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milk thistle

© 2018 Steven Foster

A milk thistle monograph for the home

Latin Name: Silybum marianum


Common Names: milk thistle, Mary thistle, holy thistle.


This milk thistle monograph provides basic information about milk thistle—common names, usefulness and safety, and resources for more information.

Source: https://nccih.nih.gov/

Milk Thistle Basics

  • Milk thistle is native to southern Europe, southern Russia, Asia Minor, and northern Africa. It also grows in North and South America and South Australia.
  • Silymarin is considered to be the main component of milk thistle seeds, but the terms “milk thistle” and “silymarin” often are used interchangeably.
  • Historically, people have used milk thistle for liver disorders, such as hepatitis and cirrhosis, and gallbladder problems.
  • Silymarin is the most commonly used herbal supplement in the United States for liver problems.
  • Milk thistle products are available as capsules, powders, and extracts.

Milk Thistle in Health Research

  • We know little about whether milk thistle is effective in people, as only a few well-designed clinical studies have been conducted.

Milk Thistle Research Summary

  • Results from clinical trials of milk thistle for liver diseases have been mixed, and two rigorously designed studies found no benefit.
  • The 2008 Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment Against Cirrhosis (HALT-C) study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that hepatitis C patients who used silymarin had fewer and milder symptoms of liver disease and somewhat better quality of life but no change in virus activity or liver inflammation.
  • A 2012 clinical trial, cofunded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, showed that two higher-than-usual doses of silymarin were no better than placebo for chronic hepatitis C in people who had not responded to standard antiviral treatment.
  • Results from a 2013 clinical study suggest that milk thistle may enhance standard treatment in young people with a particular form of anemia (Cooley’s anemia).

Milk Thistle Safety

  • In clinical trials, milk thistle appears to be well tolerated in recommended doses. Occasionally, people report various gastrointestinal side effects.
  • Milk thistle may produce allergic reactions, which tend to be more common among people who are allergic to plants in the same family (for example, ragweed, chrysanthemum, marigold, and daisy).
  • Compounds in milk thistle may lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. People with diabetes should use caution.

Milk Thistle References

 

PubMed Articles About


Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)[Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US), National Center for Biotechnology Information; [1988] – [cited 2018 Apr 5]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/