Milk thistle is one of several weeds that grow in nature that aren’t considered a lawn and garden nuisance. In fact, the plant is among the most potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory superfoods on the planet. Milk thistle is native to California and most other Mediterranean climates, though it can be grown anywhere with a predominantly warm year round climate.
The plant, particularly its extract, has long been used for its liver detoxifying and restorative benefits, However, it helps all areas of the digestive tract by increasing bile production, aiding in the formation of essential enzymes, decreasing inflammation throughout the body, and assisting in cell membrane function and repair.
Milk thistle is considered safe for consumption and can be incorporated into the diet in a number of ways including extract supplements, tinctures, teas, and powders. This inexpensive superfood is considered as potent an antioxidant as vitamin E and C, and also considered among the top anti-aging supplements available to consumers.
Best Milk Thistle Herbal Supplements
|Brand||Natural Wellness||EBYSU||Fresh Nutrition||The Republic of Tea||Flora Aromatics|
|View on Amazon||View on Amazon||View on Amazon||View on Amazon||View on Amazon|
|Overall Rating||5 / 5||5 / 5||4.8 / 5||4.7 / 5||4.8 / 5|
|Serving Size||1 Capsule||1 Capsule||1 Capsule||1 Bag||1 Spoon|
|Effectiveness||5 / 5||5 / 5||4.9 / 5||4.8 / 5||4.7 / 5|
|Quality||5 / 5||5 / 5||4.7 / 5||4.9 / 5||4.7 / 5|
|Taste||5 / 5||5 / 5||4.7 / 5||5 / 5||4.7 / 5|
|Digestibility||5 / 5||5 / 5||4.8 / 5||5 / 5||4.8 / 5|
Milk Thistle Benefits
Milk thistle extract has been in use dating back as far as 40 A.D., and is thought to cure a wide range of ailments resulting from toxicity and inflammation including poor liver function, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol, kidney stones, gall bladder disorders. Milk thistle also helps in boosting recovery from chemotherapy and alcohol abuse, skin disorders, and likely a ton of other benefits yet to be discovered.
1.Liver Detoxifier and Health Booster
The liver is the largest organ in the body. Rightly so, as it does approximately 500 jobs – often at once! The organ’s main function is in digestion, as the liver produces the bile used to digest food. It also filters our blood after digestion is complete, filtering out toxins, managing glucose levels, and helping to release hormones to facilitate healthy metabolism.
Alcohol abuse is considered the most common reason for liver problems in the industrialized world, but the toxins we eat, drink, and breathe in are also critical stressors on liver function. No other superfood gets the fanfare that milk thistle does in its ability to reduce liver enzymes (ie., blood marker indicating uncontrolled liver damage). Silymarin, the main antioxidant in milk thistle is also a proven antifibrotic that reduces and even reverses fibrosis in the liver caused by chemicals of all kinds including alcohol and prescription medications like acetaminophen.
2.Glutathione Booster: Immune System & Anti Aging
Our immune system protects us from virtually all toxic invaders in the body including chemicals, germs and viruses of all kinds. Without a properly functioning immune system, there isn’t a creature alive that can survive. Predators typically have the best immune systems, with the crocodile and several shark species considered to have virtually impenetrable immune function.
As humans, our immune systems work pretty well, and science can now pick up the slack from pretty well all known external invaders to the body. However, the process we all recognize as aging: the process which makes our bodies slow down, our skin wrinkle, etc., is a cumulative result of inflammation and oxidation that our bodies have yet to adapt to and control. If oxidation had no effect on the biology, most all living things could effectively live forever.
One of the greatest effects milk thistle has on the liver that’s not mentioned in the previous section, is that it boosts glutathione levels by preventing it being broken down and excreted. Glutathione, the “master antioxidant,” is made by the liver and is the most potent antioxidant in the human body when it comes to immune system function and slowing the aging process. Low glutathione levels are a marker often noted when a person is diagnosed with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and many neurodegenerative disorders.
3.Diabetes Prevention and Treatment
An often overlooked fact in the type-2 diabetes dilemma plaguing North America, the UK, many parts of Asia and several parts of Europe, is that the majority of the problem resides in the liver. The liver handles all the carbohydrates (ie., glucose) we get from our food. While our muscles will store up to 20% of our overall glycogen (stored sugar), the liver has to handle the rest. When the liver can’t keep up with its detoxification duties, fatty liver disease is often the consequence.
This dangerous condition is a precurser to type-2 diabetes. Fatty liver disease is a condition where the liver accumulates too much fat inside, causing a plethora of problems. Considering that impaired liver function also means the 500 or more jobs it does will become impaired. Glucose-handling and glycogen storage are typically the first problem to occur in fatty liver disease, along with hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol and triglycerides).
Impaired glucose handling makes cells throughout the body including liver cells, resistant to insulin; the hormone that essentially opens the door for glucose to be stored in the cells. It also leads to leptin resistance, meaning the liver doesn’t get the signal to stop releasing glucose into the blood after we’ve eaten. Milk thistle is one of a select few standalone superfoods that has proved itself effective in detoxifying the liver, reversing fatty liver disease, and helping to restore the organ’s ability to store and regulate blood sugar levels.
4.Heart Disease and Cholesterol
Atherosclerosis is no joke. It’s the number one leading preventable form of heart disease out there. While it’s rare to find people unaffected by this problem to some extent as they age, diet and environmental factors are the reason our arteries start to accumulate the fat, cholesterol, calcium, cellular waste, and fibrin that causes them to narrow and later clog. Atherosclerosis is largely brought on by out of control inflammation inside the arteries.
When oxidants remain in our bloodstream for too long, they start to oxidize the fats and cholesterol flowing throughout it. Oxidation also causes arterial walls to become inflamed, making the perfect sticking point for oxidized fats to cling to, This in turn causes calcium, cellular waste and fibrin to accumulate. This process can go on unchecked for years before symptoms appear, but it’s all a result of poor antioxidant and/or liver function in the body.
Milk thistle and all its antioxidant effects discussed already, has the potential to slow the progression of atherosclerosis by reducing oxidation in the blood, along with improving other contributing factors like hyperlipidemia and diabetes. Diabetes often causes hyperlipidemia, due to the fatty liver disease it causes.
5.Potential Cancer Prevention
The silymarin in milk thistle has been studied extensively throughout the years for its antioxidant effects inside the body. Not only does it remove damaging free radicals, thus preventing oxidation and DNA damage, silybin; a predominant molecule inside silymarin, is also a hepaprotective substance.
In a word, silybin stimulates protein synthesis at the cell level, changing the outside layer of cell membranes, protecting them from the genetic mutation that causes most all types of cancer. Overall, silymarin and its constituents act as a toxin blockade agent in the body, preventing toxins of all kinds from binding to our cell membrane receptors, effectively reducing our risk of cancer brought on by external forces.
Milk Thistle Side Effects
There really are no negative long term side effects associated with daily consumption of milk thistle. In general, mild stomach discomfort and other digestive issues like flatulence, diarrhea, and even constipation are possible in the first 3 – 5 days of taking it. These symptoms are very rare and easily avoided by ramping up to the ideal dosage slowly, over the course of a week or two.
Milk Thistle Dosage and Supplement Choice
In general, most milk thistle supplements will highlight the silymarin content. This most key ingredient is often expressed using the antioxidant’s scientific name “silybum marianum.” Others, like our top pick below from Natural Wellness, will list their own proprietary formulations developed to maximize the effectiveness and absorption of silymarin.
Most milk thistle capsules, bulk powders and tinctures will offer 100 – 250 mg of silymarin (or proprietary silymarin formulation) per dose, typically with 1000 mg total milk thistle content per dose.
Some milk thistle and detoxification teas may list an approximate silymarin content per bag used. It’s important to note that it’s impossible to accurately predict how much you’ll get by steeping tea containing milk thistle in water because:
1. Steeping times vary.
2. Often very little product is in the bag to begin with.
3. Silymarin isn’t effectively soluble in water.
You’ll get the most benefit from consuming ground milk thistle whole, in either powder or tincture form.
Daily doses of 100 mg of sylmarin, 3 times daily are considered ideal. However, up to 250 mg of sylmarin, 3 times per day is what most doctors recommend to patients who want to boost their liver function in light of serious health problems like hepatitis, cirrhosis, fatty liver, diabetes, and for people attempting to boost their immune system after chemotherapy or other immune-system-depressing medical procedures.
As per Drugs.com, the most current clinical trials indicate that 420 mg of silymarin per day, for up to 41 months is considered the safe upper limit. This doesn’t mean that more isn’t safe, but rather there’s no clinical data to prove it is or isn’t.
Milk Thistle Supplement Reviews
1. Natural Wellness Maximum Milk Thistle
Natural Wellness arguably offers the most potent form of milk thistle extract available today. They’ve created their own proprietary extract called silybin phytosome which has proven in the laboratory to be up to 10X more absorbable and 20X more effective at protecting and regenerating the liver and all the metabolic functions it handles. The label says to take 3 capsules per day, but I believe 1 to 2 is more than sufficient given the heightened effectiveness it offers, while also accounting for the increased price-per-serving.
2. EBYSU Concentrated Vegetarian Milk Thistle Extract
This 4X concentrated extract can be taken up to 3 times a day to potentially extend your life and help reduce or reverse most common liver problems. With 250 mg of silymarin per capsule, it’s rare to find a more potent formulation anywhere. EBYSU products are proudly made in the U.S.A., are free of GMOs, and pass strict FDA regulations. All batches are independently tested for potency and purity.
3. Fresh Nutrition Organic Vegan Milk Thistle
This entry from Fresh Nutrition offers potency up to 4 times greater than that of a non extract formulation. In other words, one 500 mg capsule offers the same potency of 2000 mg of non extract. This brand of milk thistle is a must for vegetarians and those who demand organic-only supplements in their diet. Fresh Nutrition products are CCOF certified organic, non-GMO, and manufactured in the United States.
4. Organic Milk Thistle Superherb Tea
The Republic of Tea offers this massive flavor lineup of superfood health teas. Each unbleached tea bag contains the perfect amount of milk thistle to boost your health if consumed a few times daily, along with a hint of orange peel and grapefruit to round out the flavor profile. I’d suggest starting with the 36 bag tin for your first purchase, then if you like it you can switch over to the 250 count bulk bag in the future.
5. Organic Cold Pressed Milk Thistle Oil
This cold-pressed milk thistle oil from Flora Aromatics offers an interesting way to incorporate this superfood into your daily diet. Why not take your daily milk thistle with food, rather than swallowing a bunch of capsules? While some also love this product as a topical, it’s made specifically for incorporating into baked goods and desserts, as well as salads, stir-frys, and other dishes. The oil has no discernible taste and isn’t terribly thick like vegetable and nut oils.
Milk thistle is really on the top of the list of supplements I can recommend for boosting total body health. Detoxification is one of the most challenging metabolic processes our liver and other organs face each and every day. By helping to restore liver health by eliminating excess fat buildup, protecting cell walls from DNA disruption, and helping to slow the degradation of glutathione; milk thistle really can extend and improve the overall quality of human life.