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.
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, alcohol and other environmental poisons.
Science-Based Benefits of Milk Thistle
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 May Help Prevent Age-Related Decline in Brain Function
Initial test-tube and animal studies have shown that milk thistle has some promising characteristics that could make it useful for protecting brain function.
Milk Thistle Could Protect Your Bones
In animals, milk thistle has been shown to stimulate bone mineralization. However, how it affects humans is currently unknown.
It May Improve Cancer Treatment
The active ingredients in milk thistle have been shown in animals to improve the effects of some cancer treatments. However, human studies are limited.
It Can Boost Breast Milk Production
Milk thistle may increase breast milk production in women who are lactating, though very little research has been done to confirm its effects.
It Could Help Treat Acne
One study has shown that people taking milk thistle supplements experienced a decrease in the number of acne lesions on their body.
Milk Thistle Can Lower Blood Sugar Levels for People With Diabetes
Milk thistle may help lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes, though more high-quality studies are needed.
Note: This does not constitute medical advice, always consult your GP if you are concerned about your health.