If you’re looking for the best milk thistle supplements to buy this year, then you’ve come to the right place.
You can also get more info by jumping to our Milk Thistle Supplements Guide.
Top 10 Milk Thistle Supplements
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|#1||Jarrow Formulas Milk Thistle||More Info|
|#2||Gaia Herbs Milk Thistle Seed||More Info|
|#3||Solaray Milk Thistle Extract||More Info|
|#4||Solgar Milk Thistle Herb Extract||More Info|
|#5||GNC Herbal Plus Milk Thistle||More Info|
|#6||Herb Pharm Milk Thistle||More Info|
|#7||Pure Encapsulations Silymarin||More Info|
|#8||Bluebonnet Standardized Milk Thistle||More Info|
|#9||Paradise Herbs Milk Thistle||More Info|
|#10||NutraBio Milk Thistle||More Info|
Silymarin, or most commonly known as milk thistle is a type of herb that is closely related to the ragweed and daisy family. Originating from most Mediterranean countries.
What is Milk Thistle?
Milk thistle is more commonly known to be a part of the asteraceae family, along with daisies and sunflowers. Once initially grown in Mediterranean-based regions, milk thistle is now currently grown around the world. Milk thistle sprouts spiny-like branches that can grow upwards of 5 to 10 feet, with white blotches leaves. The way this plant gets its name is from the milky sap it excretes once its leaves are crushed. Milk thistle actually grows rather quickly, since it is often characterized as a week, and can fully grow within a year.
Milk Thistle (Silybum Marianum)is often consumed in capsules as an herbal dietary supplement. This flowering herb grows in the Mediterranean. It is known by a variety of mythical Virgin Mary oriented aliases: Holy Thistle, Marian Thistle, Mary Thistle, St. Mary’s Thistle, Our Lady’s Thistle, Blessed Virgin Thistle, Christ’s Crown, Variegated Thistle, Heal Thistle, Sow Thistle, Wild Artichoke, Carduus Marianus, and others.
Biology of the Plant
Milk Thistles can grow from 12 to 79 inches in height. The leaves have milky white veins. The milky white veins of the plant have a mythical reference to the milk of the Virgin Mary, tying together the various Marian names given unto it. The flowers have a red-purple color. It is believed to be native to Crete, Greece, before mass modern cultivation in many European countries for medical purposes.
Milk Thistle has long been used in folk medicine to treat liver and gallbladder problems. Historically, it can be traced back to the Greco-Roman empire for use in jaundice, cirrhosis, hepatitis, and any toxicity from snakebites, wild mushrooms, insects, and alcohol. It was similarly used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for the same types of toxicity; with the addition of increasing breast milk production, relieving depression, and combatting the effects of Death Cap mushrooms (Amanita phalloides). There is limited evidence to suggest that Milk Thistle actually promotes lactation in new mothers and of course no evidence for any alternative medicine claims.
If you have ever taken chaparral, the herbaceous shrub of the southwest, you may have felt some inflammation in your liver from the high toxicity. Milk Thistle noticeably works in the opposite, soothing and comforting your liver at an observable level with consistent consumption. This is why Milk Thistle was popular for such conditions as liver toxicity from alcohol or other substances long before medicine evolved into formal scientific studies. These modern medical studies have determined that a group of antioxidants called Silymarins are the primary active ingredients in Milk Thistle seeds and source of its healing power. These Silymarins are a complex mixture of polyphenolic molecules, containing seven closely related flavonolignans (silybin A, silybin B, isosilybin A, isosilybin B, silychristin, isosilychristin, silydianin).
The evidence is conflicting on how effective Milk Thistle really is for liver conditions. There is little evidence that Milk Thistle is a natural therapy for liver conditions such as cirrhosis. Some studies have shown that Milk Thistle may help reduce acne in some patients. Other dietary antioxidants have been attributed with anti-inflammatory effects in the body. Therefore, it is not surprising that Milk Thistle would help the liver by reducing inflammation.
It appears that the effects of Milk Thistle may be deeper than reducing inflammation, however. Studies have shown that it is very similar to the medicinal molecule called TUDCA (Tauroursodeoxycholic Acid -> UDCA + Taurine). This is a water-soluble bile acid that can protect and heal the liver. The
Tauroursodeoxycholic Acid is naturally found in the body as a bile salt. It is metabolized into UDCA and bound with Taurine to protect liver cells. Studies show that the regenerative effects of protein are magnified by Milk Thistle and its tendency to increase the rate of protein synthesis in the liver cells.
The gallbladder and liver work hand and hand with bile and enzyme processing. This is why Milk Thistle is useful for disorders affecting both organs. Research has also demonstrated that Milk Thistle may help cholesterol and glucose levels in the blood of patients with type 2 diabetes who are also taking medications.
Titration of Herbal Supplements
One problem with herbal supplements is the overall inconsistency in potency and dosage recommendations. Titration doesn’t have to be difficult when a reputable brand takes the initiative to produce a consistent product that they believe will show results in patients. The problem lies in certain manufacturers who may attempt to capture a share of the market with a less standardized and less effective product. Milk Thistle Extract is an ethanolic extract that allows manufacturers to standardize the titration. These extracts are generally 65-80% ‘Silymarin’ (concentrated from 1.5-3% of the plant)and 20-35% Fatty acids (60% Linoleic, 30% Oleic, and 9% Palmitic).
Milk Thistle supplements have been found to have the highest concentrations of mycotoxins. This may be cause for alarm when considering the potential of mycotoxins to cause disease and death in animals and humans. The plants are also very high in potassium nitrate, a plant nutrient that animals are unable to metabolize. There are no other sources for the Silymarin antioxidants in Milk Thistle. The leaves and stems of Milk Thistle can be eaten fresh like many other herbs and mixed into salads.
There are a few side effects that you may experience when taking these supplements. In general, these side effects are mild. They include nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, diarrhea, and rash.
Women who are breastfeeding or pregnant should refrain from taking any milk thistle supplements. Also, people who have a history of hormone related cancers should not take milk thistle. This includes uterine, breast, and prostate cancer. People who are allergic to chamomile, chrysanthemums, daisies, marigolds, ragweed, or yarrow should also not take milk thistle. These plants are closely related, so milk thistle may cause a similar allergic reaction.
If you take certain medications, you should consult your doctor before starting to take milk thistle supplements. These medications include:
- Birth control pills
- Hormone therapy pills
- Phenytoin (a drug used to treat seizures)
- Antipsychotics (including phenothiazines and butyrophenones)
- Halothane (a drug used when put under general anesthesia)
Milk thistle can also interfere with certain other medications. Drugs that are processed by the liver can react with milk thistle, since it also affects the liver. These medications are:
- Anti-anxiety drugs
- Blood thinners, anticoagulants, and antiplatelets
- Allergy medications
- Drugs taken for high cholesterol
- Certain drugs taken for cancer
- Other medications that are broken down by the liver
Allergic reactions have been reported. If you believe you are allergic to artichokes, marigolds, kiwi, daisies, ragweed, or chrysanthemums, you are more likely to suffer an allergic reaction to Milk Thistle.
Milk Thistle is known to interact with many drugs. If you are being treated for hyper- or hypo- tension, infections, insomnia, or diabetes, Milk Thistle may require discussion with a doctor.
Always speak with a medical professional or doctor before taking any supplements. Always read the product label for instructions and directions.
Taking Milk Thistle Supplements
There are many forms that you can find milk thistle supplements in. You may choose to purchase your milk thistle supplement as a tincture, liquid extract, silymarin phosphatidylcholine complex, or as a capsule full of dried herb.
What to Look for in a Good Milk Thistle Supplement
There are a lot of different options out there when it comes to milk thistle supplements. No matter what form of supplement you get, there are a few things you will want to look for.
You should make sure there are no unnecessary additives in the supplement. If there are any additives, be sure they are natural and safe for your body.
You should also check out the brands of every milk thistle supplement before you purchase from them. Read reviews and do some research on the company so you can be sure they are a trustworthy company.