Women who are pregnant or
breastfeeding should talk to their healthcare providers before taking any