Milk thistle is used as a natural remedy to treat a range of health conditions and is an herbal remedy derived from the milk thistle plant, also known as Silybum Marianum. This prickly plant has distinctive purple flowers and white veins.
The active ingredient in milk thistle is called silymarin. Milk thistle is also known as Mary thistle or holy thistle. It is mainly used to treat liver problems, but some people claim it can lower cholesterol and help manage type 2 diabetes. In fact, it has traditionally been used to treat liver and gallbladder disorders, promote breast milk production, prevent and treat cancer and even protect the liver from snake bites, alcohol and other environmental poisons.
1. Supports Liver Health
One of the most common uses of milk thistle is to treat liver problems. The active ingredient in milk thistle, silymarin, acts as an antioxidant by reducing free radical production. Scientists think this creates a detoxifying effect, which is why it is milk thistle may be beneficial for liver problems.
2. Promotes Skin Health
Milk thistle may help to promote healthy skin. Milk thistle has been found to have antioxidant and anti-aging effects on human skin cells in a laboratory environment in a study.
3. Reduces Cholesterol
High cholesterol can lead to problems with heart health and increase a person’s chance of stroke. A study suggests milk thistle may play an important role keeping cholesterol levels down. It found that cholesterol levels were lower in people taking milk thistle to treat diabetes than those taking a placebo.
4. Supports Weight Loss
Initial research conducted found that silymarin caused weight loss when a diet intended to cause weight gain. This suggests milk thistle may be beneficial for those looking to lose weight.
5. Balances Your Blood Sugar
Got type 2 diabetes? The silymarin in milk thistle has the potential to lower your fasting blood sugar levels and HbA1c as well as improve insulin sensitivity.
6. Improves Allergic Asthma Symptoms
The active ingredient in milk thistle can help to reduce inflammation. A study found that silymarin helped to protect against inflammation with allergic asthma.
7. Limits The Spread Of Cancer
Milk thistle may help to stop the spread of certain types of cancer. A review found that milk thistle extract inhibited the growth of cancerous cells in colorectal cancer.
8. Supports Bone Health & Improves Cognition
Milk thistle may play an essential role in supporting bone health. Milk thistle increases resistance to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a potential cause of Alzheimer’s disease. In this way, milk thistle may help improve cognition and treat degenerative conditions that affect the mind. More research on humans is needed to confirm the effects of milk thistle on cognition.
Milk thistle has a range of potential health benefits due to its active ingredient, silymarin, which is an antioxidant.
More research needs to be carried out before a definitive list of milk thistle benefits can be confirmed. That said, it is a healthful supplement that may be worth trying alongside conventional treatments.