What is Milk Thistle?

what is milk thistle

In today’s world of supplements and natural remedies, it can be hard to tell what is what. Because of this, it can be hard to know if something is good for you or if it is even worth taking. Lately, a consumer push towards natural remedies has caused many herbal supplements to grow in popularity. Milk thistle is one that has seen much discussion for people with diabetes or liver disease. Is Milk Thistle right for you? What is Milk Thistle? Read below to get the quick facts on milk thistle and whether or not it may be beneficial to your health:

How is Milk Thistle Taken?

Milk thistle supplements can be taken orally via a pill or drank as a tea. Many people choose to take it with a cup of tea to mask its flavor and get the health benefits of the tea as well.

What’s in It?

Milk thistle is a naturally growing herb that is common in Mediterranean areas. It is related to the ragweed and the daisy. It contains silymarin, which is the active ingredient. Silymarin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties which leads many people to automatically think it is beneficial. Milk thistle benefits range from helping the kidneys and liver to providing potential support for diabetes and insulin problems.

Milk Thistle Liver Benefits Scientific Evidence

There have been many studies done on the effects of milk thistle and its potential benefits. However, most of the studies have produced conflicting results and do not necessarily show that milk thistle is beneficial to your health. Some studies have shown that it helps patients with alcohol or toxin induced liver disease while others show no results. Although studies are still ongoing, and research continues, there is no guarantee that milk thistle is truly effective for treating liver problems [1].

Milk Thistle for Diabetes

Although studies have been inconclusive on the effects of milk thistle for liver disease, studies on its use for diabetes have been much more promising. Patients treated with milk thistle supplements showed that it was beneficial for patients with type 2 diabetes when combined with traditional treatments. It helps to lower blood sugar levels and bad (LDL) cholesterol levels as well. Milk thistle also works to improve insulin resistance, allowing your body to fight back against diabetes naturally [2].

Side-Effects and Risks of Milk Thistle

Currently, milk thistle isn’t known to have any major side effects. After prolonged use, patients may experience some stomach discomfort or nausea. However, those who have allergies to ragweed should avoid taking milk thistle. Since milk thistle and ragweed are from the same family, it may produce a serious allergic reaction.  If you experience any allergy symptoms after taking milk thistle supplements or drinking tea with milk thistle, seek medical attention right away.


  1. The therapeutic effect of silymarin in the treatment of nonalcoholic fatty disease: A meta-analysis (PRISMA) of randomized control trials.
    Zhong S1, Fan Y, Yan Q, Fan X, Wu B, Han Y, Zhang Y, Chen Y, Zhang H, Niu J. Medicine (Baltimore). 2017 Dec;96(49):e9061. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000009061.
  2. Silymarin Ameliorates Diabetes-Induced Proangiogenic Response in Brain Endothelial Cells through a GSK-3β Inhibition-Induced Reduction of VEGF Release.
    Alhusban A1, Alkhazaleh E1, El-Elimat T2.J Diabetes Res. 2017;2017:2537216. doi: 10.1155/2017/2537216. Epub 2017 Oct 25.
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