Health & Wellness

5 Amazing Milk Thistle Health Benefits

Have you ever tried milk thistle? If not, you’re missing out on many incredible milk thistle health benefits—from calming skin inflammation to fighting infections to helping prevent Alzheimer’s!

But, you aren’t alone. In fact, I’ve discovered that many people have heard of it, but they don’t know what it is or how it works to help promote overall health. So, let’s remedy that!

Keep reading to learn more about what milk thistle actually is and how you can take advantage of the amazing milk thistle health benefits you’ve been missing out on!

 

What is Milk Thistle?

Milk thistle is a plant that belongs to the same family as the much-loved daisy and less revered ragweed. It’s named for its prickly white veins.

Believe it or not, milk thistle is the most researched plant for treating liver disease. Why? Well, it’s because milk thistle contains three active compounds: silibinin, silydianin, and silychristin. Collectively they are known as silymarin. [1]

Studies have shown that silymarin is found throughout the entire plant; however, most if it is contained in the fruit and seeds of milk thistle.

The amazing thing about silymarin is that it acts as an antioxidant but also contains anti-inflammatory and even anti-viral properties.

As you can imagine, milk thistle is one powerful plant! So, let’s take a look at a few of the incredible milk thistle health benefits you could get by incorporating this plant into your health regimen.

5 Amazing Milk Thistle Health Benefits

Here are five major reasons you should considering using milk thistle.

1. Calms skin inflammation

First, let’s kick off the list of milk thistle health benefits by discussing the fact that this plant has incredible anti-inflammatory properties.

In animal studies, researchers found that when used topically, the main active compound in milk thistle (silibinin) was effective against many inflammatory markers. [2]

Accordingly, the researchers stated that the compound may help treat and even prevent inflammation-associated skin conditions.

Additionally, a 2014 review off 26 studies confirmed that using silymarin was effective in overcoming rosacea, melasma, vitiligo, and psoriasis! [3]

2. Supports liver health

As I mentioned above, when it comes to milk thistle health benefits, the most researched area is its impact on liver health.

According to a 2010 review, by reducing free radical production and lipid peroxidation, silymarin displayed anti-fibrotic and toxin-blocking activity. That means it helps to slow down the rate of fibrosis (scarring) in the lungs. [4]

Additionally, the review noted that silymarin was shown to reduce liver injury caused by acetaminophen (Tylenol) use as well as damage caused by radiation, excess iron, alcohol, and more.

Furthermore, silymarin has been successfully used to treat alcoholic liver disease, acute and chronic viral hepatitis, and toxin-induced liver diseases!

Other studies have shown that using milk thistle also fights cirrhosis (severe scarring) of the liver.

In fact, one study followed 170 patients with cirrhosis who took either 140 mg silymarin three times daily for two years or a placebo.

After four years, the researchers found that the survival rate was almost 20 percent higher in those who took the silymarin supplement! [5]

These are pretty incredible results, aren’t they? It’s easy to see why one of the most researched milk thistle benefits is its impact on liver health.

3. Fights viral and bacterial infections

At this point, you may be surprised to learn that milk thistle health benefits also extend to fighting viral and bacterial infections, but it’s true.

According to a 2015 study, the main active compound in milk thistle (silibinin) showed significant activity against both fungal infections and the bacterium E. coli. [6]

As a result, the researchers surmised that both silymarin and silibinin show promising potential for treating fungal and bacterial infections. Moreover, they displayed synergistic properties when combined with antibacterial drugs.

Additionally, a 2019 review confirmed that multiple studies have shown that silymarin contains powerful anti-viral properties. It’s been shown to display activities against HIV, influenza, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and more. [7]

4. May contain anti-cancer effects

One of the most amazing milk thistle health benefits is that it’s been shown to contain anti-cancer effects.

According to a 2014 review of 26 scientific articles and studies, silymarin displayed anti-carcinogenic effects against UV radiation and certain types of skin cancer. [8]

Specifically, studies found that silymarin downregulated immune-suppressing cytokines and upregulated immune-stimulating cytokines.

Additionally, some studies in the review showed that silymarin had protective effects against melanoma—the deadliest skin cancer known to man. [9]

5. Fights the plaque that leads to Alzheimer’s disease

Finally, one of the most powerful milk thistle health benefits is its ability to fight the very plaque that’s known to lead to Alzheimer’s disease!

Specifically, silymarin has been shown to inhibit the inflammatory response created during neurodegeneration (the loss of structure or function of your brain). [10]

Interestingly, an animal study showed that taking milk thistle extract for six months significant reduced plaque deposits in the brain that are known to cause Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, the extracts improved behavior abnormalities. [11]

As a result, the researchers stated that milk thistle, and specifically silymarin, is aa promising agent to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Milk thistle health benefits - Dr. Pingel

 

Key Takeaways

  • Milk thistle is a plant that belongs to the same family as the much-loved daisy and less revered ragweed. It’s named for its prickly white veins.
  • The plant contains three active compounds: silibinin, silydianin, and silychristin. Collectively they are known as silymarin.
  • The amazing thing about silymarin is that it acts as an antioxidant but also contains anti-inflammatory and even anti-viral properties.
  • Some of the top milk thistle health benefits include: calming skin inflammation, supporting liver health, fighting infections, containing anti-cancer effects, and fighting Alzheimer’s disease.

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