Milk Thistle:
What is it?

Milk Thistle:
How is it Used?

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Milk Thistle Usage


Effect of Milk Thistle on Migraine Headache

Milk Thistle is a well-known and studied herb that enhances liver function and stimulates regeneration of hepatic cells when mild to moderately damaged. Due to the liver’s role in detoxifying the...

Read more about Migraine Headache and Milk Thistle.

Effect of Milk Thistle on Viral Hepatitis

Milk thistle may help treat both acute and chronic viral hepatitis, as well as alcoholic hepatitis. Standardized milk thistle extract includes many active chemicals. The most active of these...

Read more about Viral Hepatitis and Milk Thistle.

What Is Milk Thistle Used for Today?

Based on the extensive folk use of milk thistle in cases of jaundice, European medical researchers began to investigate its medicinal effects. It is currently used to treat alcoholic hepatitis , liver cirrhosis , liver poisoning, and viral hepatitis , as well as to protect the liver in general from the effects of liver-toxic medications. However, despite this wide usage, there is no definitive evidence that it is effective.

Standardized milk thistle extract is known as silymarin. Silymarin itself is a mixture of at least seven chemicals. The most active of these chemicals is commonly known as silibinin. But, silibinin too is, in fact, a mixture, comprising the two related substances silibinin A and silibinin B. ^[5] When injected intravenously, silibinin is thought to act as an antidote to poisoning by the deathcap mushroom, Amanita phalloides. Animal studies suggest that milk thistle extracts can also protect against many other poisonous substances, from toluene to the drug acetaminophen. ^[6] ^[7] ^[8] ^[9] ^[10] One animal study suggests that milk thistle can also protect against fetal damage caused by alcohol. ^[11] Silibinin is hypothesized to function by displacing toxins trying to bind to the liver as well as by causing the liver to regenerate more quickly. ^[12] It may also act as an antioxidant and also stabilize liver cell membranes. ^[14] In Europe, milk thistle is often added as extra protection when patients are given medications known to cause liver problems. However, milk thistle failed to prove effective for preventing liver inflammation caused by the Alzheimer's drug Cognex (tacrine). ^[15] Milk thistle is also used in a vague condition known as minor hepatic insufficiency, or "sluggish liver." ^[16] This term is mostly used by European physicians and American naturopathic practitioners—conventional physicians in the US don't recognize it. Symptoms are supposed to include aching under the ribs, fatigue, unhealthy skin appearance, general malaise, constipation, premenstrual syndrome, chemical sensitivities, and allergies.

One small, but apparently well-conducted, double-blind trial found evidence that milk thistle might improve blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes . ^[18] Milk thistle may also offer some protection to the kidney. ^[19] Highly preliminary evidence hints that milk thistle might help reduce breast cancer risk. ^[21] Milk thistle is sometimes recommended for gallstones and psoriasis , but there is little to no evidence as yet that it really helps these conditions.

In one small, placebo-controlled trial, the topical application of milk thistle with methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) for 1 month appeared to be effective in the treatment of 46 subjects with the skin condition rosacea . ^[26]