Milk Thistle has been marketed as a herbal supplement having a  protecting benefits on the liver, they claim milk thistle
can even regenerate the liver cells in most liver diseases such as cirrhosis (hardening of the liver), jaundice and
hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), cholangitis (inflammation of bile ducts resulting in decreased bile flow). Milk Thistle
is also marketed as a preventative medicine to protect each cell of the liver from incoming toxins and encourage the
liver to cleanse itself of damaging substances, such as alcohol, drugs, medications, mercury and heavy metals. Milk
thistle is also promoted as an agent which can cleanse and detoxify  overburdened and stagnant livers, strengthen
and tonify weak livers.

Milk thistle is also suggested to be used as a gentle and mild laxative, as it may be able to increase bile secretion and
flow in the intestinal tract. This herb is also claimed to be able to lubricate and soften the stools to a mild laxative
effect- a balance between constipation and diarrhea.  However, scientific supports to these claims are limited. In the
following section, we review what scientists found about milk thistle - benefits and side effects.

Health benefits of milk thistle
Milk thistle has been used for centuries for the treatment of liver disease. Milk thistle appears to be safe and have
multiple health benefits on various liver conditions; the available evidence on the mechanisms of action appears
promising [1]. Traditionally, milk thistle is commonly used for liver cirrhosis, alcoholic hepatitis, alcoholic fatty liver, liver
poisoning, and viral hepatitis.

Milk thistle key ingredients
Milk thistle extracts are standardized to a concentration of 70-80% of flavone lignans including isosilybinin, silybinin,
silychristin, and silydianin, which are
collectively called silymarin. Silymarin may play a role in displacing toxins
binding to the liver and causing the liver cells to regenerate at a faster rate.

Milk thistle is a flowering herb. Silymarin can be extracted from the seeds (fruit). The seeds are used to prepare
capsules containing powdered herb or seed; extracts; and infusions (strong teas). [NCCAM]


Milk thistle's protective effects on liver are well-known, milk thistle actually may have many other health benefits.
Test-tube studies show that milk thistle may possibly be a potent anti-cancer agent. Further, milk thistle ingredients
were found to have anti-inflammatory, cytoprotective, and anticarcinogenic effects and these beneficial effects are
probably related to inhibition of activation of NF-kappa B and the kinases. [7] Here, we are going to highlight milk
thistle benefits on different conditions:

Milk thistle may have benefits of anti-microbial activities
Milk thistle ingredient, silybin, inhibited RNA and protein synthesis on gram-positive bacteria. [8]

Milk thistle ingredient is a strong anti-oxdative agent
Silymarin reduced NO production at less than 300 ppm. [9]

Milk thistle may benefit people at risk of cardiovascular conditions
Milk thistle and lecithin have found to have anti-atherosclerotic activity in rabbits. Milk thistle-phospholipid complex
showed a strong anti-atherosclerotic activity. [10]

Milk thistle may benefit people at risk of various type of cancers
Silymarin from milk thistle exerts chemopreventive effects against tumorigenicity by inhibiting endogenous tumor
promoter TNF alpha. [11] Silibinin and silymarin, have shown the anticancer effects in different cancer cells in multiple

BLADDER CANCER Silibinin modulates cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors - cyclin-dependent kinases -cyclin cascade
and activates caspase 3 causing growth inhibition and apoptotic death of human bladder transitional cell carcinoma
cells. [12] In another study, silibinin decreased survivin levels and caspases-PARP cleavages, in accord with a strong
apoptotic death and growth inhibition of Human bladder transitional-cell papilloma cells. [13] And, silymarin was found
to be effective in preventing OH-BBN-induced bladder carcinogenesis in mice. [14]

BREAST CANCER An in vitro study has suggested a possible synergism between silibinin and conventional cytotoxic
agents for breast cancer treatment. [15] Milk thistle extract may exert a strong anticarcinogenic effect against breast
cancer involving inhibition the threshold kinase activities of cyclin-dependent kinases and associated cyclins, leading
to a G1 arrest in cell cycle progression. [16].

COLON CANCER A study showed the chemopreventive ability of silymarin against chemically induced colon

ENDOTHELIAL CELLS CANCER Silibinin can be a anti-cancer agent as it has the ability inhibit angiogenesis through
induction of endothelial apoptosis via modulation of NF-kappaB, Bcl-2 family and caspases. [18] Silibinin toxicity to
cancer cells is also found to involve the epidermal growth factor receptor signaling pathway. [19]

LUNG CANCER Milk thistle extracts containing Silibinin exerted a dose-dependent inhibitory effect on the invasion and
motility of human lung cancer cells.[20]

LIVER CANCER Milk thistle may be useful in the prevention or treatment of liver dysfunction in patients undergoing
anticancer therapy.[21]

PROSTATE CANCER In prostate cancer, silibinin exerts its anti-cancer effect probably via epidermal growth factor
receptor, insulin-like growth factor receptor type I and nuclear factor kappa B signaling [23] Milk thistle extracts
possess anticancer activities on human prostate carcinoma. Isosilybin A and B might be the most effective
suppressors of prostate-specific antigen secretion by androgen-dependent LNCaP cells. Researchers suggested that
milk thistle extracts enriched for isosilybin A or B might possess improved potency in prostate cancer prevention and
treatment. [22] Finally, milk thistle silibinin was found to able to down regulate 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone, thus, milk
thistle may be beneficial to prostate health. [23] There are a few more studies showing milk thistle benefits on prostate

SKIN CANCER In studies of rats, milk thistle extracts provided substantial protection against different stages of
UVB-induced carcinogenesis, possibly via its strong antioxidant properties. [33] In another study, topical treatment of
silymarin inhibited 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene-initiated and several tumor promoters in mouse models. [34] There
are two more studies showing the anti-tumor effects of milk thistle extracts on skin cancer: [35]

TONGUE CANCER Feeding of silymarin (500 p.p.m.) during the promotion phase of 4-NQO-induced rat tumorigenesis
exerts chemopreventive ability against tongue squamous cell carcinoma through modification of phase II enzymes
activity, cell proliferation, and/or PGE(2) content. [36]

Milk thistle may benefit animals with cholestasis
Milk thistle prevents cholestasis induced by estrogens and taurolithocholate via inhibiting cAMP-phosphodiesterase.  
[38] In 1985, Koch HP reported that milk thistle was a very potent inhibitor of cyclic AMP phosphodiesterase. Milk
thistle's constituents, silybin, silydianin and silychristin, are 12.66 to 52.06 times more active than theophylline. [37]

Milk thistle shows its benefits on diabetic animals
Milk thistle extracts may be useful in treatment of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, as silibinin inhibits
glucose-stimulated insulin release in vitro, while not affecting blood glucose concentration in vivo. [39]Aqueous
extracts of milk thistle exhibit potent hypoglycaemic and anti-hyperglycaemic activities in normal and streptozotocin
diabetic rats without affecting insulin secretion. [40]  In a study, researchers treated  diabetics with 200 mg of silymarin
three times a day. After four months, patients had reductions in blood glucose levels. The results are very
encouraging and the researchers planned to do further large multi-centre studies. [Milk thistle may help diabetics
-study, Reuters, October 30, 2006.]

Randomized controlled trials were identified through electronic searches (MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane Central
Register of Controlled Trials) up until February 2011. Nine randomized, placebo-controlled trials (n=487 patients) were
identified. Ipomoea batatas, Silybum marianum (milk thistle) and Trigonella foenum-graecum significantly improved
glycemic control, whereas Cinnamomum cassia did not. [aa2]

Milk thistle may have benefits on heart.
Milk thistle extract, silymarin, protects cardiomyocytes against doxorubicin-induced oxidative stress via cell membrane
stabilization effect, radical scavenging and iron chelating potency. {41]

A study of mice showed milk thistle silymarin could prevent UVB-induced immuno-suppression and oxidative stress
probably by inhibiting the infiltration of leukocytes, and myeloperoxidase activity. [42]

A study demonstrated that milk thistle was immunostimulatory in vitro. Milk thistle increased lymphocyte proliferation in
both mitogen and MLC assays. These effects of Milk Thistle were associated with an increase in interferon gamma,
interleukin (IL)-4 and IL-10 cytokines in the MLC (table). This immunostimulatory effect increased in response to
increasing doses of Milk Thistle.  [43]

Milk thistle may benefit people at risk of liver diseases
CIRRHOSIS A double blind study of 170 patients with cirrhosis demonstrated that silymarin treatment was effective in
patients with alcoholic cirrhosis. [44]  A study has suggested that milk thistle and
S-adenosylmethionine may be
effective in alcoholic cirrhosis. [45]

FIBROSIS Silymarin retarded the development of alcohol-induced hepatic fibrosis in 12 baboons, consistent with
several positive clinical trials. [46]

INJURY The hepatoprotective properties of milk thistle extracts in acute and chronic liver injury is probably related to
inhibition of leukotriene B (4) formation by silibinin. [47]

The protective effects of milk thistle on liver injury may be related to the recovery of the membrane fluidities of liver
microsome and mitochondria [48]

HEPATITIS C A double-blinded trial of 141 subjects demonstrated that milk thistle extract, silymarin, could improve
symptoms and general well-being of patients suffered from hepatitis C. [49] However, some researchers found that
milk thistle extracts had no benefits on liver health. For instance, milk thistle extract was found to have no
hepatoprotective effect on dairy cows. [50]

Bone-remodeling imbalance induced by decreased osteoblastogenesis and increased bone resorption is known to
cause skeletal diseases such as osteoporosis. Silibinin is the major active ingredient of milk thistle. Studies suggest
that silibinin is a powerful antioxidant and has anti-hepatotoxic properties and anti-cancer effects against carcinoma
cells. A recent study shows that silibinin had bone-forming and osteoprotective effects in in vitro cell systems of murine
osteoblastic MC3T3-E1 cells and RAW 264.7 murine macrophages. Silibinin accelerated cell proliferation and
promoted matrix mineralization by enhancing bone nodule formation by calcium deposits. [aa3]

Milk thistle may have protective effects on neural system
In a cell study, silymarin significantly inhibited the LPS-induced activation of microglia and the production of
inflammatory mediators, such as tumour necrosis factor-alpha and nitric oxide (NO), and reduced the damage to
dopaminergic neurons.[51]

Milk thistle extract protected cultured rat hippocampal neurons against oxidative stress-induced cell death. [52]


Milk thistle side effects
Milk thistle side effects are usually mild and may involve stomach upset and diarrhea. Rash may be a result from
touching milk thistle plants. Only a few cases of milk thistle side effect have been reported. High dose of milk thistle
may stimulate inflammatory process (from a mice study). [61] Milk thistle can also produce allergic reactions, which
tend to be more common among people who are allergic to plants in the same family (e.g. ragweed, chrysanthemium,
marigold, and daisy}.

Milk Thistle Drug Interaction
University of Maryland suggest not to use milk thistle if you are taking: antipsychotics, phenytoin(Dilantin), halothane,
and birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy. Milk thistle may interact with allergy drugs -- such as
fexofenadine (Allegra), statins, anti-anxiety drugs, anti-platelets, anti-coagulants, some cancer drugs and drugs
borken down by liver. [

For details, please, click
milk thistle side effects.

Milk thistle has been known for its protective effects on liver, while milk thistle may also be a potent anti-cancer agent.
Milk thistle side effects are limited, but it may interact certain drug products. Users must discuss with their doctors
before taking milk thistle.
Milk Thistle Benefit October 18, 2011
Different people may experience different side effects and benefits of a product. You are encouraged to report adverse side effects to FDA, its
website is, or report the adverse side effects to the manufacturer, you should be able to find the contact information on the label.

There are always new information. Please, send me an email ( to correct my mistake(s). Reasonable care has been taken in
preparing this document and the information provided herein is believed to be accurate. The information is not intended to be a substitute for
professional medical advice. It is important to seek the advice of a physician about any medical condition or symptom or the benefits and side
effects of a supplement or a drug product. Finally, please, do not transfer the article to other website. Thank you. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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