banner image showing supplements suggested for liver detox.

Commonly known to help with liver issues, milk thistle as an herb with a long history of medicinal use around the world. Are you interested in using milk thistle supplements to help out with something specific? If so, read on while we dig into the many uses and benefits of milk thistle below:


Milk Thistle Supplements

Some research has suggested that milk thistle has properties that might improve the health of the immune system. In addition, milk thistle has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for many, many years. Many people have used milk thistle for various health reasons in modern times too. In fact, some believe that it has real value for detoxifying the body after excessive alcohol consumption.
When used for an illness, such as diabetes, milk thistle is often taken along with other more traditional treatments prescribed by a doctor. While research is still being conducted on this herbal supplement, there are already many people who have reported improved health from taking it. Some even take the her during cancer treatments due to anecdotal evidence and historic use in traditional medicine. While some cultures believe that the herb has anti-cancer properties, there is not yet any concrete evidence to support this claim. However, traditional Chinese medicine has been used for many years for the treatment of liver and stomach problems. It has also been used to treat a wide range of other health problems, from allergies to insomnia.

Aren’t There Risks?

So far, there is no evidence that the use of milk thistle for cancer helps promote the development of a cancerous tumor. In fact, milk thistle may very well have a role to play in improving the health of the immune system, which protects you from disease. Heavy metals such as those found in pesticides and in many processed foods deplete the immune system and make you more susceptible to infection. When the immune system is weakened, you are open to infections and other medical conditions. While there is no reason to avoid taking milk thistle supplements as long as your doctor approves, you should be aware that the product is associated with a number of side effects that include itching, drowsiness, stomach pain, vomiting, and dizziness. Taking milk thistle may interact with other herbal supplements and can be toxic to the kidneys. Because of the risk of kidney damage, people with kidney disease should not take milk thistle. You should also be careful to report any symptom of flu or gastrointestinal infection to your doctor.
The side effects of milk thistle may be unpleasant, but there is no need to worry if you notice them and stop taking the supplement after notifying your doctor. For most users, these effects never happen and the milk thistle is well tolerated at a moderate dose. Typically, you’ll want to start with 200 mg or less per day before working up to a higher dose, but check with your doctor and space your dosage out throughout the day while observing for side effects.

The Potential Benefits of Milk Thistle

Studies show that simply including milk thistle in a diet can improve digestive health and may help to prevent cancer. Who doesn’t want to reduce their risk of cancer? However, before taking milk thistle supplements, you should talk to your doctor. Discuss the possible benefits of the supplement with your a medical professional who knows your overall health history and any other medications or supplements you are taking. If you take dairy products, milk, or lactose, and you have trouble digesting dairy products or children, you should talk to your doctor about having a lactase supplement to help prevent digestive issues. Conditions that may benefit from supplementation with milk thistle include the following:
  • Allergic Rhinitis
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Drug-induced Hepatotoxocity
  • Drug-induced Nephrotoxicity
  • Liver diseases
  • Thalassemia
  • Autoimmune disorders

Milk Thistle For Liver Problems

We haven’t mentioned this yet, but the main clinical effect seen from milk thistle supplementation is often attributed to a substance called silymarin found in the plant. Some specialists recommend silymarin taken at the same time with plant-based liver and gallbladder formulas to help with liver toxicity.
Liver specialists believe that taking the combination of milk thistle, plant-based liver formulas, and a standard liver formula will address the problems of detoxification, fat oxidation, and lipid profiles. Many experts are convinced that the use of milk thistle as a liver cleanser has a lot to do with the amount of detoxifying effects that thistle has on the liver in addition to the presence of silymarin. We aren’t sure we’ll ever know how exactly thistle helps with liver problems, but it is probably true that this herb does have some things to offer those with liver and gallbladder problems aside from the highly studied chemistry around silymarin.
This idea of multiple beneficial compounds working together has certainly been touted by those who have used it, and it has a lot of people looking for a natural way to cleanse the liver with little or no side effects. While the detoxification process may be set in motion by some of the normal functions of the liver, nonetheless, there is also evidence that suggests that the liver can alter dramatically with the use of milk thistle over time.

Is There Any Accepted Clinical Evidence?

While it is true that the use of milk thistle to detoxify and cleanse the liver is not a widely accepted practice in western medicine, there are those that do believe that it can be effective, and may be useful, especially among those that practice integrative medicine. Most of the research seems to indicate a sound scientific reasoning behind the reported benefits, but there’s very little financial incentive to research an herb that can’t be patented so we have very little data to go on here.


Be advised that there can be serious consequences of nutritional supplements, including the potential for allergic reactions, when taken. We are not qualified to diagnose or explain every known reaction, and it is best to be certain before taking any supplement. Consult with your doctor before starting or stopping any herbal supplements like milk thistle.
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