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Milk Thistle – Benefits and Risks

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For centuries, herbal medicine has provided a safe and natural way to treat or prevent diseases. Aside from curing diseases, plant-based medicine has been proven to be an effective way to improve one’s health and well-being. One of these common plants used in natural dietary supplements and other herbal products is the plant called milk thistle. 

Milk thistle is a flowering herb originating from Mediterranean countries and is part of the daisy and ragweed family. It has been a popular herb found in a variety of wellness products. Read our post below to discover more about the benefits along with the side effects that may be experienced when taking products derived from the milk thistle herb.

Can Be Used to Improve Liver Health

If you want to protect your liver from damage, taking milk thistle supplements is an option. It has been found that milk thistle can help people with liver disease caused by alcohol consumption. There are also studies showing that it can aid people who are suffering from liver conditions caused by toluene, xylene, and other industrial toxins, chemotherapy, and mushroom poisoning. It is also used in treating cirrhosis, hepatitis, jaundice, and inflammatory liver disease. Although milk thistle has been used for several liver-related health conditions, further studies are needed to prove the link between its efficacy and improving liver function. 

Bone Loss Prevention

Milk thistle can also be used to strengthen your bones. Recent test tube and animal experiments have shown that milk thistle has promising capabilities that promote bone mineralization and could prevent bone loss. It has been noted that it can be a potential treatment for osteoporosis, particularly among postmenopausal women. Although milk thistle has showcased promising results in improving bone health, further tests and studies on humans are required to get a clear understanding of its effectiveness.

Enhance Brain Function 

Another potential use for milk thistle is for improvement of brain function, especially among adults suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other related conditions among the elderly. Milk thistle has anti-inflammatory properties that can stop the age-related deterioration of your brain’s overall condition. It has also been observed that it has the capacity to reduce amyloid plaques found in the brain. 

Good for People with Diabetes 

Milk thistle contains an active ingredient called Silymarin. Aside from being a popular aid for people with liver conditions, it also has many benefits including being a complementary therapy for type 2 diabetes. Silymarin has been found to reduce fasting blood glucose levels which are critical in improving insulin sensitivity to people with diabetes. 

It has also been found that it can lower cholesterol levels and manage complications caused by diabetic conditions. However, milk thistle should not be taken as a sole medication for diabetes but rather should be combined with traditional treatments. As diabetes is a serious health condition, professional consultation is needed to avoid contraindications. 


Managing Allergies

For those suffering from seasonal allergies, milk thistle supplements can alleviate allergic symptoms. Studies have found that taking milk thistle along with cetirizine for a month can reduce seasonal allergies better as compared to just taking traditional medication alone. Apart from that, its active ingredient silymarin has also been found to help protect inflammation caused by allergic asthma symptoms. 

Promote Fertility and Reproductive Health Among Women

If infertility is an issue, milk thistle can help with that. Previous experiments have shown that taking silymarin found in milk thistle with fertility hormones can help address infertility problems. This is particularly beneficial for women undergoing in-vitro fertilization. For older women experiencing menopausal symptoms, taking milk thistle products can reduce hot flashes and sweating along with the improved quality of sleep.

Possible Dangerous Side Effects 

If you are allergic to ragweed, daisies, marigolds, and chrysanthemums, it is best to stay away from products derived from milk thistle as it can trigger an allergic reaction ranging from a rash or as serious as anaphylaxis. Women suffering from endometriosis as well as breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers are also advised not to use products containing milk thistle as it has estrogenic effects. It has also been found to cause headaches, gastrointestinal diseases, and headaches. Nausea, diarrhea, bloating, loss of appetite, and fullness or pain are also less common side effects. 

Milk thistle is a generally safe herb to take which offers a variety of benefits to one’s health and overall well-being. However, the majority of experiments used to test the efficacy of milk thistle were only tested on animals. Further studies on humans are needed to verify its effectiveness. 


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