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Health Benefits of Milk Thistle Supplements

Updated on April 20, 2017
Jesse Drzal profile image

With modern medicine expanding to a more holistic role, I enjoy writing and discussion about herbal and natural treatments for health.

Milk Thistle flower
Milk Thistle flower | Source

The Little Known Medicine

In the world of ever new herbal medications and supplements, one product that seems to not garner as much attention would be Milk Thistle extract. The truth is, this supplement has been a valued medicine across the world for over 2,000 years.

What is Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle is derived from a plant. The plant has a purple to a pink color head, with the ending of the flower bulb being a spiked texture. It also has green leaves with white specks and a long stem.

The plant's origin comes from Europe but can also grow wild in South America and parts of the United States as well. The Milk Thistle plant prefers sunny to light shaded areas and does well in most soil conditions. It is also known for its milky white texture emitted from the leaves when crushed, also contributing to the characteristics of its name. The small fruit that it bears is brown in color and can appear shiny.


The active ingredient of Milk Thistle is Silymarin, which is the chemical extracted from the seed. Milk Thistle products contain 80 percent extracted Silymarin. Silymarin is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects as well.

Health Benefits

One of the main uses of this supplement is liver health. Whether from alcohol use or exposure to industrial working materials or just for cleanse, Studies have shown that Milk Thistle can actually repair and rebuild liver cells. Studies are also testing the effectiveness of the extract for:

  • Viral Hepatitis
  • Cancer
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Heartburn

Ways to Ingest

While capsule being the far most popular, there are a few other ways to consume the extract including liquid extract, tincture, and Silymarin phosphatidylcholine complex.


While you should always check with your primary physician before taking this or any supplement, these are some of the dosing guidelines:

  • Acute viral hepatitis 160-800 milligrams of silymarin extract taken by mouth in three doses for three weeks.
  • For allergic nasal symptoms 140 milligrams of silymarin three times a day for one month.
  • For general antioxidant effect 140 milligrams of silymarin three times a day for three weeks.

Silibinin to Treat Mushroom Poisoning

Silibinin, the major active constituent of Silymarin, has been recently used to help with the effects of mushroom poisoning. Mushrooms in the Amanita genus, most notably the Death Cap and Destroying Angel, are highly toxic to humans and animals.

Once ingested, the toxins begin to take hold in around 24 to 48 hours, ruthlessly attacking and destroying the liver leading to fatality. These mushrooms can be highly misidentified as people immigrate to the United States and other places where Amanita grow, looking identical to the mushrooms they are used to harvesting in their native lands.

Emergency liver transplant for many years was the only viable treatment with many losing lives. New breakthroughs in Silibinin treatments, which help protect the liver from these toxins, have been effective.

Milk Thistle growing in nature
Milk Thistle growing in nature | Source

The Future

I believe that with more research, doctors and medical professionals alike will be taking more advantage of all things Milk Thistle extract can provide. The public is demanding more holistic and natural alternative to standard medical practices and the medical communities will have no choice but to be on the cutting edge of new medicines or get left behind. While we are not there yet, we are close.

Medical magazines and publications are now looking more into this and other natural extracts. It is also up to the consumer and the medical patient to be more involved with the process, to demand a natural and holistic approach to their medicines, if they desire so. The more treatment options available, the better.


The information presented here is in no way meant to substitute a medical diagnosis from a doctor, and it is recommended you see a licensed medical practitioner if you have any signs of sickness.

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© 2015 The Write Life


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    • Jesse Drzal profile imageAUTHOR

      The Write Life 

      5 years ago from The United States

      For sure Elise...keep us up to date with whatever information you may find..thank you!

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      I have done a little study already and found this, "Because of potassium nitrate content, the plant has been found to be toxic to cattle and sheep", so that is most likely the reason animals will not eat it, also the spikes are pretty harsh.

      Thought I would add this to your comment, it is very interesting, I will find out what part they used, could be the seeds in the head of the flower.

    • Jesse Drzal profile imageAUTHOR

      The Write Life 

      5 years ago from The United States

      Could be Elsie. I would just try to research that as much as possible, don't want to ingest something that you maybe shouldn't..thanks for the comment and sharing.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      I got a shock reading this article.

      I had to go and Google it, this plant is what we in NZ call the Scotch thistle, there is so much of it growing in our paddocks, as for the thorns I would never have thought of anyone finding a health benefit from it, even the cows won't eat it, so many thorns, I grub them down early in the spring, even when they are dying nothing will eat it, they will take over all the pasture and leave no grass for the cows to eat.

      Will be taking another look at how they get the supplement from these harsh thorning stems

    • Oztinato profile image

      Andrew Petrou 

      5 years ago from Brisbane

      I take it as a supplement and find it has no bad side effects. I had slightly higher cholesterol than recommended and noticed a marked favourable change after taking it for a few months.

      My dad used to find this plant then peel and eat the pith of the stem. At that time many years ago I didn't know why he did so. He never explained why and seemed to enjoy it!

      I continue to take the supplement and will log future results.


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