Can Milk Thistle Actually Help Detox the Liver? (2022)

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a flowering herb believed to have medicinal properties.It's native to the area of the Mediterranean and is part of the asteraceae family, which includes sunflowers and daisies.

Milk thistle seeds contain silymarin, a group of compounds said to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.Milk thistle is thought to benefit the liver and is often used as a home remedy to "detoxify" the liver or treat liver problems.

At present, there is not enough scientific data to say whether milk thistle can help the liver or not. While it is not without benefit, milk thistle doesn't appear to exert a significant effect on either liver tissues or liver function.

This articles discusses what research says about the benefits of milk thistle. It also covers the side effects, interactions, dosage, and preparation.

Milk thistle is also known by the names Saint Mary's thistle,variegated thistle,andScotch thistle. In traditional Chinese medicine, milk thistle is referred to as da ji, while the seeds are called shui fei ji.

What Are the Benefits of Milk Thistle?

Although milk thistle is most often used for liver conditions, such as hepatitis and cirrhosis, the herb is believed by some to prevent or treat high cholesterol, diabetes, heartburn, upset stomach (dyspepsia), hangover, gallbladder problems, menstrual pain, depression, and even certain types of cancer. Few of these claims are supported by hard evidence.

Here is what some of the current research says:

Liver Disease

Some preliminary studies have suggested that silymarin may improve liver function by keeping toxic substances from binding to liver cells. However, studies on the milk thistle's effectiveness in treating liver disorders have yielded mixed results.

According to a comprehensive review of studies in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, milk thistle neither improves liver function nor reduces the risk of death in people with alcoholic liver disease, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C.

Several smaller studies have suggested that milk thistle may benefit people with mild, subacute (symptom-free) liver disease. An early study from Finland found that a four-week course of silymarin supplements lowered key liver enzymes in people with subacute disease, suggesting the liver was functioning more normally.

Despite the positive findings, subsequent studies have been unable to replicate the results or demonstrate that milk thistle prescribed on its own would render the same effects.

(Video) Does Milk Thistle Work for the Liver?

3 Herbal Remedies for Liver Health

Chronic Hepatitis C

Milk thistle is sometimes used by people with chronic hepatitis C (a viral infection characterized by the progressive scarring of the liver). In fact, a survey funded by the National Institutes of Health reported that 23 percent of 1,145 people with hepatitis C used herbal supplements, with milk thistle being by far the most common.

According to the survey, people with hepatitis C reported fewer symptoms and a "somewhat better quality of life" when taking milk thistle despite having no measurable change in viral activity or liver inflammation.

A 2012 studypublished in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)confirmed this. Despite being well-tolerated in the study participants, silymarin (prescribed thrice-daily in 420- or 700-milligram doses) had no tangible effect on liver enzymes.

Given these contradictions, many scientists believe that milk thistle delivers something of a placebo effect in which a person feels an improvement in symptoms despite having no change in their clinical condition.

Type 2 Diabetes

Several studies have suggested that milk thistle may be beneficial for people with diabetes, most notably in those with type 2 diabetes.

According to 2015 research published in Phytomedicine, a 45-day course of silymarin increased the antioxidant capacity and reduced generalized inflammation in adults with type 2 diabetes better than a placebo.

According to the study's authors, the findings suggest that silymarin may reduce the oxidative stress typically associated with diabetes complications.

A systematic review conducted in 2016 further concluded that the routine use of silymarin appears to reduce the fasting blood glucose and HbA1C levels, although the authors warned that the quality of the reviewed studies was poor.

Natural Remedies for Diabetes Prevention

(Video) Milk Thistle Liver Detox Side Effects

Possible Milk Thistle Side Effects

Milk thistle may trigger a number of side effects, including headache, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal bloating, and gas. Less commonly, muscle aches, joint pain, and sexual dysfunction have been reported.

Allergic reactions are also possible.People with allergies to ragweed, daisies, artichokes, kiwi, or plants in the aster family may also be allergic to milk thistle. On rare occasion, milk thistle can cause a potentially life-threatening, all-body allergy known as anaphylaxis.

Call 911 or seek emergency care if you experience shortness of breath, rash, hives, rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness, or swelling of the face, tongue, or neck after taking milk thistle.

If left untreated, anaphylaxis can lead to shock, coma, cardiac or respiratory failure, or death.

Drug Interactions

Milk thistle may reduce your blood sugar, so it needs to be used with caution as it may trigger hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in people on diabetes medications.

Milk thistle can change the way that your body metabolizes certain drugs in the liver, triggering interactions with:

  • Antibiotics like Biaxin (clarithromycin)
  • Anticoagulants like Coumadin (warfarin)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil (ibuprofen), Celebrex (celecoxib), and Voltaren (diclofenac)
  • Statin drugs like Mevacor (lovastatin) and Lescol (fluvastatin)

Other interactions are possible. To avoid complications, always advise your healthcare provider about any supplements or herbal remedies you are taking.

Can Milk Thistle Actually Help Detox the Liver? (1)

Who Should Not Take Milk Thistle?

Milk thistle is not safe for everyone. Some people may be allergic to milk thistle. If you have a ragweed allergy or are allergic to certain flowers such as daisies, marigolds, or chrysanthemums, you should not take milk thistle.

You should avoid milk thistle if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. This is because there isn't enough data to know for sure whether it is safe for your baby. Don't take milk thistle if you've had prostate cancer, breast cancer, uterine cancer, or any other hormone-related cancer.

(Video) 8 Benefits of Milk Thistle for the Liver

Dosage and Preparation

There are no guidelines directing the appropriate use of milk thistle. Milk thistle supplements are commonly sold as in capsule form but are also available as tablets, tea bags, and liquid extracts. Doses range from 175 milligrams to 1,000 milligrams.

Milk thistle is considered safe to take daily at doses of 150 to 175 mg, three times a day. Generally speaking, the higher the dose, the greater the risk of side effects.

Combination remedies such as Iberogast drops (used to treat dyspepsia) and Barberol tablets (formulated for diabetics) are considered effective with milk thistle doses of 10 milligrams and 210 milligrams, respectively. Higher doses don't necessarily correspond to better results.

Dietary supplements containing milk thistle are sold in natural foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in herbal products. You can also purchase milk thistle products online.

What to Look For

Dietary supplements in the United States do not need to undergo the rigorous testing and research and testing that pharmaceutical drugs do. Because of this, the quality can vary from one supplement to the next.

To ensure quality and safety, choose products that have undergone testing and certification by an independent certifying body like the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, and NSF International. As an added layer of safety, opt for brands that have been certified organic under the regulations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

By contrast, fungal contamination is rare in milk thistle tea bags, extracts, capsules, tablets, and soft gels.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you grow your own milk thistle?

    Yes, you can grow your own milk thistle. Milk thistle is a hardy plant that grows well in most environments, although it prefers high temperatures and dry conditions. The soil also needs to be well drained.

    (Video) When to Take Milk Thistle
  • What is silymarin?

    Silymarin is a compound from milk thistle seeds that is said to offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. One study on silymarin found that it interfered with the accumulation of liver fat, which means it could aid in the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

  • Does milk thistle cause any side effects?

    Possible side effects of milk thistle can include headache, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal bloating, and gas. Some reports have mentioned muscle aches, joint pain, and sexual dysfunction as well.

    Milk thistle can also cause an allergic reaction in some people. If you have an allergy to ragweed, daisies, artichokes, kiwi, or plants in the aster family, it might be smart to avoid milk thistle.

  • Is milk thistle available as a tea?

    (Video) Silymarin in Milk Thistle is a Powerhouse for the Liver

    Yes, milk thistle supplements can come in the form of tea bags to brew your own tea. The supplement is also sold as a tablet, capsule, and oral tincture.

FAQs

Does milk thistle detox your liver? ›

Supports liver health

However, researchers theorize that it does. The active ingredient in milk thistle, silymarin, acts as an antioxidant by reducing free radical production. Scientists think this creates a detoxifying effect, which is why milk thistle may be beneficial for liver problems.

How much milk thistle should I take for detox? ›

If you're taking milk thistle for the liver, the recommended daily intake of milk thistle is 150 milligrams, taken one to three times daily. This is a somewhat high dose that can act as a natural liver detox. For ongoing use and liver support, take 50 to 150 milligrams daily.

Does milk thistle detox your body? ›

Milk thistle (Silymarin marianum) is a well-known herbal therapeutic commonly used for liver support. It supports detoxification through enhancing liver as well as kidney and pancreatic function.

How much milk thistle should I take for liver damage? ›

Milk thistle is marketed as capsules or tablets containing ethanol extracted silymarin in amounts of 250 to 750 mg and is purported to be beneficial for liver disease, including alcoholic and viral liver disease. The daily dosage varies but it is typically taken 2 to 3 times daily.

How long does milk thistle take to cleanse liver? ›

If you're wondering how long to take milk thistle for a liver cleanse, then the answer is similar to the previous section, as at around 3 to 4 months you should be able to notice health benefits.

How long does it take for milk thistle to work on liver? ›

Animal studies have found that milk thistle extract completely counteracts the toxic effects of the mushroom when given within 10 minutes of ingestion. If given within 24 hours, it significantly reduces the risk of liver damage and death.

How do I know if my liver is detoxing? ›

Liver detox includes signs such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, anxiety, tremors, increased heart rate, and more.
...
Liver detoxing is an important step in recovery and includes the following signs:
  1. Nausea.
  2. Vomiting.
  3. Headache.
  4. Anxiety.
  5. Tremors.
  6. Increased heart rate.
  7. Increase blood pressure.
  8. Confusion.
14 Dec 2021

Can milk thistle reverse liver damage? ›

Using complementary and alternative medicines wisely

Milk thistle will not reverse existing liver damage, and it will not cure infection with the hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus. Milk thistle should not be used by people who have complications from cirrhosis (such as variceal bleeding or ascites).

Is it OK to take milk thistle every day? ›

Milk thistle is generally considered safe for most people at dosages up to 420 mg 3 times a day. However, it may cause allergic reactions, such as itching, headaches, and joint pain, or gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea or diarrhea.

What is the best way to detox your liver? ›

Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Eat a well-balanced diet every day. That's five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables, along with fiber from vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Be sure to include protein for the enzymes that help your body detox naturally.

Can milk thistle reverse fatty liver? ›

Studies show that silymarin may help ease inflammation and promote cell repair. This may help ease symptoms from liver diseases like jaundice, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and fatty liver disease. However, other studies don't show any effect against another liver disease: hepatitis C, which is a viral infection.

What are the negative side effects of milk thistle? ›

Side effects of milk thistle include:
  • Abdominal bloating/pain.
  • Allergic reactions.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Gas.
  • Indigestion.
  • Itching.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Nausea.

What vitamins are good for liver repair? ›

Which Vitamins Are Good for the Liver? Vitamins that play a crucial role in maintaining liver health include vitamin D, E, C, B. Individuals need to take these vitamins regularly through a healthy diet plan.

Is 500mg of milk thistle too much? ›

Milk thistle supplements are commonly sold as in capsule form but are also available as tablets, tea bags, and liquid extracts. Doses range from 175 milligrams to 1,000 milligrams. Milk thistle is considered safe to take daily at doses of 150 to 175 mg, three times a day.

Does milk thistle increase blood pressure? ›

One of the proposed uses of milk thistle is to lower blood sugar levels, which may ultimately cause a decrease in blood pressure.

What can I drink to flush my liver? ›

6 Detox Drinks to Cleanse Your Liver
  1. Coffee. Coffee is good for the liver, especially because it protects against issues such as fatty liver disease. ...
  2. Ginger and lemon drink. ...
  3. Oatmeal drink. ...
  4. Tumeric drink. ...
  5. Green tea. ...
  6. Grapefruit drink.
20 May 2020

How do you know your liver is healing? ›

You will experience physical signs your liver is healing, such as healthier-looking skin and eyes, increased energy levels, and reduced stomach pain and swelling. Other signs your liver is healing include: Improved amino-acid regulation – Your liver processes proteins and amino acids that your body cannot store.

What is the best way to reverse a fatty liver? ›

Research suggests that losing weight is the single best thing you can do to control or reverse NAFLD. A good goal is to lose 10% of your total body weight, but even a loss of 3% to 5% can improve your liver health.

What form of milk thistle is best? ›

The Best Milk Thistle Supplements
  • Best Overall. Puritan's Pride Milk Thistle. Affordable Six Month Supply. ...
  • Best Antioxidant Formula. Jarrow Formulas Milk Thistle. ...
  • Strongest Dose. Fresh Nutrition Milk Thistle Capsules. ...
  • Best for Liver Health. FarmHaven Milk Thistle Capsules. ...
  • Most Trusted. Nature's Bounty Milk Thistle Capsules.
13 Feb 2020

How long should you take milk thistle? ›

Dosing. BY MOUTH: For diabetes: Milk thistle extract 210-600 mg has been used daily for up to 6 months. 200 mg of milk thistle extract has been taken once daily or three times daily for 4 months to one year.

Is turmeric good for the liver? ›

The antioxidant effect of turmeric appears to be so powerful that it may stop your liver from being damaged by toxins. This could be good news for people who take strong drugs for diabetes or other health conditions that might hurt their liver with long-term use.

How long does it take the liver to detox? ›

According to the American Addiction Center, it may take your liver over 1 week to completely detox from alcohol, and detox symptoms may last beyond that. Studies have found that alcohol can stay in your: Blood for up to 6 hours. Breath for 12-24 hours.

Does lemon water detox your liver? ›

Many citrus fruits, including lemon, can be added to water to help stimulate and flush out the liver. To help improve liver function, enjoy 4-6 tablespoons of lemon juice mixed with water each day.

How long does the liver take to heal? ›

The liver, however, is able to replace damaged tissue with new cells. If up to 50 to 60 percent of the liver cells may be killed within three to four days in an extreme case like a Tylenol overdose, the liver will repair completely after 30 days if no complications arise.

Does milk thistle help your liver enzymes? ›

Milk thistle can also be taken with cholesterol-lowering medications, like statins. It can help prevent elevation of liver enzymes, which can be a side effect of the medication.

What can I take instead of milk thistle? ›

  • Flaxseed.
  • Garlic.
  • Green Tea.
  • Saw Palmetto.
  • Skullcap.
  • Turmeric.

How can I rejuvenate my liver? ›

Focus on a healthy diet

getting sufficient fiber from sources like whole grains as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. choosing lean protein sources, such as seafood, skinless poultry, or legumes, as opposed to fattier meats. reducing your intake of foods or drinks that are high in sugars, salt, or unhealthy fats.

What foods contain milk thistle? ›

Artichokes. The most common food source of silymarin (besides milk thistle) is artichokes (Cynara Scolymus) which is also a member of the thistle family.

Is it best to take milk thistle on an empty stomach? ›

The seeds and leaves of this natural herb can be consumed on an empty stomach before your meals for best results. Milk thistle is known to draw out the toxins from your body.

Can you drink alcohol while taking milk thistle? ›

Do not consume alcohol while you are taking silymarin, the active compound in milk thistle. While there is no specific interaction between this nutritional supplement and alcohol, the primary reason people take silymarin is to protect the liver and help it repair itself.

How can I detox my liver overnight? ›

These drinks will cleanse and detox your liver while you sleep
  1. 01/7Detox drinks to cleanse your body. ...
  2. 02/7Mint tea. ...
  3. 03/7Turmeric tea. ...
  4. 04/7Ginger and lemon tea. ...
  5. 05/7Fenugreek water. ...
  6. 06/7Chamomile tea. ...
  7. 07/7Oatmeal and cinnamon drink.
25 Feb 2019

Which fruit is best for liver? ›

Fill your fruit basket with apples, grapes and citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, which are proven to be liver-friendly fruits. Consume grapes as it is, in the form of a grape juice or supplement your diet with grape seed extracts to increase antioxidant levels in your body and protect your liver from toxins.

What part of the body itches with liver problems? ›

Symptoms of itching with liver disease

Itching associated with liver disease tends to be worse in the late evening and during the night. Some people may itch in one area, such as a limb, the soles of their feet, or the palms of their hands, while others experience an all-over itch.

How long does it take to get rid of a fatty liver? ›

How long does it take to reverse a fatty liver? Healthcare providers recommend losing at least 3% to 5% of your body weight to begin to see results in your liver. (Current research suggests that even 1% weight loss may improve outcomes.) They also recommend that you aim to lose no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week.

What cleanses a fatty liver? ›

The most effective treatment for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is weight loss, which has been shown to decrease the amount of fat in the liver and the inflammation caused by the fat.

How long does it take a fatty liver to heal? ›

Fatty liver disease is reversible. If you stop drinking alcohol for 2 weeks, your liver should return to normal.

Does milk thistle cause joint pain? ›

The most common side effect of taking milk thistle is mild gastrointestinal upset. However, other side effects may include headaches, joint pain, or sexual dysfunction. It is possible to be allergic to milk thistle as well and have a serious allergic reaction.

Does milk thistle raise estrogen? ›

Milk thistle has been shown to have estrogenic-mimicking effects, about on par with common soy isoflavones, making them a theoretically poor choice for people with breast cancer.

Does milk thistle interfere with any medications? ›

Possible Interactions with: Milk Thistle

Drugs for high cholesterol -- such as lovastatin (Mevacor, Altocor) Anti-anxiety drugs -- including alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan) Antiplatelet and anticoagulant drugs (blood thinners) -- including clopidogrel (Plavix) and warfarin (Coumadin)

How do I know if my liver is detoxing? ›

Liver detox includes signs such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, anxiety, tremors, increased heart rate, and more.
...
Liver detoxing is an important step in recovery and includes the following signs:
  1. Nausea.
  2. Vomiting.
  3. Headache.
  4. Anxiety.
  5. Tremors.
  6. Increased heart rate.
  7. Increase blood pressure.
  8. Confusion.
14 Dec 2021

Can milk thistle reverse liver damage? ›

Using complementary and alternative medicines wisely

Milk thistle will not reverse existing liver damage, and it will not cure infection with the hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus. Milk thistle should not be used by people who have complications from cirrhosis (such as variceal bleeding or ascites).

Is it OK to take milk thistle every day? ›

Milk thistle is generally considered safe for most people at dosages up to 420 mg 3 times a day. However, it may cause allergic reactions, such as itching, headaches, and joint pain, or gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea or diarrhea.

What are the negative side effects of milk thistle? ›

Milk thistle can cause: Gastrointestinal issues, such as diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting and abdominal bloating. Itchiness. Headache.

What can I drink to flush my liver? ›

6 Detox Drinks to Cleanse Your Liver
  1. Coffee. Coffee is good for the liver, especially because it protects against issues such as fatty liver disease. ...
  2. Ginger and lemon drink. ...
  3. Oatmeal drink. ...
  4. Tumeric drink. ...
  5. Green tea. ...
  6. Grapefruit drink.
20 May 2020

What vitamins are good for liver repair? ›

Which Vitamins Are Good for the Liver? Vitamins that play a crucial role in maintaining liver health include vitamin D, E, C, B. Individuals need to take these vitamins regularly through a healthy diet plan.

What is the best way to detox your liver? ›

Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Eat a well-balanced diet every day. That's five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables, along with fiber from vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Be sure to include protein for the enzymes that help your body detox naturally.

How long should you take milk thistle? ›

Dosing. BY MOUTH: For diabetes: Milk thistle extract 210-600 mg has been used daily for up to 6 months. 200 mg of milk thistle extract has been taken once daily or three times daily for 4 months to one year.

Does milk thistle increase blood pressure? ›

One of the proposed uses of milk thistle is to lower blood sugar levels, which may ultimately cause a decrease in blood pressure.

What form of milk thistle is best? ›

The Best Milk Thistle Supplements
  • Best Overall. Puritan's Pride Milk Thistle. Affordable Six Month Supply. ...
  • Best Antioxidant Formula. Jarrow Formulas Milk Thistle. ...
  • Strongest Dose. Fresh Nutrition Milk Thistle Capsules. ...
  • Best for Liver Health. FarmHaven Milk Thistle Capsules. ...
  • Most Trusted. Nature's Bounty Milk Thistle Capsules.
13 Feb 2020

Will milk thistle help a fatty liver? ›

Medical research on milk thistle and liver health has led to mixed results. Studies show that silymarin may help ease inflammation and promote cell repair. This may help ease symptoms from liver diseases like jaundice, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and fatty liver disease.

Is 1000 mg of milk thistle too much? ›

Dosage and Preparation

Milk thistle supplements are commonly sold as in capsule form but are also available as tablets, tea bags, and liquid extracts. Doses range from 175 milligrams to 1,000 milligrams. Milk thistle is considered safe to take daily at doses of 150 to 175 mg, three times a day.

What foods contain milk thistle? ›

Artichokes. The most common food source of silymarin (besides milk thistle) is artichokes (Cynara Scolymus) which is also a member of the thistle family.

Does milk thistle cause joint pain? ›

The most common side effect of taking milk thistle is mild gastrointestinal upset. However, other side effects may include headaches, joint pain, or sexual dysfunction. It is possible to be allergic to milk thistle as well and have a serious allergic reaction.

Does milk thistle raise estrogen? ›

Milk thistle has been shown to have estrogenic-mimicking effects, about on par with common soy isoflavones, making them a theoretically poor choice for people with breast cancer.

Can you drink alcohol while taking milk thistle? ›

Do not consume alcohol while you are taking silymarin, the active compound in milk thistle. While there is no specific interaction between this nutritional supplement and alcohol, the primary reason people take silymarin is to protect the liver and help it repair itself.

Videos

1. Can MILK THISTLE Help DETOX MARIJUANA Naturally?
(Legal Eaz)
2. MILK THISTLE - IT MIGHT SAVE YOUR LIVER...
(DrJason Pickel)
3. Milk Thistle Benefits Scientifically Proven Information
(Well & Wise)
4. Cleanse & Detox Liver with 1 Herb and Live a Long Health Life - Dr Alan Mandell, DC
(motivationaldoc)
5. Seven Remedies for an Inflamed Liver
(Dr. Eric Berg DC)
6. Liver Detox or Liver Damage? The Truth About Milk Thistle
(Doctor Rong)

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