What is Milk Thistle?
Milk Thistle is a plant native to Europe. Back in the ‘day’ the colonists brought Milk Thistle to North America. Milk Thistle was named after the milky-like sap that comes from the leaves when crushed. The flower of the plant is a beautiful, vibrant, purple color. The thistles of the plant are called, silibum. The plant has white veins on the green leaves called, marianum (1).
How do you use Milk Thistle?
The seeds are mostly used to make dietary supplements and for medicinal uses. The majority of people take Milk Thistle for liver disorders brought on by alcohol use, chemical/drug use, and other liver inflammatory diseases. Some people take Milk Thistle as a constituent of a cleansing regimen to detoxify the liver.
Health Conditions & Other Uses of Milk Thistle
Milk Thistle has been known to be added to salads. The seeds have been roasted and used as a coffee replacement. However, the seeds may not give you the energy boost like coffee does!
- Death Cap Mushroom poisoning
- Gallbladder problems
- Prostate Cancer
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Alzheimers Disease
Just because some people take Milk Thistle to help manage these health conditions doesn’t mean it actually works 100%. More research is always needed to prove the effectiveness of Milk Thistle in light of these health conditions.
Effectiveness of Milk Thistle
Diabetes. Some studies have found that taking Milk Thistle in combination with conventional treatment could decrease fasting blood sugar readings, hemoglobin A1c, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and triglycerides with patients with type 2 diabetes (2, 3, 4, 5).
Heartburn. A few studies suggest Milk Thistle can help improve symptoms of heartburn when combined with peppermint leaf and other herbs (6, 7).
Various Liver Conditions. Overall, there is some evidence Milk Thistle can help with alcohol related liver damage and liver damage related to specific toxins (8, 9, 10, 11, 12).
Points to Take Home
- Milk Thistle is recognized to be likely safe when used orally per suggested dosage recommended by the manufacture or health professional
- Avoid Milk Thistle if you are pregnant or breastfeeding (more research is needed to determine safety)
- Milk Thistle can interact with other prescription medications (especially diabetes and liver medications). Check with your health care professional before taking Milk Thistle
- If you have an allergy to ragweed; Milk Thistle could trigger an allergic reaction
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(2) Huseini HF, Larijani B, Heshmat R, et al. The efficacy of Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn. (silymarin) in the treatment of type II diabetes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial. Phytother Res 2006;20;1036-9.
(3) Suksomboon N, Poolsup N, Boonkaew S, Suthisisang CC. Meta-analysis of the effect of herbal supplement on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes. J Ethnopharmacol 2011;137(3):1328-1333.
(4) Hussain, S. A. Silymarin as an adjunct to glibenclamide therapy improves long-term and postprandial glycemic control and body mass index in type 2 diabetes. J.Med.Food 2007;10(3):543-547.
(5) Fallah Huseini, H., Larijani, B., Fakhrzadeh, H., Rajabi Pour, B., Akhondzadeh, S., Toliat, T., and Heshmat, R. The clinical trial of Silybum Marianum seed extract (Silymarin) on type II diabetic patients with hyperlipidemia. Iran J.Diabetes Lipid Disord. 2004;3(2):201-206.
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(7) Melzer J, Rosch W, Reichling J, et al. Meta-analysis: phytotherapy of functional dyspepsia with the herbal drug preparation STW 5 (Iberogast). Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2004;20:1279-87.
(8) Feher J, Deak G, Muzes G, et al. [Liver-protective action of silymarin therapy in chronic alcoholic liver diseases]. Orv Hetil 1989;130:2723-7.
(9) Salmi HA, Sarna S. Effect of silymarin on chemical, functional, and morphological alterations of the liver. A double-blind, controlled study. Scand J Gastroenterol 1982;17:517-21.
(10) Saller R, Brignoli R, Melzer J, Meier R. An updated systematic review with meta-analysis for the clinical evidence of silymarin. Forsch Komplementarmed 2008;15:9-20.
(11) Lang, I., Deak, G., Nekam, K., Muzes, G., Gonzalez-Cabello, R., Gergely, P., and Feher, J. Hepatoprotective and immunomodulatory effects of antioxidant therapy. Acta Med Hung. 1988;45(3-4):287-295.
(12) Fintelmann V. Zur Therapie der Fettleber mit Silymarin. Therapiewoche 1970;20:1055-2064.