Milk thistle

From WikiMD

(milk THIH-sul) is a plant that has been used in some cultures to treat certain medical problems, including stomach, liver, and gallbladder disorders.

Milk thistle flower
Milk thistle flower

Common Names: milk thistle, Mary thistle, holy thistle

Latin Names: Silybum marianum

Background

  • 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.

Active ingredient

The active extract of milk thistle seeds is called silymarin.

Use

It is being studied in the prevention of liver damage caused by some cancer treatments. Also called Silybum marianum.

Science

Silybum marianum-seeds
Silybum marianum-seeds
  • We know little about whether milk thistle is effective in people, as only a few well-designed clinical studies have been conducted.
  • 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).
Snow white mutant morph of Silibum marianum Milk Thistle
Snow white mutant morph of Silibum marianum Milk Thistle

What Do We Know About 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.
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