What is milk thistle?
Milk thistle is available in a range of forms, and is most popular as a supplement or in tea.Milk thistle is a flowering plant that comes from the same family of plants as the daisy. It grows in Mediterranean countries and is used to make natural remedies. Different parts of the milk thistle plant may be used to treat various health conditions. The most common use of milk thistle is for liver problems. Some claim it can help treat: Other potential health benefits include protecting heart health by lowering cholesterol levels and helping people manage type 2 diabetes.
Ten health benefits of milk thistleThe potential health benefits of milk thistle are explored below.
1. Supports liver healthOne of the most common uses of milk thistle is to treat liver problems. A 2016 study found that milk thistle improved diet-induced liver damage in mice. More evidence is needed to prove that milk thistle benefits human livers in the same way. However, researchers theorize that it does. The active ingredient in milk thistle, silymarin, acts as an antioxidant by reducing free radical production. Scientists think this creates a detoxifying effect, which is why it is milk thistle may be beneficial for liver problems. Until more research is carried out, however, milk thistle is not recommended as the primary treatment option for liver problems. But it may be a helpful complementary treatment to try. <!13901-20180111161024!>
3. Reduces cholesterolHigh cholesterol can lead to problems with heart health and increase a person’s chance of stroke. A 2006 study suggests milk thistle may play an important role keeping cholesterol levels down. It found that cholesterol levels were lower in people taking milk thistle to treat diabetes than those taking a placebo.
4. Supports weight lossInitial animal research conducted in 2016 found that silymarin caused weight loss in mice that were fed a diet intended to cause weight gain. This suggests milk thistle may be beneficial for those looking to lose weight. More research into the effects of milk thistle on weight loss in humans is needed to confirm this, however.
5. Reduces insulin resistanceA study on mice found milk thistle extract helped to reduce insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a problem for people with type 2 diabetes. Although this research suggests milk thistle could play a role in diabetes management, more research is needed to confirm whether milk thistle reduces insulin resistance and supports diabetes management.
6. Improves allergic asthma symptomsThe active ingredient in milk thistle can help to reduce inflammation. A 2012 study found that silymarin helped to protect against inflammation in the airways of mice with allergic asthma. More research is needed to see if silymarin benefits asthma symptoms in humans.
7. Limits the spread of cancerMilk thistle may help to stop the spread of certain types of cancer. A 2016 review found that milk thistle extract inhibited the growth of cancerous cells in colorectal cancer. More research is needed to determine how milk thistle may be used to help fight cancer.
8. Supports bone health
Milk thistle tea may help to prevent bone loss caused by a lack of estrogen.Milk thistle may play an essential role in supporting bone health. A 2013 study found that milk thistle helped to prevent bone loss. The study looked specifically at bone loss caused by a deficiency in estrogen. It is not yet clear whether milk thistle is equally beneficial for bone loss with a different cause. Further studies are needed before it is safe to conclude that milk thistle supports bone health in humans.