Milk Thistle

Last Updated: September 28 2022

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) contains silymarin, a mixture of plant compounds known to benefit injured livers.

Milk Thistle is most often used for


Milk thistle has been used for centuries as a herbal remedy for liver disorders. Silymarin, which is a mixture of several different plant compounds known as flavonolignans, is the bioactive component of milk thistle and sold as “milk thistle extract” (the most common supplemental form of milk thistle).

Evidence suggests that silymarin protects liver cells, reduces liver-related deaths, and improves markers of liver function in people with chronic liver disease.[1] These effects are primarily attributed to silymarin’s role as a free radical scavenger, thus reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. Silymarin also seems to have antifibrotic properties.[1]

What else is Milk Thistle known as?
Note that Milk Thistle is also known as:
  • Marian thistle
  • Mary thistle
  • St Mary’s thistle
  • Our Lady’s thistle
  • Holy thistle
  • Sow thistle
  • Blessed Virgin thistle
  • Christ’s crown
  • Venue thistle
  • Heal thistle
  • Variegated Thistle
  • Wild Artichoke
  • Carduus Marianus
  • Silybum marianum
Milk Thistle should not be confused with:
Examine Database: Milk Thistle
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1.^Anton Gillessen, Hartmut H-J SchmidtSilymarin as Supportive Treatment in Liver Diseases: A Narrative ReviewAdv Ther.(2020 Apr)
2.^Abenavoli L, Capasso R, Milic N, Capasso FMilk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, futurePhytother Res.(2010 Oct)
3.^Abenavoli L, Bardazzi G, Cracolici F, Quaranta C, Santini G, Graziosi S, Polero L, Leggio L, Addolorato GComplementary therapies for treating alcoholism First Annual meeting by Complementary Medicine Research Group of the Italian Society for Alcohol Studies-May 5, 2006, Florence, ItalyFitoterapia.(2008 Feb)
5.^Kroll DJ, Shaw HS, Oberlies NHMilk thistle nomenclature: why it matters in cancer research and pharmacokinetic studiesIntegr Cancer Ther.(2007 Jun)
6.^Kim NC, Graf TN, Sparacino CM, Wani MC, Wall MEComplete isolation and characterization of silybins and isosilybins from milk thistle (Silybum marianum)Org Biomol Chem.(2003 May 21)
10.^Sheu SY, Lai CH, Chiang HCInhibition of xanthine oxidase by purpurogallin and silymarin groupAnticancer Res.(1998 Jan-Feb)
14.^Maitrejean M, Comte G, Barron D, El Kirat K, Conseil G, Di Pietro AThe flavanolignan silybin and its hemisynthetic derivatives, a novel series of potential modulators of P-glycoproteinBioorg Med Chem Lett.(2000 Jan 17)
15.^Zhou S, Lim LY, Chowbay BHerbal modulation of P-glycoproteinDrug Metab Rev.(2004 Feb)
16.^Di Pierro F, Villanova N, Agostini F, Marzocchi R, Soverini V, Marchesini GPilot study on the additive effects of berberine and oral type 2 diabetes agents for patients with suboptimal glycemic controlDiabetes Metab Syndr Obes.(2012)
17.^Gurley BJ, Barone GW, Williams DK, Carrier J, Breen P, Yates CR, Song PF, Hubbard MA, Tong Y, Cheboyina SEffect of milk thistle (Silybum marianum) and black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) supplementation on digoxin pharmacokinetics in humansDrug Metab Dispos.(2006 Jan)
19.^Goldstein JL, DeBose-Boyd RA, Brown MSProtein sensors for membrane sterolsCell.(2006 Jan 13)
20.^Zhan T, Digel M, Küch EM, Stremmel W, Füllekrug JSilybin and dehydrosilybin decrease glucose uptake by inhibiting GLUT proteinsJ Cell Biochem.(2011 Mar)
21.^Nomura M, Takahashi T, Nagata N, Tsutsumi K, Kobayashi S, Akiba T, Yokogawa K, Moritani S, Miyamoto KInhibitory mechanisms of flavonoids on insulin-stimulated glucose uptake in MC3T3-G2/PA6 adipose cellsBiol Pharm Bull.(2008 Jul)
23.^Song Z, Song M, Lee DY, Liu Y, Deaciuc IV, McClain CJSilymarin prevents palmitate-induced lipotoxicity in HepG2 cells: involvement of maintenance of Akt kinase activationBasic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol.(2007 Oct)
24.^Salamone F, Galvano F, Cappello F, Mangiameli A, Barbagallo I, Li Volti GSilibinin modulates lipid homeostasis and inhibits nuclear factor kappa B activation in experimental nonalcoholic steatohepatitisTransl Res.(2012 Jun)
25.^Saller R, Brignoli R, Melzer J, Meier RAn updated systematic review with meta-analysis for the clinical evidence of silymarinForsch Komplementmed.(2008 Feb)
26.^Jayaraj R, Deb U, Bhaskar AS, Prasad GB, Rao PVHepatoprotective efficacy of certain flavonoids against microcystin induced toxicity in miceEnviron Toxicol.(2007 Oct)
27.^Fausto N, Campbell JSMouse models of hepatocellular carcinomaSemin Liver Dis.(2010 Feb)
28.^Brandon-Warner E, Eheim AL, Foureau DM, Walling TL, Schrum LW, McKillop IHSilibinin (Milk Thistle) potentiates ethanol-dependent hepatocellular carcinoma progression in male miceCancer Lett.(2012 Dec 29)
31.^Forinash AB, Yancey AM, Barnes KN, Myles TDThe use of galactogogues in the breastfeeding motherAnn Pharmacother.(2012 Oct)
32.^Low Dog TThe use of botanicals during pregnancy and lactationAltern Ther Health Med.(2009 Jan-Feb)
33.^Zapantis A, Steinberg JG, Schilit LUse of herbals as galactagoguesJ Pharm Pract.(2012 Apr)
34.^Di Pierro F, Callegari A, Carotenuto D, Tapia MMClinical efficacy, safety and tolerability of BIO-C (micronized Silymarin) as a galactagogueActa Biomed.(2008 Dec)