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Milk thistle

Milk thistle
Milk thistle, commonly known as silymarin, is a plant named for the white veins on its large prickly leaves. It is native to Mediterranean countries. Some people also call it Mary thistle or holy thistle.
In earlier times, people have used Milk thistle to treat liver disorders. The plant contains an active ingredient called silymarin which is extracted from the seeds. Silymarin is believed to have antioxidant properties[1] which help in managing liver-related problems. Milk thistle is also considered a potent agent in managing diabetes and its complications.
There have been studies on the beneficial role of Milk thistle in the treatment of acne, liver ailments, indigestion, hay fever, etc. However, it is unclear if oral consumption of Milk thistle alone is beneficial in patients with these ailments.
Milk thistle when taken in the prescribed dose and duration is considered safe for use. However, if you are suffering from any chronic disease, it would be best to avoid self-medication and consult a doctor before using a Milk thistle.
In some cases, Milk thistle may cause side effects, like abdominal bloating, diarrhea, dyspepsia, flatulence, and nausea. However, in some rare cases, oral intake of Milk thistle may cause allergic reactions.

What are the synonyms of Milk thistle?

Silybum marianum , Cardo Lechoso, Artichaut Sauvage, Carduus Marianum, Holy Thistle, Lady's Thistle, Marian Thistle, Mary Thistle, Our Lady's Thistle, Blessed Milk, Saint Mary's thistle, Mariendistel, Chardon de Marie

What is the source of Milk thistle?

Plant Based

Benefits of Milk thistle

What are the benefits of Milk thistle for Diabetes mellitus (Type 1 & Type 2)?

scientific
Modern Science View
Milk thistle helps reduce insulin resistance and thus improves glucose uptake from the blood. This helps in managing diabetes and its associated complications.[2].

Tip
-Take Milk thistle 1-2 capsules or as directed by the physician
-Have it once or twice a day, preferably after meals
# To regulate blood sugar levels.

What are the benefits of Milk thistle for Liver disease?

scientific
Modern Science View
Liver diseases or problems could be due to genetic reasons or as a result of various factors that damage the liver, such as viruses, excess alcohol use, and obesity. Various studies on Milk thistle have shown mixed results on its beneficial effect on liver diseases such as cirrhosis and hepatitis C[4]. Some evidence suggests that Milk thistle can treat cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis, which can be caused by alcohol abuse, autoimmune disease, or viruses. However, any conclusive result regarding its direct effect is not yet found[5].

Tip
-Take Milk thistle 1-2 tablets or as directed by the physician
-Have it once or twice a day, preferably after meals’
# To improve liver function.

What are the benefits of Milk thistle for Acne?

scientific
Modern Science View
Acne is a common skin condition that occurs when oil glands on the skin get clogged with oil and dead skin cells. It causes pimples that develop deep in the skin, causing red, swollen, and painful bumps. Studies have shown that Milk thistle is rich in flavonoids. Silymarin is one such flavonoid that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. These properties may have beneficial effects in treating acne. However, more evidence is required to suggest its direct and effective result in the treatment of acne when taken orally[3].

What are the benefits of Milk thistle for Indigestion?

scientific
Modern Science View
Indigestion refers to a sensation of pain or discomfort in the upper abdominal region. One may also experience a feeling of fullness and bloating. According to a study, Milk thistle when used in combination with other supplements may help improve the symptoms of indigestion [4].

What are the benefits of Milk thistle for Neuropathic pain?

scientific
Modern Science View
Diabetic neuropathy is a serious and common complication seen in diabetic patients. It is a type of nerve damage that can occur with high blood sugar (glucose) levels. It can injure nerves throughout your body, especially your legs or feet. According to a study, silymarin present in Milk thistle is considered to show positive results in preventing the progression of diabetic neuropathy[6].

What are the benefits of Milk thistle for Alzheimer's disease?

scientific
Modern Science View
Alzheimer's disease is a neurological condition in which the brain cells start to die. It is the most common cause of dementia, a continuous decline in memory, behavioral and social skills that impact a person's ability to function independently. Some studies on Milk thistle have suggested that certain constituents present in the plant may help in improving or limiting neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. However, more data is required to get a conclusive result on the impact of Milk thistle on more advanced diseases [9].

What are the benefits of Milk thistle for High cholesterol?

scientific
Modern Science View
The human body requires cholesterol to build healthy cells. However, increased levels of cholesterol in the body can increase your risk of heart disease. Milk thistle may help lower the level of total cholesterol, bad cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL). This is due to the presence of an important flavonoid named silymarin[10].

What are the benefits of Milk thistle for Nasal allergy symptoms?

scientific
Modern Science View
Hay fever is also called allergic rhinitis. It causes cold-like signs and symptoms, such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, and sneezing. Preliminary clinical trials have shown that supplements containing Milk thistle as an ingredient may help reduce the severity of allergic rhinitis symptoms. However, enough evidence is not available to suggest its direct beneficial effect on the ailment[11].

How effective is Milk thistle?

Likely effective
Diabetes mellitus (Type 1 & Type 2)
Insufficient evidence
Acne, Alzheimer's disease, High cholesterol, Indigestion, Liver disease, Nasal allergy symptoms, Neuropathic pain

Precautions when using Milk thistle

Allergy
scientific
Modern Science View
People who are sensitive to the plant Milk thistle or Asteraceae/Compositae plant family may experience an allergic reaction.
Breastfeeding
scientific
Modern Science View
Enough information is not available to suggest whether it is safe to use milk thistle during breastfeeding.
Patients with diabetes
scientific
Modern Science View
Diabetes: Milk thistle may lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Consult your doctor before using if your blood sugar level is already low.
Pregnancy
scientific
Modern Science View
Enough information is not available to suggest whether it is safe to use milk thistle during pregnancy.

Recommended Dosage of Milk thistle

  • Milk thistle Capsule - 1-2 capsules once or twice a day after meals or as directed by your physician
  • Milk thistle Tablet - 1-2 tablets once or twice a day after meals or as directed by your physician
  • Milk thistle Powder - ¼-½ teaspoon once or twice a day after meals or as directed by your physician

How to use Milk thistle

Milk thistle capsule
-Take Milk thistle 1-2 capsules or as directed by the physician
-Have it once or twice a day, preferably after meals
#To regulate blood sugar levels.

Milk thistle tablet
-Take Milk thistle 1-2 tablets or as directed by the physician
-Have it once or twice a day, preferably after meals
#To improve liver function.

Milk thistle powder
-Take Milk thistle powder ¼-½ teaspoon or as directed by the physician
-Have it once or twice with water, preferably after meals
#To manage the normal levels of cholesterol

Milk thistle tea
-Take leaves or seeds of the plant in hot water and let it simmer for a bit.
-Pour the liquid after clearing out the residue
-Have it once or twice a day, preferably after meals
#To get quick help to improve digestion

Frequently asked questions

Q. Can Milk thistle cause medicine interactions?

scientific
Modern Science View
Patients who are on diabetic and Hepatitis C medication should consult their doctor before using Milk thistle[5].

Q. Can Milk thistle help fatty liver?

scientific
Modern Science View
Yes, Milk thistle may help in treating fatty liver disease. This is due to silymarin, an active constituent of the plant which is known to have antioxidant properties. These properties may provide beneficial effects in managing problems related to fatty liver.

Q. Is Milk thistle helpful in acne?

scientific
Modern Science View
Enough evidence is not available to suggest its beneficial role in the treatment of acne when used alone or in combination with other medicine[3].

Q. Can Milk thistle make you gain weight?

scientific
Modern Science View
Enough evidence is not available to suggest the role of Milk thistle in weight gain.

Q. How long does it take for Milk thistle to work?

scientific
Modern Science View
The working of Milk thistle may differ according to the condition it is being used against. It may take some time to show any health benefits, do not expect immediate results. However, if you do not feel improvement in your symptoms, do consult the doctor.

Q. Is it good to take Milk thistle every day?

scientific
Modern Science View
Milk thistle is generally considered safe when taken in prescribed quantities. Overdose or excessive use may cause some side effects like bloating, diarrhea, dyspepsia, flatulence, and nausea. Always consult your doctor before taking any herbal supplements.

Q. What should I avoid while taking Milk thistle?

scientific
Modern Science View
It is important to consult your doctor and follow the given instructions about any restrictions on food, beverages, or activity.

Q. Can a diabetic person take Milk thistle?

scientific
Modern Science View
Although Milk thistle might help manage diabetes and its complications. It is important to consult your doctor before taking it in any form.

Q. Does Milk thistle help detox the liver?

scientific
Modern Science View
Some properties of Milk thistle have shown positive results in decreasing liver inflammation. However, more detailed research is required to suggest a conclusive report on liver detoxification[7].

Q. Does Milk thistle help with allergies?

scientific
Modern Science View
Generally, allergic conditions are caused due to inflammation. Milk thistle contains certain constituents like silymarin which inhibits the inflammatory response, providing aid in controlling inflammation. However, more scientific studies are required to conclude better results with the use of Milk thistle in such cases[8].

Q. Is Milk thistle tea beneficial for health?

scientific
Modern Science View
Milk thistle can be taken in many forms, tablets, extract, etc. You can also gain the benefits of Milk thistle by making tea out of its leaves or seeds. Just infuse the leaves or seeds of the plant in hot water and let it simmer for a bit. Pour the liquid after clearing out the residue. Milk thistle tea is naturally caffeine-free. It can be consumed at any time of day without disrupting your sleep pattern.

Q. Is Milk thistle good for cancer patients?

scientific
Modern Science View
Milk thistle contains silymarin which can help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy on the liver[12]. According to a study, Milk thistle has shown positive results in improving liver function in some children undergoing chemotherapy for acute leukemia[13].

Q. Does Milk thistle protect the liver from alcohol?

scientific
Modern Science View
No, Milk thistle cannot protect the liver from alcohol. Early research on Milk thistle suggests that its oral extract may provide aid against complications related to liver disease caused due to alcohol intake. However, further studies on Milk thistle and its extracts depict conflicting results on the same[14].

Q. Can Milk thistle help recover from cirrhosis of the liver?

scientific
Modern Science View
Cirrhosis is a condition that indicates late-stage liver disease. Some studies state that the presence of silymarin in Milk thistle extract may improve liver functions[1,4]. However, enough evidence is not available to suggest the role of Milk thistle against cirrhosis from various causes[15].

Q. Is Milk thistle good for kidneys?

scientific
Modern Science View
Studies on Milk thistle show some positive results in providing aid in kidney function due to the presence of silymarin[6]. Milk thistle extract when taken together with conventional treatment might even help treat kidney disease in people with diabetes.

References

  1. Milk Thistle. NIHExternal Link
  2. Kazazis CE, Evangelopoulos AA, Kollas A, and Vallianou NG. The Therapeutic Potential of Milk Thistle in Diabetes. Rev Diabet Stud. 2014 Summer; 11(2): 167–174. External Link
  3. Morteza MS, Hayati Z, Namazi N, Abdollahimajd F. Efficacy and safety of oral silymarin in comparison with oral doxycycline and their combination therapy in the treatment of acne vulgaris. Dermatol Ther. 2019 Nov;32(6):e13095.
  4. Mayo Clinic. Milk Thistle. External Link
  5. WebMD. Does Milk Thistle Help Your Liver?External Link
  6. Fallahzadeh MK, Dormanesh B, Mahdi Sagheb MM. Effect of addition of silymarin to renin-angiotensin system inhibitors on proteinuria in type 2 diabetic patients with overt nephropathy: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Am J Kidney Dis. 2012 Dec;60(6):896-903.
  7. Jogn Hopkins Medicine. Health. Detoxing Your Liver: Fact Versus Fiction.External Link
  8. Choi YH , Jin GY, Guo HS et al., Silibinin attenuates allergic airway inflammation in mice. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2012 Oct 26;427(3):450-5.
  9. Font-Réaulx Rojas E and Dorazco-Barragan G. Clinical stabilisation in neurodegenerative diseases: clinical study in phase II. Rev Neurol. 2010 May 1;50(9):520-8.
  10. Vidlar A, Vostalova J, Ulrichova J. et al. The safety and efficacy of a silymarin and selenium combination in men after radical prostatectomy - a six month placebo-controlled double-blind clinical trial. Biomed Pap Med Fac Univ Palacky Olomouc Czech Repub. 2010 Sep;154(3):239-44. doi: 10.5507/bp.2010.036.
  11. Bakhshaee M, Jabbari F, Hoseini S, et al. Effect of silymarin in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2011 Dec;145(6):904-9. External Link
  12. National Cancer Institute. Milk Thistle (PDQ®)–Patient Version. External Link
  13. 13. Siegel AB and Stebbing J. Milk thistle: early seeds of potential. Lancet Oncol. 2013 Sep; 14(10): 929–930.External Link
  14. Rambaldi A, Jacobs BP, Gluud C. Milk thistle for alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C virus liver diseases. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Oct 17;(4):CD003620. External Link
  15. Jacobs BP, Dennehy C, Ramirez G, Sapp J, Lawrence VA. Milk thistle for the treatment of liver disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2002 Oct 15;113(6):506-15. External Link
Disclaimer
The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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