Last modified on September 7th, 2023
There’s a lot of information floating around online about hangover cures. One, in particular, is milk thistle for hangover symptoms.
So, does it work?
Before you try it, we’ll detail what you should know about taking milk thistle for hangover symptoms and whether it is risky.
An Overview of Milk Thistle
Milk thistle is a plant native to Europe and was also introduced to North America by colonists.
You’ll hear it referred to as silymarin, and there’s a long history of using milk thistle for disorders related to the liver and gallbladder.
The benefits of milk thistle stem from its silymarin content primarily, which is a plant compound.
Potential benefits of taking it as a supplement or tea include:
- Liver protection: People primarily use silymarin supplements for liver protection and health. Milk thistle can have powerful benefits on liver health and may reverse liver damage due to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, alcohol liver disease, hepatitis, and other disorders. It may help improve liver function and reduce liver damage and inflammation as a supplement.
- Brain function: Milk thistle has traditionally been used to help symptoms of neurological conditions. It could be the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that make it neuroprotective.
- Bone health: In test-tube and animal studies, milk thistle has shown the ability to stimulate mineralization of the bone and protect against bone loss.
- Anticancer effects: Some research shows that milk thistle could reduce the side effects of conventional cancer treatments and may destroy some cancerous cells.
- Breast milk production: While the research is fairly limited, the supplement may help produce prolactin, a hormone that helps you make milk if breastfeeding.
- Acne: This skin condition stems from chronic inflammation, and the anti-inflammatory effects of milk thistle could make it beneficial.
Is Using Milk Thistle for Hangover Symptoms Safe?
Overall, milk thistle is considered safe when you take it orally, and even in research where high doses have been used for extended periods, only around 1% of people had any side effects.
The most common side effects are mild for most. These may include stomach upset, nausea, or diarrhea.
Pregnant women should avoid milk thistle because there’s no safety data, and if you’re allergic to the plant family it comes from, you should also avoid it.
If you have hormone-sensitive conditions, like some types of breast cancer, milk thistle can have estrogenic effects, so you should also avoid it in these scenarios.
Does Milk Thistle for Hangover Symptoms Actually Work?
One of the most common questions you might have about taking this supplement is whether or not it will help with hangover symptoms.
First and foremost, nothing will “cure” a hangover, but you might find things that help you feel better and minimize symptoms.
What Causes Hangovers?
The causes of hangovers can include some or all of the following:
- Dehydration because when you drink alcohol, it suppresses vasopressin release, a brain hormone that sends signals to your kidneys to retain fluid. Alcohol increases urination, causing too much fluid loss. Dehydration from drinking can cause many notorious hangover symptoms, including fatigue, thirst, and a headache.
- You might have problems sleeping when you drink. You could fall asleep faster or more easily, but you might also wake up earlier or get low-quality sleep.
- Stomach irritation can occur because alcohol directly impacts the stomach lining, increasing acid release. Then, the symptoms stemming from that effect include nausea and stomach discomfort.
- Alcohol raises levels of inflammation in your body and may play a big part in hangover symptoms.
- When your liver metabolizes alcohol, it creates acetaldehyde, a toxic byproduct contributing to inflammation in the liver, the brain, the pancreas, and the GI tract.
- Some people may even experience a type of withdrawal when they drink. You could feel when you first start drinking, you feel more relaxed and happier, but then as this wears off, you might feel more anxious or depressed than before you drank.
A hangover occurs after your blood alcohol levels start dropping.
Why Do People Think Milk Thistle Cures Hangovers?
The reasoning behind the concept of taking milk thistle for a hangover is that since silymarin is a compound that protects the liver and reduces damage, somehow, it’ll help with hangovers too.
Milk Thistle Benefits for Hangover Symptoms
Taking milk thistle as a hangover cure isn’t completely unfounded. There are potential benefits for certain symptoms.
- Silymarin might reduce the harmful compounds found in alcohol and protect your liver.
- It’s also an antioxidant, so it could reduce some of the free radicals your body produces as it’s metabolizing alcohol.
- The anti-inflammatory benefits of the silymarin in milk thistle might turn off inflammation signals that alcohol activates.
- Over the long term, milk thistle could also reduce or reverse liver damage related to alcohol use.
- Another way that there are possible benefits of milk thistle related to alcohol use is that it can increase glutathione production. Glutathione is needed for a healthy liver.
Is Milk Thistle Good For Hangover Symptoms?
Overall even if you google milk thistle for hangovers on Reddit, you won’t find that much positive information.
In theory, if you were to take it before you started drinking, it might reduce some of the damage inflicted by your body by processing alcohol, but it might not reduce many hangover symptoms.
That’s because most of the symptoms we associate with hangovers aren’t directly related to our livers.
There are a lot of factors at play, so milk thistle may help with inflammatory-related hangover symptoms but not dehydration or symptoms related to a lack of sleep.
The best use of milk thistle would be to protect your liver from alcohol’s effects rather than to expect it to be a magic hangover cure because there’s not one that exists universally.
How To Take Milk Thistle for a Hangover
If you want to try milk thistle before you drink alcohol, first of all, be warned there’s no reliable research on whether it’s safe.
If you do, however, some people recommend that you take 500 mg before drinking and then 500 mg at the end of your evening. If you regularly drink, you might take 500 mg every day.
B12 and Milk Thistle for Hangover Symptoms
One of the latest TikTok trends is taking B12 and milk thistle for a hangover.
All B vitamins can be helpful because alcohol depletes these and other vitamins and minerals. It’s common for people who drink a lot to be deficient in B vitamins.
B vitamins also play a role in how your body breaks down and eliminates alcohol, so there’s some science to back up its benefits related to alcohol use.
In one study, vitamin B6 helped reduce hangover symptoms by about half, so replenishing your vitamins can help you feel somewhat better.
Are There Other Supplements That Might Help Symptoms of a Hangover?
A few other things tend to help with liver function, inflammation, and other things related to how you experience a hangover.
Vitamin C can help, as can N-acetyl-cysteine.
NAC helps prevent hangovers from happening for some people and can protect your liver from toxins, including alcohol.
Vitamin C can reduce inflammatory damage in the liver, and choline and inositol are supplements that can help break down fat in the liver.
Milk Thistle for Hangover Symptoms-Final Thoughts
Is milk thistle for hangover symptoms a good idea?
It’s not going to fully prevent or cure a hangover for the majority of people, but it’s not a bad idea to take extra steps to protect your liver if you’re going to be drinking. You might also combine it with other supplements like a B-vitamin complex or vitamin C because alcohol depletes nutrients from your body and can worsen hangover symptoms.