Milk thistle, also known as Silybum marianum, is a herb that bears flowers and is thought to have potential therapeutic uses. It is a member of the Asteraceae family, which also contains daisies and sunflowers, and it is indigenous to the region that encompasses the Mediterranean.
Milk thistle seeds contain a group of chemicals known as silymarin, which are credited with having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Also, Milk thistle is commonly used as a home medicine to “detoxify” the liver or treat conditions that affect the liver since it is believed to be beneficial to the liver.
Milk thistle is also referred to as Saint Mary's thistle, variegated thistle, and Scotch thistle. All of these names refer to the same plant. The milk thistle plant is referred to as da ji in traditional Chinese medicine, while the seeds are referred to as shui fei ji. With that, are you ready to learn about the benefits of milk thistle?
We’ve got you covered! In this article, you’ll learn about:
- The benefits of milk thistle
- The adverse effects of milk thistle
- When NOT to take milk thistle
- How to prepare milk thistle
What are the Milk Thistle Benefits?
Although milk thistle is most commonly used to treat liver conditions like hepatitis and cirrhosis, some people believe the herb can also treat or prevent diabetes, heartburn, upset stomach (dyspepsia), hangovers, gallbladder problems, high cholesterol, menstrual pain, depression, and even specific types of cancer. Milk thistle is a member of the silymarin family of herbs. Only a few of these assertions are backed up by concrete proof.
#1: Chronic Hepatitis C
People who suffer from persistent cases of hepatitis C are known to use milk thistle (a viral infection characterized by progressive liver scarring). According to a study that the National Institutes of Health financed, 23 percent of 1,145 individuals diagnosed with hepatitis C utilized herbal supplements, with milk thistle being one of the most widespread.
The investigation found that persons with hepatitis C who took milk thistle had fewer symptoms and a “slightly higher quality of life.” This was even though there was no detectable change in the amount of viral activity or inflammation in the liver. This is one of the most potent milk thistle benefits.
This was demonstrated in a study carried out in 2012 and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Although the participants in the trial had no adverse reactions to silymarin (which was given thrice daily in doses of either 420 or 700 milligrams), the enzyme levels in their livers did not change noticeably.
Milk thistle has been linked to a phenomenon known as the placebo effect, in which a person may experience an improvement in their symptoms despite no change in their clinical condition. Given these discrepancies, many scientists believe that milk thistle produces this effect.
#2: Type 2 Diabetes
Milk thistle benefits have been the subject of several research, all of which have concluded that it may be beneficial for diabetics, particularly those who suffer from type 2 diabetes. A 45-day course of silymarin enhanced the antioxidant capacity and reduced systemic inflammation in people with type 2 diabetes more than a placebo did, according to a study that was published in Phytomedicine in 2015.
The authors of the study believe that the data indicate that silymarin may be able to minimize the oxidative stress that is generally associated with the difficulties of diabetes. The routine use of silymarin appears to reduce the levels of fasting blood glucose and HbA1C, according to the findings of a systematic review that was carried out in 2016. However, the research's authors warned that the quality of the assessed studies was subpar.
#3: Liver Disease
It has been claimed that silymarin may improve liver function by preventing harmful chemicals from attaching to liver cells. These findings come from some preliminary investigations. However, the research that has been conducted on the usefulness of milk thistle benefits in treating liver problems has produced contradictory results.
Milk thistle extract may be beneficial for those with mild, subacute (symptom-free) liver disease, according to the findings of several smaller studies. An early study in Finland discovered that a course of silymarin supplements that lasted for four weeks lowered critical liver enzymes in persons with subacute illness, indicating that the liver was operating more appropriately.
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The possible adverse effects of using Milk Thistle?
Milk thistle can cause various adverse reactions in some people, including headache, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal bloating, and gas. Muscle aches, joint discomfort, and sexual dysfunction have been observed; however, this occurs less frequently. There is also the possibility of allergic reactions.
Milk thistle can cause an allergic reaction in people sensitive to ragweed, daisies, artichokes, kiwis, or plants in the aster family. Also, Milk thistle has a very low incidence rate of causing an allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis, which affects the entire body and can potentially be fatal. If anaphylaxis is not treated, it might result in shock, coma, cardiac or respiratory failure, or even death.
Milk thistle may lower blood sugar levels; therefore, it should be used with caution because it can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in individuals who are already on diabetes medication. Additionally, Milk thistle has the potential to alter the way that the liver metabolizes certain medications, which could result in interactions with the following:
- Antibiotics like Biaxin (clarithromycin)
- Anticoagulants like Coumadin (warfarin)
- Statin drugs like Lescol (fluvastatin) and Mevacor (lovastatin)
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Celebrex (celecoxib), Voltaren (diclofenac), and Advil (ibuprofen).
There is the potential for other interactions. Always make sure to tell your healthcare professional about any supplements or herbal remedies that you are taking so that you can avoid any issues.
Who Shouldn’t Take Milk Thistle?
Some people should not consume milk thistle. Milk thistle has the tendency to cause an allergic reaction in certain people. You should not use milk thistle if you have an allergy to ragweed or if you are allergic to certain flowers like daisies, marigolds, or chrysanthemums. When pregnant or nursing, you should stay away from milk thistle as much as possible.
This is because insufficient data is available to determine whether it is safe for your kid. Milk thistle should not be taken by those who have had hormone-related cancer, including prostate cancer, breast cancer, uterine cancer, or other hormone-related cancer.
The correct way of preparing Milk Thistle?
There are no recommendations or rules about the correct way to use milk thistle. Milk thistle supplements are usually available in capsules; however, you can also purchase them in tablets, tea bags, and liquid extracts. There is a wide range of possible dosages, from 175 milligrams to 1,000 mg.
Milk thistle can be safely used regularly at doses ranging from 150 to 175 milligrams, three times daily. Generally, the higher the dose, the greater the risk of experiencing adverse effects from the medication.
Milk thistle doses of 10 milligrams and 210 milligrams, respectively, are regarded to be useful for combination medicines such as Iberogast drops (employed for treating dyspepsia) and Barberol pills (which are designed for diabetics).
The correlation between higher doses and better outcomes is not always there. Stores specializing in herbal items, natural foods stores, and drugstores have dietary supplements containing milk thistle in their product lines. Products containing milk thistle are also available to buy over the internet.
There are plenty of milk thistle benefits; it is up to you whether you want to try it or not. Lucky for you, milk thistle is a resilient plant that thrives in a variety of habitats; however, it likes hot, dry conditions.
Which of the milk thistle benefits seems to be most beneficial for you?