Marinus thistle is a prickly plant characterized by its white veins on the leaves. It can help you detoxify your liver after a long night of alcohol. It is widely available as a dietary supplement, you can get it as a powder, in capsules or as an extract. In fact, milk thistle has long been used as a natural remedy to support liver health, and there are many claims of other ways the plant could give your body a boost. Why? Milk thistle contains the compound silymarin, a flavonoid believed to have antioxidant properties.
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Although many people use the plant for its health benefits, there is little evidence to support the potential health benefits of milk thistle. Let’s take a look at all the possible benefits this plant may have for your health.
Supporting liver health
The most important substance in this plant is silymarin. There is some evidence to suggest that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of silymarin may help reduce liver damage and inflammation in people with certain liver diseases, such as alcoholic liver disease. But if you are healthy, no science shows that taking milk thistle will help detoxify your liver from alcohol faster or protect your liver from the effects of alcohol;
Balance blood sugar levels
Do you have type 2 diabetes? Silymarin in milk thistle has the potential to lower blood sugar levels when taken fasting, also improving insulin sensitivity. However, milk thistle is not a substitute for diabetes medication and could cause complications in people with diabetes. So if you are considering taking it, definitely talk to your doctor first;
Soothe an upset stomach
One of the traditional uses of milk thistle is to relieve indigestion. There is not much evidence that it actually works, but herbal medicine regulators in Germany list milk thistle as a possible treatment for acid stomach;
Promote brain health
We are not saying that you should rely on milk thistle to protect you from Alzheimer’s or anything else. But the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of silymarin may protect against the harmful effects of free radicals, which may promote healthier brain function as you age;
Helps fight acne
Are you troubled by pimples? The antioxidant properties of silymarin may help enhance the effectiveness of other proven treatments. People who took 140 milligrams of silymarin and 100 milligrams of doxycycline capsules daily for 8 weeks showed a reduction in acne lesions. However, the use of doxycycline alone also helped reduce acne, so the benefits of adding silymarin aren’t entirely clear.
Keeps cholesterol under control;
Incorporating milk thistle into your healthy cholesterol regimen (eating right and exercising, naturally) can be beneficial. One study found that people who took the herb to treat diabetes had lower cholesterol levels compared to those who took a placebo.
Relieve asthma symptoms
FYI, experts have not actually studied the effects of milk thistle on asthma in humans. However, one study found that asthmatic mice given silymarin experienced less airway inflammation than those that did not receive the substance;
Support immune health
Both animal and human research has shown that milk thistle extract can strengthen the body’s immune system. Still, if you’re looking for a supplement to help fight off bacteria, you have some other options that are backed by a bit more evidence.
Prevents bone loss
The antioxidant properties of silymarin may have a genetic effect that helps prevent bone loss and promotes the growth of healthy new bones, giving milk thistle promise as a treatment for osteoporosis, some research in rodents shows;
Increases breast milk production
According to some evidence, silymarin may stimulate the production of prolactin, a hormone involved in breast milk production. However, it is not entirely clear whether taking milk thistle while breastfeeding is safe. Therefore, it is recommended that you consult with your doctor before trying it.
It will increase the effectiveness of cancer treatment
Limited test tube research suggests that silymarin has the potential to enhance cancer treatments like chemotherapy. However, the National Cancer Institute warns that much more research is needed to know for sure.
Side effects and risks of taking milk thistle
Milk thistle is generally considered safe for most people, although it has the potential to cause gastrointestinal problems, headaches and itching. It could also trigger an allergic reaction, especially if you are allergic to related plants such as marigold, ragweed, daisies or chrysanthemums. This means that several specific groups should take special care with this herbal remedy. Consult your doctor before using milk thistle if:
- You have diabetes. Since milk thistle has the potential to lower blood sugar, you should definitely proceed with caution;
- You have breast, uterine or ovarian cancer or endometriosis or uterine fibroids. It is believed that milk thistle has estrogenic properties that could potentially affect these conditions;
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding. Experts cannot say for sure whether milk thistle is safe for expectant mothers or breastfeeding mothers;
- You take prescription drugs. Milk thistle has the potential to interact with several drugs, including diabetes medications, some antibiotics, immunosuppressants, and hepatitis C medications;