The milk thistle, also known scientifically as Silybum marianum, is a flowering plant that is a member of the daisy family. Milk thistle is also known as Mary thistle or holy thistle, and it is native to regions of the Mediterranean where it is harvested for use in the preparation of natural medicines.
The name of the component in milk thistle that is responsible for its medicinal effects is silymarin. Although the plant is most commonly used by medical professionals to treat conditions affecting the liver, there are those who believe it can also reduce cholesterol levels and assist in the management of type 2 diabetes.
This article discusses the potential benefits of milk thistle and investigates whether or not there is any evidence from scientific studies to support its use. In addition to this, it discusses how to make use of milk thistle as well as the potential dangers associated with its consumption.
Milk thistle’s many uses and advantages
Milk thistle can be used to treat a wide variety of ailments if the appropriate parts of the plant are selected and utilized. People consume it in the form of tea and take it in supplement form; additionally, it is sometimes included in topical skin creams.
Milk thistle is most commonly used to treat conditions that affect the liver. There are those who believe it can be helpful in treating:
cirrhosis jaundice hepatitis gallbladder disorders
Other possible benefits include preventing heart disease by bringing cholesterol levels down and assisting people with type 2 diabetes in better managing their condition.
Below, we discuss the possible positive effects that milk thistle may have on one’s health.
Helps maintain a healthy liver
A 2016 study
Milk thistle was found to improve the diet-induced liver damage in mice, according to a Reliable Source. More evidence is required to convince the medical community that milk thistle confers the same benefits to human livers as it does to animal livers.
On the other hand, researchers have a theory that it does. Trusted Source Milk thistle contains an active component known as silymarin, which has antioxidant properties and can reduce the production of free radicals. Milk thistle may be useful for treating liver conditions because scientists believe that it has a detoxifying effect. Milk thistle is also known as silymarin.
Milk thistle is not, however, generally recommended by medical professionals as the first line of treatment for liver conditions pending the completion of additional research studies. However, if a medical expert gives their blessing, you might find that it is an effective complementary treatment to try.
Improves the condition of the skin
Milk thistle oil can be applied topically to the skin to improve the health of the skin.
There is some evidence that milk thistle can help promote healthy skin. When it was applied to the skin of mice, a study conducted in 2015 found that it helped to improve inflammatory skin conditions. Trusted Source
Milk thistle was found to have antioxidant and anti-aging effects on human skin cells in a laboratory setting, according to another study (reliable source) conducted by the same team of researchers. Milk thistle contains compounds that have been found to protect against the potentially damaging effects of sun exposure, including a slower rate of skin aging, according to a study that was published in 2019 and conducted on cells in a laboratory.
To determine the benefits that can be gained by applying milk thistle to a person’s skin, researchers need to carry out additional studies on humans.
Lowers cholesterol levels
A high cholesterol level can contribute to issues with one’s heart health and raise the likelihood that a person will suffer a stroke. Milk thistle may have an effect on blood cholesterol levels, according to some research; however, this research does not provide conclusive evidence.
A study done in 2006
According to a Reliable Source, milk thistle may help lower cholesterol levels by playing a role in the process. It was discovered that people whose diabetes was treated with milk thistle had lower levels of cholesterol than those whose diabetes was treated with a placebo.
Researchers gave rats a diet that was high in cholesterol in a study that was published in 2016 (Reliable Source). After administering silybin, the active component of milk thistle, to some rats at doses of 300 and 600 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of body weight, the researchers discovered that these rats had significantly lower levels of both total blood cholesterol and triglyceride.
- Helps a person lose weight
- Initial experiments performed on animals
A study that Trusted Source carried out in 2016 discovered that silymarin led to weight loss in mice that the researchers had fed a diet designed to cause the mice to gain weight.
According to this, milk thistle could be helpful for people who are trying to reduce their body fat. In order to provide conclusive evidence, researchers will need to carry out additional studies on the effects of milk thistle on weight loss in humans.
Insulin resistance is lowered as a result,Milk thistle extract was found to help reduce insulin resistance, which is a problem for people who have type 2 diabetes, according to a study that was conducted in mice in 2016 and trusted source. The compound silymarin found in milk thistle appears to be a “promising substance” for the treatment of insulin resistance, including in people who are obese and have type 2 diabetes, according to the findings of another review of research on milk thistle published in the year 2020.
Milk thistle may have a role to play in the management of diabetes; however, scientists need to conduct additional studies to determine whether or not it lowers insulin resistance and assists in the management of diabetes.
Alleviates the symptoms of allergic asthma
In people with asthma, the immune system has an exaggerated response to environmental triggers, which causes inflammation in the airways. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease. Milk thistle contains an active component that may help reduce inflammation in the body.
A 2012 study
According to Reliable Source, silymarin was found to be effective in reducing inflammation in the airways of mice that suffered from allergic asthma. Another study conducted in mice in 2020 came to the conclusion that silymarin may be able to assist in the management of asthma symptoms by regulating immune responses.
To determine whether or not silymarin relieves asthma symptoms in humans, the medical community needs to conduct additional research.
Helps to control the growth of cancer
There is some evidence that milk thistle can inhibit the progression of certain types of cancer.
According to a trusted source from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), milk thistle has been shown in limited research primarily conducted on cells in the laboratory to inhibit the growth of cancer cells and tumors, and it may also improve the efficacy of chemotherapy. Researchers have discovered benefits for a variety of cancers, including but not limited to:
- prostate cancer
- cancer of the breast
- cervical cancer
- cancer of the skin
- colorectal cancer
Milk thistle has also been found, according to the findings of a few smaller studies, to have the potential to reduce the adverse effects of cancer treatments such as radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy.
Milk thistle has not been granted approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of cancer. More research is required to determine the mechanism by which milk thistle may aid in the fight against cancer.