Milk Thistle Side Effects

milk thistle side effects

There has been a resurgence of interest in traditional homeopathic, or natural remedies, rather than immediately turning to pharmaceutical drugs. In the case of minor health issues, this can have its benefits, namely that natural remedies tend to have a substantially lower rate of side effects than most pharmaceuticals. Some natural remedies, of course, can still cause side effects in some people, and being well informed about a supplement before you add it to your regimen is always a wise choice. If you’re looking for a natural remedy for liver or cholesterol issues then milk thistle might be for you [1], but first, let’s have a look at its effects and possible side effects.

Uses for Milk Thistle

The most common use of milk thistle is for relieving or improving issues in the liver. It is popular for the treatment of liver-related issues such as jaundice and hepatitis. Milk thistle has also been used to help improve heart health by lowering cholesterol [2], and has been put to use in people with diabetes as well. The active ingredient in milk thistle is believed to be an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant called silymarin, but for now, little is known about this compound and silymarin’s effects on the body are not entirely known [3]. Not enough research has been done for a conclusive answer on whether or not milk thistle is effective in treating issues involving the liver, however, there is a substantial body of evidence that shows it can aid in lowering blood sugar in people who are diabetic. It was also shown in these studies to help reduce LDL, which is the bad cholesterol, in diabetics. Milk thistle can also be taken safely by most people alongside most cholesterol medications to help with liver function, which is commonly affected by cholesterol management drugs. There has been some research done in mice on the effect milk thistle has on the liver’s reaction to toxins, and supplementation with milk thistle did indeed reduce liver enzyme levels in the mice who were exposed to toxins. This makes milk thistle a promising liver protection supplement for people taking medications that might be liver-toxic.

Side Effects of Milk Thistle

Milk thistle has been used in studies for as long as 41 months, so prolonged use has been studied and no persistent side effect from long-term use have been reported. That being said, in some people supplementation with milk thistle can trigger acute stomach irritation or nausea, and even diarrhea. It is also important to note that if you have an allergy to ragweed it is best to avoid milk thistle as it is very likely you are also allergic to it if you have a ragweed allergy. It is also recommended against taking milk thistle if you are breastfeeding as the effects of milk thistle on milk production are unknown and milk can exhibit estrogenic effects. Overall milk thistle is considered a safe supplement, but more research needs to be done into the effects it actually has on the body and the liver [3].


  1. Effect of Silybin on Lipid Profile in Hypercholesterolaemic Rats
    Senthil Gobalakrishnan,corresponding author1 Sylvia Santhakumari Asirvatham,2 and Venkatraman Janarthanam3 J Clin Diagn Res. 2016 Apr; 10(4): FF01–FF05.
    Published online 2016 Apr 1. doi: [10.7860/JCDR/2016/16393.7566]
  2. Milk Thistle (PDQ®)
    Bookshelf ID: NBK65841PMID: 26389281 Bethesda (MD): National Cancer Institute (US); 2002-.
  3. “Silymarin”, a Promising Pharmacological Agent for Treatment of Diseases
    Gholamreza Karimi,1,* Maryam Vahabzadeh,2 Parisa Lari,2 Marziyeh Rashedinia,2 and Mohammad Moshiri2 Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2011 Jul-Aug; 14(4): 308–317.
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.