Health benefits of milk thistle

Milk thistle is a plant that grows in Mediterranean countries. People all over the world use the extract from it as a natural remedy for a range of health concerns. If you want to improve your immune system, boost weight loss and your brain function, help your liver or improve the appearance of your skin, check out the health benefits of milk thistle.

What makes milk thistle work?

Silymarin is the key ingredient behind milk thistle’s health benefits. It’s an antioxidant that mixes three isomers found in milk thistle seeds, and it’s used in dietary supplements and herbal remedies.

When to take milk thistle

Milk thistle supplements are mild on the stomach, do not cause drowsiness and have no stimulating effect. You can take them at any time of day or night, with or without food. Milk thistle manufacturers often outline the recommended daily dosage, depending on the range of active ingredients contained within each dose. 

Like any health-based supplementation, milk thistle carries a range of potential side effects. However, the likelihood of these side effects generally depends on the presence of underlying health conditions. Even so, it’s always best to consult a physician before introducing a new supplement to your diet. 

Health benefits of milk thistle

Liver function 

The Mayo Clinic says milk thistle “might play a role in treating certain liver conditions.” 

Silymarin Complex

During your liver’s natural, daily detoxification process, it produces free radicals when metabolizing toxins. These free radicals can be harmful to your cells and affect your liver’ function. Its boosters say the silymarin component of milk thistle helps to protect and revitalize liver function by fighting these free radicals.

Milk thistle is regularly taken as a complementary supplement alongside other treatments for liver diseases including:

  • Liver damage due to excessive alcohol consumption
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Hepatitis
  • Cirrhosis
  • Liver cancer

Immune system function

Milk thistle may have anti-inflammatory effects, according to the National Institutes of Health. While inflammation is a natural immune response in the body, chronic inflammation can actually compromise the function of your immune system.

The anti-inflammatory properties of milk thistle help reduce inflammation and boost the immune system’s performance. For this reason, it’s commonly taken as a supplement by people who suffer from autoimmune diseases or conditions such as asthma.

Brain function

Silymarin’s anti-oxidant effects also may have significant benefits for brain function. One possible benefit is the prevention of age-related decline in overall cognition. It is also possible that milk thistle could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

In one study published by the National Institutes of Health, silymarin was tested on animals’ brain function. The results were an improvement in the brain’s ability to deal with oxidative stress, which has been linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

The animals in the study also had mobility improvements and were more responsive to stimuli, suggesting that milk thistle has anti-aging properties. It’s thought that silymarin reduces a specific type of plaque that builds up on the brain with age, leading to reduced brain function and cognitive diseases.

Skin health 

Milk thistle

Some links have been drawn between the consumption of milk thistle and anti-aging effects on the skin. It’s thought that milk thistle contributes to your body’s ability to fight the aging effects of ultraviolet light on the skin. 

When UV light hits the skin, sugars and proteins react in the skin cells and cause them to age. Milk thistle has anti-glycation properties that limit these reactions and preserve the vitality of your skin cells.

Moisturizing milk thistle oil

Overall, this helps to preserve the suppleness and elasticity of your skin to maintain a youthful appearance. You can reap these benefits from a daily oral supplement or you can pick up a moisturizing milk thistle oil to apply directly on the skin.

Type 2 diabetes management

According to the Mayo Clinic, milk thistle has properties that may lower blood sugar levels in people who have Type 2 diabetes, though more studies are needed to confirm its benefits. Its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may also help to limit the risk of diabetes complications such as kidney damage.

Who should avoid taking milk thistle?

As with many dietary supplements, medical evidence of the benefits and risks of milk thistle is mostly inconclusive. However, there are some people who should take caution with milk thistle due to potential risks, including:

  • People with type 1 diabetes: Since milk thistle can lower blood sugar levels, it’s best for those with type 1 diabetes to avoid it. Taking milk thistle with type 1 diabetes can run the risk of dangerously lowering your blood sugar.
  • Pregnant people: There is no conclusive data on the safety of taking milk thistle during pregnancy. It is advisable to avoid taking milk thistle during pregnancy.

Estrogen

  • People with endocrinological conditions: Milk thistle can affect the body’s estrogen level, so if you suffer from any condition related to hormone sensitivity, milk thistle may not be a suitable supplement.   

What you need to buy to get milk thistle health benefits

Now Double Strength Milk Thistle Extract

Now Double Strength Milk Thistle Extract 

This 300-milligram milk thistle extract supplement also contains artichoke and dandelion for added health benefits. Take one to three capsules daily, depending on your needs.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and iHerb

Nature's Bounty Milk Thistle Rapid Release Softgels

Nature’s Bounty Milk Thistle Rapid Release Softgels

The soft gel coating on these 1,000-milligram milk thistle capsules releases the supplement quickly into your body and makes them easy to swallow.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and iHerb

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