Milk thistle is flowering herb from the Mediterranean region. 1 It has been used as an herbal remedy that has been used for 2,000 years to treat a variety of ailments, particularly hepatic and digestive conditions.2
Milk thistle can be taken as a supplement in capsules of dried herbs or as a liquid extract. Milk thistle is also available as a tincture. The main flavonoid in milk thistle, silymarin is also available in a standardized extract supplement called silymarin phosphatidylcholine complex.
Milk Thistle Uses and Health Benefits
Milk thistle benefits stem from the fact that it contains a flavonoid called silymarin. Sylimarin offers a number of health benefits including:1,3,4
- Liver protection
- Antioxidant power
- Anti-inflammatory health benefits
- Antiviral health benefits
- Promotes healthy digestion
- Helps with enzyme formation
- Increases bile production
- Soothes mucous membranes
- Controls cholesterol
- Reduces insulin-resistance
- Provides hormonal balance
Because of these anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antioxidant health benefits, milk thistle uses range from milk thistle for liver, to milk thistle for acne and skin conditions.
Milk thistle for hangover is also thought to be another use of this herbal remedy as it helps to flush toxins from the body, particularly the liver. Because it can help control cholesterol and improve insulin production, milk thistle for diabetes can be taken to help improve this chronic disease.1
Here are other common milk thistle uses:
- Hepatitis C - Because of milk thistle's antiviral and liver-targeting antioxidant benefits, it can be used as an herbal remedy to help treat hepatitis C to improve liver function.
- Cirrhosis of the Liver - Milk thistle can help improve liver function in patients suffering from cirrhosis of the liver caused by alcohol consumption. Milk thistle can help to remove antioxidants from the liver and improve liver health.
- Hepatitis - For hepatic conditions, milk thistle can help to target liver inflammation and viral activity. Taking milk thistle may help to increase the survival rate in those suffering from hepatitis.
- Gallstones (Gallbladder Pain) - Milk thistle is able to draw out toxins from the body which makes it an excellent herbal remedy for gallbladder conditions such as gallstones. Milk thistle is able to help heal the gallbladder and alleviate pain.
- Liver Cancer - With powerful antioxidant benefits that target the liver, milk thistle is an effective herbal remedy for helping to prevent and fight liver cancer.
- Ovarian Cyst - Milk thistle is able to improve hormonal balance which can help to treat and prevent the formation of ovarian cysts.
Milk Thistle Side Effects and Precautions
Milk thistle is generally a safe and effective herbal treatment when taken in the recommended doses for suitable conditions.
However, there are some precautions to be aware of:1
- Milk thistle may produce allergic reactions to those who are allergic to certain plants
- Milk thistle may lower blood glucose levels and so people with hypoglycemia or diabetes should be cautious taken milk thistle
Always consult your physician if you plan to pursue herbal medicine for treating liver, digestion or other conditions.