Milk thistle uses are quite a few. It is used orally for liver disorders including toxic liver damage caused by chemicals, Amanita phalloides mushroom poisoning, jaundice, chronic inflammatory liver disease, hepatic cirrhosis, and chronic hepatitis.
It is also used orally for loss of appetite, dyspepsia and gallbladder complaints, diabetes, hangover and diseases of the spleen. Milk thistle is used orally for prostate cancer, pleurisy, malaria, depression, uterine complaints, stimulating breast milk flow, allergic rhinitis, and stimulating menstrual flow.
Intravenously, milk thistle is used as a supportive treatment for Amanita phalloides mushroom poisoning. In foods, milk thistle leaves and flowers are eaten as a vegetable and seeds are roasted for use as a coffee substitute.
Other names for milk thistle: Holy Thistle, Lady's Thistle, Lait de Notre-Dame, Marian Thistle, Mary Thistle, Our Lady's Thistle, St. Mary Thistle, St. Marys Thistle, Silymarin, Silybin, Silybum and numerous more.
Milk thistle when used orally and appropriately is likely safe. Milk thistle extracts standardized to contain 70% to 80% of the silymarin constituent seems to be safe when used for up to 41 months. There is insufficient reliable information available about the safety of intravenous formulations of milk thistle or its constituents. For pregnancy and lactation there is insufficient reliable information; avoid using during pregnancy and lactation.
For allergic rhinitis. In one clinical trial, taking milk thistle extract 140 mg three times a day plus cetirizine (Zyrtec) 10mg daily for 1 month significantly decreased the severity of allergy symptoms compared to placebo plus cetirizine.
For diabetes taking the milk thistle constitutent silymarin 200mg three times daily for 4 months, in combination with conventional treatment, appears to significantly decrease fasting blood glucose, hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c), total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides compared to placebo in patients with type 2 diabetes. Other preliminary evidence suggests that silymarin 200mg three times daily reduces insulin resistance in people with coexisting diabetes and alcoholic cirrhosis.
For dyspepsia (acid reflux) a specific combination product containing milk thistle (Iberogast, Medical Futures, Inc) seems to improve symptoms of dyspepsia. The combination includes milk thistle plus peppermint leaf, German chamomile, caraway, licorice, clown's mustard plant, celandine, angelica, and lemon balm. A meta-analysis of studies using this combination product suggests that taking 1 mL orally three times daily over a period of 4 weeks significantly reduces severity of acid reflux, epigastric pain, cramping, nausea, and vomiting compared to placebo.
Milk thistle has insufficient evidence to rate its effectiveness for alcohol-related liver disease, amanita mushroom poisoning, hepatitis B or hepatitis C and toxin-induced liver damage.
There is also the potential for milk thistle to interact with quite a few medications potentially increasing those medication's concentrations in the blood. For this reason, you should consult with your healthcare provider before taking milk thistle especially if you are already on numerous medications.
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