Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle

Scientific Name/Common Name:Silybum marianum/ Milk Thistle

Part(s) Used:Seed extract

Constituents/Active Ingredients: 1.5-3% silymarin, which includes a mixture of several flavonolignans. Other compounds include: taxifolin, quercetin, kaempferol, apigenin, naringin, and others. The seeds contain 20-30% fixed oil with a high proportion of linoleic acid (ca. 60%) and oleic acid (ca. 30%) and Palmitic acid (ca. 9%). The seeds also contain approximately 25-30% protein; mucilage; 0.04% tocopherol; 0.6% sterols including campesterol, stigmasterol and sitosterol.

Overview:Milk thistle has been used as a medicine since early Greco-Roman times, particularly for supporting the liver in detoxifying the blood. Through its bitter properties, milk thistle increases the flow of gastric juices relieving dyspepsia, indigestion and headaches associated with detoxification organ congestion. The German Pharmacopoeia recognizes milk thistle crushed seeds for treating digestive disorders and standardized extracts for preventing and treating damage to the body from poisons and toxins, and as supportive treatment in chronic inflammation of the detoxification organs. Silymarin is the active constituent of the milk thistle seed but this name actually refers to four flavonolignans called silibinin (silybin), isosilybinin, silichristin (silychristin), and silidianin. Silibinin makes up about 70% of silymarin. As an antioxidant, milk thistle inhibits superoxide radical production, hydrogen peroxide production, and oxidative stress from high glucose concentrations. It increases the endogenous antioxidants superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidise; these are the body’s own naturally produced antioxidants.With regards to milk thistle’s effects on protecting the liver, there are several actions that seem to contribute to the therapeutic effect. Silymarin seems to protect the liver from xenobiotic injury by altering the outer layer of cell membranes to prevent toxin penetration. It also enhances the synthesis of RNA and proteins in liver cells leading to cell regeneration.

Traditional Use/Benefits/Body Systems:Traditionally used in Herbal Medicine as a hepatoprotectant/ liver to help support liver function and to help relieve digestive disturbances/dyspepsia.

Clinical Studies/Scientific Research/References:

Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinkmann J, editors. 2000. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Boston (MA): Integrative Medicine Communications.

Hoffmann D. 2003. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester (VT): Healing Arts Press.

Tamayo, C. and Diamond, S. Review of Clinical Trials Evaluating Safety and Efficacy of Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum Gaertn.) Integr Cancer Ther 2007; 6; 146.

Disclaimer:This information in our Herbal Encyclopedia is intended only as a general reference for educational purposes. It is not a replacement for medical advice. This content does not provide dosage information, cautions/contraindications, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Please consult any relevant product labels for detailed information on use and with a medical practitioner for individual health advice.