Milk Thistle

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    Last Updated: February 26, 2024

    Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) contains silymarin, a complex of plant compounds known for their hepatoprotective (liver-protecting) properties.

    Milk Thistle is most often used for .

    What is milk thistle?

    Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a medicinal plant belonging to the Asteraceae/Compositae family. It is native to Southern Europe, Central Asia, and Ethiopia[3] and grows particularly well on the sunny slopes of the Mediterranean countries. Milk thistle’s leaves have characteristic white, “milky” veins, and the plant can grow up to 6 feet tall. It typically blooms from June to August, after which its black seeds are harvested to be used for medicinal purposes. Milk thistle can now be found throughout California, South America, Africa, Australia, and Asia.[4][1]

    Although the terms milk thistle and silymarin are often used interchangeably, silymarin is a complex extracted from the dried seeds and fruits of milk thistle.[4][5][6] Milk thistle extracts are typically odorless and contain 70–80% of silymarin.[7]

    What are milk thistle’s main benefits?

    Research on milk thistle is primarily focused on its main bioactive extract, silymarin. Please refer to the silymarin page for a description of silymarin’s main benefits.

    What are milk thistle’s main drawbacks?

    Research on milk thistle is primarily focused on its main bioactive extract, silymarin. Please refer to the silymarin page for a description of silymarin’s main drawbacks.

    How does milk thistle work?

    Research on milk thistle is primarily focused on its main bioactive extract, silymarin. Please refer to the silymarin page for a description of silymarin’s mechanisms of action.

    What are other names for Milk Thistle

    Note that Milk Thistle is also known as:
    • Marian thistle
    • Mary thistle
    • St Mary’s thistle
    • Our Lady’s thistle
    • Holy thistle
    • Sow thistle
    • Blessed Virgin thistle
    • Christ’s crown
    • Venue thistle
    • Heal thistle
    • Variegated Thistle
    • Wild Artichoke
    • Carduus Marianus
    • Silybum marianum
    Milk Thistle should not be confused with:

    Dosage information

    Milk thistle supplements are sold in the form of capsules, tablets, and tinctures and also exist as intravenous solutions (only available in hospital settings).

    The recommended daily dosage of any given milk thistle supplement depends on both the treatment purpose and the supplement’s silymarin content.

    When silymarin is used for hepatoprotection, the recommended daily dosage typically falls in the range of 420 mg to 600 mg of silymarin per day, usually taken in three split doses.[1][2]

    Examine Database: Milk Thistle

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    Frequently asked questions

    What is milk thistle?

    Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a medicinal plant belonging to the Asteraceae/Compositae family. It is native to Southern Europe, Central Asia, and Ethiopia[3] and grows particularly well on the sunny slopes of the Mediterranean countries. Milk thistle’s leaves have characteristic white, “milky” veins, and the plant can grow up to 6 feet tall. It typically blooms from June to August, after which its black seeds are harvested to be used for medicinal purposes. Milk thistle can now be found throughout California, South America, Africa, Australia, and Asia.[4][1]

    Although the terms milk thistle and silymarin are often used interchangeably, silymarin is a complex extracted from the dried seeds and fruits of milk thistle.[4][5][6] Milk thistle extracts are typically odorless and contain 70–80% of silymarin.[7]

    What are milk thistle’s historical uses?

    Milk thistle has a rich history of medicinal use dating back to ancient times. The physician and pharmacologist Dioscorides (40–90 AD) was among the first to report using milk thistle to treat serpent bites. Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD) also documented its use for removing bile when milk thistle was mixed with honey.[5]

    During the Middle Ages, milk thistle gained a reputation for having positive effects on liver health and as an antidote for liver toxins. This perspective persisted through various historical periods, with figures like the British herbalist Culpepper recommending it for liver obstructions. Physicians Felter and Lloyd also noted its potential benefits for liver "congestion." Today, milk thistle remains a popular supplement widely used by healthcare practitioners.[5]

    What are milk thistle’s main benefits?

    Research on milk thistle is primarily focused on its main bioactive extract, silymarin. Please refer to the silymarin page for a description of silymarin’s main benefits.

    What are milk thistle’s main drawbacks?

    Research on milk thistle is primarily focused on its main bioactive extract, silymarin. Please refer to the silymarin page for a description of silymarin’s main drawbacks.

    How does milk thistle work?

    Research on milk thistle is primarily focused on its main bioactive extract, silymarin. Please refer to the silymarin page for a description of silymarin’s mechanisms of action.

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    References

    1. ^Saller R, Brignoli R, Melzer J, Meier RAn updated systematic review with meta-analysis for the clinical evidence of silymarin.Forsch Komplementmed.(2008-Feb)
    2. ^Anton Gillessen, Hartmut H-J SchmidtSilymarin as Supportive Treatment in Liver Diseases: A Narrative ReviewAdv Ther.(2020 Apr)
    3. ^Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn.: Plants of the World Online. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Cited December 14, 2023(2023)
    4. ^Milk Thistle \(Aug 2020)
    5. ^Post-White J, Ladas EJ, Kelly KMAdvances in the use of milk thistle (Silybum marianum).Integr Cancer Ther.(2007-Jun)
    6. ^Karimi G, Vahabzadeh M, Lari P, Rashedinia M, Moshiri M"Silymarin", a promising pharmacological agent for treatment of diseases.Iran J Basic Med Sci.(2011-Jul)
    7. ^Jacobs BP, Dennehy C, Ramirez G, Sapp J, Lawrence VAMilk thistle for the treatment of liver disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis.Am J Med.(2002-Oct-15)

    Examine Database References

    1. Milk Production - Peila C, Coscia A, Tonetto P, Spada E, Milani S, Moro G, Fontana C, Vagliano L, Tortone C, Di Bella E, Bertino EEvaluation of the galactogogue effect of silymarin on mothers of preterm newborns (<32 weeks).Pediatr Med Chir.(2015-Dec-29)
    2. Milk Production - Francesco Di Pierro, Alberto Callegari, Domenico Carotenuto, Marco Mollo TapiaClinical efficacy, safety and tolerability of BIO-C (micronized Silymarin) as a galactagogueActa Biomed.(2008 Dec)
    3. Acne Symptoms - Ahmed Salih Sahib, Haidar Hamid Al-Anbari, Mohammed Salih, and Fatima AbdullahEffects of Oral Antioxidants on Lesion Counts Associated with Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Patients with Papulopustular AcneJournal of Clinical and Experimental Dermatology Research .()