Milk thistle is an herb native to the Mediterranean region and is a member of the Asteraceae family. It is known by other names including holy thistle and Mary thistle (“Milk Thistle | NCCIH”).Milk thistle has been used for approximately 2,000 years as an herbal remedy for a variety of ailments. Milk thistle has red-purple flowers, broad leaves with white sap when crushed and brown fruits which are spotted and shiny.

Silymarin, which is extracted from the seeds of milk thistle, is considered the active part of the herb. This chemical protects the liver, reduces inflammation and is a strong antioxidant (Ehrlich). Milk thistle is available in different forms which are capsules of standardized dried herb, tincture, liquid extract or silymarin phosphatidylcholine complex.

Milk Thistle Uses

Milk thistle is used as a remedy for Liver disease from alcohol. It helps in treating alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis. This is through its ability to improve liver function hence increasing survival in people with chronic/viral hepatitis and cirrhosis (Flora et al. 139-143). Milk thistle is used as an emergency antidote for death cap mushroom poisoning (Broussard et al. 3195-3198). Milk thistle counteracts the toxic effects of the death cap mushroom if consumed within 10 minutes of ingestion. If it is consumed 24 hours after ingestion, it significantly reduces liver damage and death. The active substances of milk thistle, especially silymarin have anti-cancer effects. They help in reducing the supply of blood to tumors, shortening the lifespan of cancer cells and stopping cancer cells from dividing and reproducing (Flora et al. 139-143). Additionally, silymarin which is the primary active substance of milk thistle supplements sunscreen protection and aids reducing the risk of skin cancer (Ehrlich). Milk thistle is also used as a remedy for various disorders including liver disorders and gallbladder disorders. Additionally, milk thistle is used to lower cholesterol levels and reduce insulin resistance in people suffering from diabetes and cirrhosis (“Milk Thistle | NCCIH”).

Benefits of Milk Thistle

Since 2000 years ago, milk thistle has been associated with numerous health benefits (Ehrlich). Thistle milk has an active ingredient called silymarin. This chemical contains silibinin, silidianin, and silicristin which helps in repairing liver cells that may have been destroyed by alcohol and toxic substances. Additionally, the chemical offers more beneficial assistance by protecting the new liver cells from being damaged by the toxins (Flora et al. 139-143). Also, it reduces inflammation and acts as a potent antioxidant (Ehrlich).

Is Milk Thistle Good for You?

By reflecting on the uses and benefits accumulated from consumption of milk thistle, it is by far good for me. Cancer is currently among the world’s most killing diseases. The ingredients in milk thistle aids in suppressing cancer by preventing the cells from developing and reducing their lifespan. Additionally, it improves liver function and hence increases the rate of survival when exposed to toxins, something that we encounter on daily basis. Among many other benefits, the plant acts as a remedy for various orders. I, therefore, consider milk thistle to be good for me.

Milk Thistle Dosage

Though milk thistle has not been thoroughly tested, and Brands may be made differently with variable ingredients, there is a recommended dosage that should be used. However, discussing the dosage with a qualified health care before commencing therapy is recommended. When consuming the oral form of milk thistle (standardized to 70% to 80% silymarin) at 420 mg/day in divided doses, you should take it only up to not more than 41 months. Silibinin should be administered at 13 g/day for adults and Siliphos at dosages of 5.1 mg/kg/day for children (Thistle). When dealing with specific treatments, the following dosage should be used for adults.

  • For acute viral hepatitis, 160-800 milligrams of silymarin should be taken orally per day in three divided doses for three weeks.
  • For allergic nasal symptoms, 140 milligrams of silymarin should be taken orally three times daily for one month.
  • For antioxidant effects, 140 milligrams of silymarin should be taken orally three times daily for three weeks.
  • For cirrhosis, 160-800 milligrams of silymarin should be taken orally 2-3 divided doses daily by mouth for up to two years.
  • For diabetes (type 2), 200-230 milligrams of silymarin should be taken orally one to three times daily for four weeks to 12 months, together with regular therapy.
  • For fertility, three doses of 70 milligrams of silymarin should be taken orally) over the course of one day.
  • For osteoarthritis, 150 milligrams of silymarin should be taken orally twice daily for eight weeks.

(“Milk Thistle Dosing – Mayo Clinic”)

Side Effects of Milk Thistle

The use of milk thistle milk in recommended doses is not associated with serious effects. However, some few instances of adverse events have been reported. Various gastrointestinal side effects have been among the reported cases. Milk thistle has also been reported to produce allergic reactions. These allergic reactions are however common among people who are allergic to plants in the same family. Additionally, milk thistle may lower blood sugar levels. Therefore, people suffering from diabetes or taking medications affecting blood sugar levels should use caution and consult their doctors (“Milk Thistle | NCCIH”)


  • “Milk Thistle | NCCIH”. NCCIH. N.p., 2011. Web. 16 July 2016.
  • “Milk Thistle Dosing – Mayo Clinic”. N.p., 2016. Web. 16 July 2016.
  • Broussard, Crystal N. et al. “Mushroom Poisoning-From Diarrhea To Liver Transplantation”. The American Journal of Gastroenterology 96.11 (2001): 3195-3198.  Web. 16 July 2016.
  • Ehrlich, Steven D. “Milk Thistle”. University of Maryland Medical Center. N.p., 2016. Web. 16 July 2016.
  • Flora, Kenneth et al. “Milk Thistle (Silybum Marianum) For The Therapy Of Liver Disease”.The American Journal of Gastroenterology 93.2 (1998): 139-143. Web. 16 July 2016.
  • Thistle, Milk. “Milk Thistle Uses, Benefits & Dosage – Drugs.Com Herbal  Database” N.p., 2016. Web. 16 July 2016.