6 Benefits of Milk Thistle

Beauty Greens is a super greens supplement that includes several different blends including super greens (wheat grass, barley grass, alfalfa, spirulina, spinach, chlorella, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and parsley), antioxidant superfoods (acai berry, maca, beet root, rose hip, goji berry, acerola cherry, and more), several pre and probiotics, amino acids, collagen, and essential fatty acids. You cannot possibly eat all of these fruits and vegetables every single day, yet you can supplement with one drink and get all of the micronutrient benefits with Beauty Greens.

Another unique blend that is offered in this supplement is a detox mix. This includes cilantro, turmeric, and milk thistle.

Milk thistle is an older herbal remedy that has been used all the way back in the first century AD. The benefits range from detoxification, to calming pain and depression, to prevention of certain kinds of cancer, and more. It’s the seeds of this plant which contain the powerful compound silymarin. This is where the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds are found.

Milk thistle has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. In ancient Greece, it was written by Pedanius Dioscorides the physician, pharmacologist, and botanist that milk thistle tea was used for snakebites. The English herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper (1650) claimed it was effective for supporting the normal functioning of the liver. At the turn of the 20th century, Eclectic physicians also used Milk Thistle to support healthy liver function. Much of the modern day research has been conducted in Germany where it is an approved herb in The German Commission E Monographs. Today, our knowledge of the power of silymarin continues to evolve.

Milk thistle gets its name from the milky sap that comes from the plant when the leaves are broken. But the seeds are what is commonly studied for their health benefits. And most often, it’s taken by mouth as a supplement as opposed to lesser studied forms via intravenously or topically. But some people do consume the leaves and flowers as a vegetable in salads, or roasting the seeds for use as a substitute for coffee. However, many people prefer to consume milk thistle as a healing herbal tea.

For the Liver


Milk Thistle has been used as a complementary therapy (not replacement) for serious issues like alcoholic liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver, and hepatitis. Some people will also use milk thistle for cirrhosis, jaundice, and gallbladder disorders. Silymarin is said to keep toxins from attaching to liver cells and helps to keep free radicals in check. These unstable molecules are byproducts of your body’s functions but they can harm healthy cells and lead to health issues. Studies have shown that silymarin helps ease inflammation and promote cell repair. This may help ease symptoms from liver diseases like jaundice, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and fatty liver disease. Some research has shown possible aid for people who’s liver has been damaged by industrial toxins such as toluene (which can be found in oils, glues, and paint thinners) and xylene (a solvent and clearing agent).

For the kidneys

Damaging effects of drugs on kidney cells are lessened or avoided with the help of milk thistle, according to a German study published in the September 1999 “Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.” In the study, silibinin, an extract of milk thistle was added to kidney cells of primates before or after exposing the cells to three different drugs known for their kidney toxicity and results showed both protective and restorative benefits of the milk thistle extract. Milk thistle has also been shown to protect against diabetic nephropathy (a complication of diabetes in which the filtering ability of the kidneys is impaired) in laboratory rats in an Iranian study, published in the July 2010 “Renal Failure.” The study reported that milk thistle increased activity levels of the enzymes catalase and glutathione peroxidase, which protect kidney cells.

For the Blood

Advancements in researching milk thistle for diabetes, especially type 2, are promising. Research published in Phytomedicine in 2015 shows a 45-day course of silymarin increase the antioxidant capacity and was more effective at reducing general inflammation than a placebo. Again in conjunction with standard treatments, silymarin is shown to reduce oxidative stress, improve insulin sensitivity, and decrease blood sugar. A systematic review conducted in 2016 further concluded that the routine use of silymarin appears to reduce the fasting blood glucose and HbA1C levels.

In tests done with people who already have diabetes, milk thistle has been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol levels, especially when taken along with cholesterol lowering medications. But more research needs to be done to see if the same impact can be found in people without diabetes.

For the skin

Hormone imbalances can trigger excess oil production and cause skin cells to be “sticky” leading to clogged pores and blemishes. What is interesting to learn is that a hormonal imbalance is not often caused by the production of hormones in an imbalanced way but an imbalance of hormones in our blood at any one time, caused by a build-up of old or mutated hormones that are now useless to our body This build up is caused because our liver is not able to filter out these old hormones in an effective way. So rather than addressing hormonal acne with hormone altering herbs, supporting our liver to do a better job is often the best remedy to try first! By implementing milk thistle, the anti-inflammatory compounds help the liver to clean the blood more effectively, not only helping to address the hormone imbalances but also to alleviate the skin of other “detoxifying” duties. Leading to happier, clearer skin.

For the bones

Recently, silymarin received attention due to its alternative beneficial effect on bone formation. Silymarin shows potent antioxidants that may regulate multiple genes in favour of helping to build bone and prevent bone loss. In studies, silymarin supplementation improved bone healing with elevated bone density and osteocalcin. Silymarin has also demonstrated estrogenic antiosteoporotic effects in bone structure. Silymarin appears to play a crucial role to prevent bone loss and might regulate osteogenesis and may be beneficial for fracture healing.

Increase breast milk supply 

Milk thistle has been used with positive results by breastfeeding mothers in India and Europe for generations. And, although there is no true scientific studies for a nursing mother making more breast milk, it has been shown to increase milk production in dairy cows. It is also believed that the plant estrogens found in milk thistle could be one of the reasons some women report making more breast milk when they take this herb. Milk thistle is a relatively safe herb to use during breastfeeding. If you are a nursing mom, you can consult your doctor for a prescription of milk thistle supplement to help improve lactation.

Other Uses


Because of its impact on oxidative stress and its anti-inflammatory powers, milk thistle continues to be researched in areas like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and even heartburn problems. Though human data is limited, positive impacts have been shown. 
Interestingly, especially in reducing the negative side effects in chemotherapy and improving its effectiveness and possibly going a step further and destroying cancer cells.

High dosage of milk thistle does have contraindications for those on certain medications or with certain diseases and allergies. It can change the way that your body metabolizes certain drugs in the liver, triggering interactions with: antibiotics like Biaxin (clarithromycin), anticoagulants like Coumadin (warfarin), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen) statin drugs like Mevacor (lovastatin) and Lescol (fluvastatin), and other interactions are possible. To avoid complications, always advise your doctor about any supplements or herbal remedies you are taking. For as many positive findings as there are to milk thistle research, just as many can be found to prove otherwise, especially for people with preexisting health conditions. So always consult with your doctor about dosage and supplemental needs. 

SOURCES

Burgess, Lana. “10 Potential Health Benefits of Milk Thistle.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 20 Dec. 2017, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320362.php.
 
“Chronic Kidney Disease Protectors: Life Extension.” LifeExtension.com, https://www.lifeextension.com/Protocols/Kidney-Urinary/Kidney-Disease/Page-03.
 
Cuhna, John. “Milk Thistle (Carduus Marianum): Side Effects, Dosages, Treatment, Interactions, Warnings.” RxList, https://www.rxlist.com/consumer_milk_thistle_carduus_marianum/drugs-condition.htm.
 
“Milk Thistle.” LifeSeasons, 2019, https://lifeseasons.com/milk-thistle.
 
“Milk Thistle: Benefits and Side Effects.” WebMD, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/milk-thistle-benefits-and-side-effects.
 
Mulrow, C. “Milk Thistle: Effects on Liver Disease and Cirrhosis and Clinical Adverse Effects: Summary.” AHRQ Evidence Report Summaries., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 1970, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11896/.
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