Milk thistle is an herbal remedy derived from the milk thistle plant, also known as Silybum marianum.This prickly plant has distinctive purple flowers and white veins, which traditional stories say were caused by a drop of the Virgin Mary’s milk falling onto its leaves.
The active ingredients in milk thistle are a group of plant compounds collectively known as silymarin.Its herbal remedy is known as milk thistle extract. Milk thistle extract has a high amount of silymarin (between 65–80%) that has been concentrated from the milk thistle plant.
The silymarin extracted from milk thistle is known to have antioxidant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.In fact, it has traditionally been used to treat liver and gallbladder disorders, promote breast milk production, prevent and treat cancer and even protect the liver from snake bites and other environmental poisons.
Here are 7 science-based benefits of milk thistle.
1. Milk Thistle Protects Your Liver
Milk thistle is often promoted for its liver-protecting effects.It’s regularly used as a complementary therapy by people who have liver damage due to conditions like alcoholic liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, hepatitis and even liver cancer.
It’s also used to protect the liver against toxins like amatoxin, which is produced by the death cap mushroom and is deadly if ingested.Improvements in liver function in people with liver diseases who have taken a milk thistle supplement, suggesting it could help reduce liver inflammation and liver damage.
How it works, milk thistle is thought to reduce damage to the liver caused by free radicals, which are produced when your liver metabolizes toxic substances.And although milk thistle extract is commonly used as a complementary therapy for people with liver diseases, there’s currently no evidence that it can prevent you from getting these conditions, especially if you have an unhealthy lifestyle.
2. It May Help Prevent Age-Related Decline in Brain Function
Milk thistle has been used as a traditional remedy for neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease for over two thousand years. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties mean that it is possibly neuroprotective and could help prevent the decline in brain function.
Amyloid plaques are sticky clusters of amyloid proteins that can build up between nerve cells as you age.They are seen in very high numbers in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, meaning that milk thistle could potentially be used to help treat this difficult condition.
However, there are currently no human studies examining the effects of milk thistle in people with Alzheimer’s or other neurological conditions like dementia and Parkinson’s.Moreover, it’s unclear whether milk thistle is well enough absorbed in people to allow adequate amounts to pass through the blood-brain barrier. It’s also unknown what doses would need to be prescribed for it to have a beneficial effect.
3. Milk Thistle Could Protect Your Bones
Osteoporosis is a disease caused by progressive bone loss.
It usually develops slowly over a number of years and causes weak and fragile bones that break easily, even after minor falls.
Milk thistle has been shown in experimental test-tube and animal studies to stimulate bone mineralization and potentially.Milk thistle may be a useful therapy for preventing or delaying bone loss in postmenopausal women.
4. It May Improve Cancer Treatment
It’s been suggested that the antioxidant effects of silymarin may have some anticancer effects, which could be helpful for people receiving cancer treatment .Some animal studies have shown that milk thistle could be useful for reducing the side effects of cancer treatments.It may also make chemotherapy work more effectively against certain cancers and, in some circumstances, even destroy cancer cells. However, the studies in humans are very limited and have yet to show a meaningful clinical effect in people. This may be because people aren’t able to absorb enough to get a medicinal effect.More studies are needed before it can be determined how silymarin might be used to support people undergoing cancer treatment.
5. It Can Boost Breast Milk Production
Effect of milk thistle is that it can boost breast milk production in lactating mothers. It’s thought to work by making more of the milk-producing hormone prolactin.However, this is the only clinical study available. More research is needed to confirm these results and the safety of milk thistle for breastfeeding mothers.
6. It Could Help Treat Acne
Acne is a chronic inflammatory skin condition. While not dangerous, it can cause scars. People may also find it painful and worry about its effects on their appearance.It’s been suggested that oxidative stress in the body may play a role in the development of acne
Due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, milk thistle may be a useful supplement for people with acne.
7. Milk Thistle Can Lower Blood Sugar Levels for People With Diabetes
Milk thistle may be a useful complementary therapy to help manage type 2 diabetes.It’s been discovered that one of the compounds in milk thistle may work similarly to some diabetic medications by helping improve insulin sensitivity and in fact, a recent review and analysis found that people routinely taking silymarin experienced a significant reduction in their fasting blood sugar levels and HbA1c, a measure of blood sugar control.
Additionally, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of milk thistle may also be useful for reducing the risk of developing diabetic complications like kidney disease .