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milk thistle has been used medicinally for over 2,000 years, most commonly for the treatment of liver and gallbladder disorders. Silymarin comes from the seeds of milk thistle and is believed to be the active part of milk thistle. The terms “milk thistle” and “silymarin” are often used interchangeably.
Milk thistle products are popular in Europe and the United States for various types of liver disease. Although numerous human trials have been published, most studies have lacked a strong design and strong conclusive evidence.
What Is Milk Thistle Used For?
Milk thistle is sometimes used as a natural treatment for liver problems. These liver problems include cirrhosis, jaundice, hepatitis, and gallbladder disorders.Some claim milk thistle may also:
Provide heart benefits by lowering cholesterol levels
Help diabetes in people who have type 2 diabetes and cirrhosis
Does Milk Thistle Work?
Silymarin is the main active ingredient in milk thistle. Silymarin is
both an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It’s unclear what benefits,
if any, this may have in the body.
Is Milk Thistle Good for the Liver?
At this point, there is not enough scientific data to say whether or not milk thistle can help liver problems. Some early research suggests milk thistle may aid people with alcohol-related liver disease. Other studies show no improvement in liver function in this group of people.
Some studies also show milk thistle may offer a possible benefit for people whose liver is damaged by industrial toxins, such as toluene and xylene.
Medical research does suggest that milk thistle, combined with traditional treatment, can improve diabetes. Studies have shown a decrease in blood sugar levels and an improvement in cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.
Researchers also have found that milk thistle improved insulin resistance, a key characteristic of type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a serious condition. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, as they may interfere with your medication.
Is Milk Thistle Good for the Heart?
By lowering LDL “bad” cholesterol levels, milk thistle may help decrease the chance of developing heart disease. However, studies on possible heart benefits only have been done in people with diabetes. People with diabetes often have high cholesterol. It’s unclear if milk thistle may have the same effects in other people.
How Do You Take Milk Thistle?
Milk thistle can be taken orally in supplements or in tea. Milk thistle can be combined with other herbs.