Milk Thistle Seed: More than Just a Liver Detox

milk thistle

Milk thistle seed is quite popular and very effective for treating liver problems, except for alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis. Well, in case you’ve not heard of this herb, milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a herb with hard seed-like fruits known as achenes. Thankfully, aside from improving liver function, milk thistle is also effective in treating a number of other health problems.




Here are the health benefits of milk thistle:

Treats Gallstones

The gallbladder is very essential to the digestive process as it stores bile manufactured in the liver until it is required for the digestion of fatty food. One of the major benefits of milk thistle is that it improves liver function and the whole digestive system. The herb also helps in the prevention and treatment of gallstones.


Combats Hepatitis

For people suffering from liver inflammation or hepatitis C because of a viral infection, milk thistle can prove very helpful. According to studies, the silymarin present in milk thistle can curb the virus and significantly promote liver condition. In fact, a consistent consumption of silymarin can greatly reduce the viral load in people with hepatitis C who would not otherwise respond to conventional treatments. However, certain other studies refute this claim, stating that the herb only reduces inflammation and not viral load.


Regeneration of Liver Cells After Injury

Milk thistle can help the liver regrow to its pre-surgery size after a surgical removal of a part of the liver (partial hepatectomy). The silymarin in the herb can help to do this by stimulating protein synthesis and speeding up the growth of liver cells to regain lost mass.



Treats Acne

The activity of silymarin in milk thistle can prevent acne breakouts. With an oral supplementation of the herb, certain immune cells are stabilized to take care of inflammation. So, for people struggling with acne, milk thistle capsules or tea might just be the solution you’ve been searching for.


Improves Digestion

Milk thistle is effective in treating diseases that affect the upper gastrointestinal tract and other not-so-serious digestive issues. The herb facilitates the formation of digestive enzymes, reduces bowel inflammation, and calms mucous membranes in the body.


Relieves Allergies

Most often than not, hay fever or allergic rhinitis is a result of inflammation and oxidative stress. The most common symptoms of allergies include itchiness, nasal congestion, sneezing, as well as nasal congestion.  Luckily, in addition to antihistamines, milk thistle can help relieve those symptoms.




Treats Type 2 Diabetes

A regular consumption of milk thistle can greatly benefit people who suffer from type 2 diabetes. A daily dose of silymarin, the milk thistle seed extract can reduce insulin resistance, mean daily glucose levels, fasting blood glucose, as well as cholesterol levels.


Possibly Increase Breast Milk Supply

Milk thistle has been proven to aid the increase in the supply of breast milk by acting as a galactagogue. However, as a breastfeeding mother, you should consult your doctor before consuming milk thistle.


Prevents Brain and Nerve Disorders

Deposits of protein (amyloid peptides) are often found in people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. So what silymarin does is to reduce or entirely prevent the deposits. In the case of Parkinson’s disease, the glutathione levels in sufferers often suggest the how serious the condition is. However, milk thistle has proven to be effective in boosting glutathione levels, thus reducing the severity of the disease. Also, for Multiple Sclerosis (MS), sufferers are usually advised to regularly consume silymarin extract to supplement conventional treatment.



Boosts the Immune System

Milk thistle helps the body deal with the attack on cells by free radicals that damage white blood cells. The herb’s antioxidant properties help to boost immunity by combating the damage brought on by free radicals. Milk thistle also aids in improving immune function by increasing white blood cells production.


Treats Cancer

Milk thistle extract, silymarin is practically a mixture of antioxidants known as flavonolignans that have anti-tumor capabilities. So the herb is able to prevent cancer cells from replicating and spreading. Silymarin is also effective in stopping the supply of blood to cancerous cells, making it a powerful anticancer agent. While milk thistle is yet to be considered a standard treatment for cancer, there are indications that chemotherapy may be more effective when supplemented with the herb.


Protects Against UV Rays

Milk thistle, when applied topically, can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation brought on by harmful UV rays. This might also curb photocarcinogenesis, a complex biochemical process that subsequently results in skin cancer. However, milk thistle should only be a supplement to the sunscreen.



Side Effects and Precautions

We know milk thistle works on the liver, which is the organ basically responsible for drug metabolism. This means that the herb might interact with some medications. So, it is advisable to consult your doctor before consuming this herb.

And if you are on any of the medications below, steer clear of milk thistle.

  • Antihistamines
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Halothane (anesthesia)
  • Phenytoin Antipsychotics (treatment for bipolar disorder  and schizophrenia)
  • Birth control pills
  • Hormone replacement treatment
  • Cancer medications
  • Blood Thinners
  • Medications for high cholesterol


The Bottom Line

It’s best known for its positive effect on liver health but evidently, milk thistle possesses a lot of health benefits that should not be ignored.

Milk thistle comes in different forms, including capsules of the dried herb. However, apart from the extract, silymarin which is available in the form of pills, you can also try out milk thistle tea.