Milk Thistle – A potent Nutraceutical

Milk Thistle, commonly referred to as Silymarin as well as Doodh Patra in Hindi, is a herb native to the Mediterranean region that was later transported to North America by early colonists. Being host to a plethora of health benefits, Ayurveda acknowledges its medicinal value in treating liver disorders viz chronic inflammation, fatty liver disease and chronic hepatitis. It is reported to treat gall stones, helps in flushing out toxins and also promotes lactation. Silymarin, a mixture of flavonoids that comprise the active ingredient, protects the hepatocytes from toxic chemicals and alcohol, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. [1, 4]

Mechanism of action

Silymarin is composed of flavonolignans silybin A and silybin B, referred together as silibinin1, and other compounds such as isosilybin A, isosilybin B, silydianin, and silychristin. A concoction of fatty acids and a flavanone dihydroquercetin (taxifolin), Silymarin is accredited with tremendous medicinal benefits.

It has gained popularity in medical circles owing to its anti-hyperglycemic effects. Research indicates that silibinin retards gluconeogenesis in the fasting state and glycogenolysis and glycolysis in the fed state. The glucose starvation in some susceptible cells is one mechanism that may attribute to the anti-cancer properties of silybin. This potent compound also suppresses the formation of amyloid deposits and has protective effects on pancreatic beta cells, which would otherwise cause loss of pancreatic islet beta cells. [2]

Therapeutic benefits

Several test tube and animal studies have suggested the efficacy of milk thistle, namely [3]:

  • Booster for liver health: Evidences of milk thistle improving diet-induced liver damage in mice has been found – research theorizes that Silymarin acts as an antioxidant and reduces the production of free radicals. Although this cannot yet be declared as a primary treatment to be relied on, more research can provide more impetus on this subject vis-à-vis human beings.
  • Promise of healthy skin: When tested with mice, studies showed that it reduced the inflammatory conditions of their skin. Proven to have antioxidant and anti-ageing effects on human cells in vitro, milk thistle can help improve skin health.
  • Controls cholesterol: A clinical trial suggested that subjects who consumed milk thistle had lower rates of cholesterol.
  • Weight management: The miracle herb also helped regulate the weight of mice who were intentionally fed more in an animal study.
  • Retards insulin resistance: Animal studies have pointed out that Silymarin also contributes to managing diabetes, however further research is being ongoing.
  • Anti-carcinogenic effect: The active component of milk thistle is also effective against several forms of cancer, as per several in vitro and in vivo

Side effects

When orally consumed, milk thistle is considered to be safe, although it might cause some side effects that range from diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite, intestinal gas and headache. When applied to skin, it is considered to be relatively safe, especially in lower doses for short intervals of time. [4]


  • It is always advisable to consult the physician before dosing oneself with the extract.
  • For pregnant and lactating mothers, there is no evidence of its efficacy, hence it is best to be safe and not use the herb at this stage.
  • For those suffering from estrogen related diseases like breast cancer, ovarian cancer and uterine cancer, milk thistle shouldn’t be consumed, since it acts like estrogen. [4]

Good and healthy living is a priority

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Shubham Pharmachem’s blog posts have been written with the information gathered from approved medical journals and websites online. Our research and technical team strives to provide relevant information through such articles. We strongly advise readers to not consume or administer any medication without prior consultation with their doctor.