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Milk thistle is derived from a plant, and it’s believed to have significant health benefits. Milk thistle is most widely used as a natural treatment for liver disorders and problems such as hepatitis, jaundice and cirrhosis. We rank the best milk thistle supplements and provide you with a guide for using them and everything else you should know.
- The best milk thistle supplements have pure ingredients and high concentrations of silymarin, the primary active component
- Milk thistle is in the same plant family as daisies
- People primarily use milk thistle for liver disorders
- Milk thistle may also help manage type 2 diabetes and lower cholesterol
7 Best Milk Thistle Products
The following are our selections for the best milk thistle.
- Each capsule contains 250 mg of high-quality milk thistle extract
- A patented process is used to preserve the silymarin isomers that are valuable to liver health
- Also contains other ingredients to support the liver including dandelion root extract and artichoke leaf extract
- Made with handpicked milk thistle seeds.
- Each batch is tested for contaminants.
- Made in Oregon.
- The natural ingredients in LiverSmart can help keep liver enzymes under control and blood sugar and cholesterol.
- Potent milk thistle capsules standardized to 80% silymarin flavonoids.
- Each capsule has 300 mg of pure silymarin.
- Silymarin helps liver health and healthy inflammatory response.
- Each capsule delivers the equivalent of 11,250 mg of raw milk thistle for absorption and bioavailability.
- Made in the U.S.
- Puritan’s Pride has been a leading supplement brand since 1973.
- Concentrated extract with 1000 mg of silymarin per serving.
- 3-to-6 month supply in one bottle.
- Each capsule contains 500 mg of high-quality milk thistle.
- Milk thistle is sourced from family-owned farms.
- Extraction process ensures a 50:1 extract ratio, which is the equivalent of 25,000 mg of milk thistle powder.
- High absorption and bioavailability.
- Each batch is tested for purity and quality during and after manufacturing.
- Manufactured in Miami.
- 100% plant-based
- 40-day supply
- Highly concentrated milk thistle extract
- Extract process is done under low temperatures to preserve silymarins
- Made in the U.S. at Gaia’s Certified Organic Farm
- Complete liver support supplement with not only milk thistle but also dandelion root, artichoke, beetroot and chicory root
- Natural detox product that can help reduce bloating
- Milk thistle nourishes and repairs the liver
- Dandelion root is a digestive tonic
- Artichoke provides liver support and stimulates blood flow from the liver
What is Milk Thistle?
If you’re searching for the best milk thistle, you may already have an idea that it’s one of the best liver support supplements, but what else should you know?
Milk thistle is a plant, and one of the active ingredients is silymarin, which is extracted from milk thistle seed. Silymarin is an antioxidant. You can find the best milk thistle supplements containing silymarin in the form of capsules and tablets, as well as liquids and powders.
Silymarin from milk thistle has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties as well.
In traditional medicine, silymarin from milk thistle has been used to treat disorders of the liver and gallbladder, prevent cancer, and promote the production of breast milk.
What Are the Best Milk Thistle Benefits?
The primary reason people use milk thistle is that it can protect and heal the liver. If you have liver damage because of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, alcoholic liver disease, hepatitis or liver cancer, you might speak with your doctor about taking the best milk thistle supplement.
Milk thistle can also be used to protect the liver against certain toxins.
If you have liver disease, milk thistle may help improve your liver function by reducing damage and inflammation.
Milk thistle is thought to reduce liver damage when that damage is called free radicals. Your body produces free radicals when you metabolize toxic substances.
One study found milk thistle might slightly extend the life expectancy for people with cirrhosis of the liver because of alcoholic liver disease.
Other potential benefits of the best milk thistle supplements include:
- Milk thistle may help prevent declines in brain function related to age. For example, milk thistle has been used for thousands of years as a traditional remedy for conditions like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. The benefits of milk thistle for brain and cognitive health could stem from the fact that it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- There have been some animal studies that have found silymarin because it’s an antioxidant, may have anticancer effects or could be useful when taken with cancer treatments. You shouldn’t take anything for cancer or during cancer treatment without first speaking to your doctor.
- Milk thistle may be a natural way to boost the production of breast milk. There was a randomized controlled study that found mothers who took silymarin (420 mg) for 63 days, produced 64% more milk than those study participants taking a placebo.
- Milk thistle may help with acne because it can reduce oxidative stress, which is thought to be linked to the development of acne.
- Milk thistle may be a way to lower blood sugar if you have type 2 diabetes. One specific compound in milk thistle has been found to work similarly to diabetes medications by improving insulin sensitivity and lowering blood sugar.
Milk Thistle Side Effects
Are there are any milk thistle side effects to be aware of?
For most people, no, but you should always consult your doctor before taking a supplement.
While rare, possible side effects of milk thistle can include:
- Gastrointestinal upset, often similar to taking a mild laxative
- Milk thistle can mimic the effects of estrogen, so if you have a hormone-sensitive condition, you should speak to a doctor before taking a supplement.
- If you are pregnant, you should probably avoid milk thistle because we just don’t know enough about its safety in pregnant women.
- If you’re allergic to the Asteraceae/Compositae family of plants, avoid milk thistle.
Milk thistle also can interact with other medicines you might be taking, so always speak to your doctor. For example, the antibiotic Flagyl may have reduced effectiveness if combined with milk thistle.
Milk Thistle FAQs
The following are brief answers to some of the most common questions about milk thistle.
What are the benefits of milk thistle?
There is some evidence to suggest milk thistle may have health benefits, including:
- Liver health and detoxification, as well as liver repair
- Specific liver conditions milk thistle may help with include alcoholic liver disease, chronic and acute viral hepatitis, and toxin-induced liver disease
- Because of an antioxidant compound in milk thistle called silymarin, milk thistle may help protect against cancer
- Milk thistle can lower cholesterol levels and promote heart health
- The NIH feels there’s research to support milk thistle’s benefits for preventing or controlling diabetes
- May help prevent gallstones
- Due to its antioxidant properties, the best milk thistle may have anti-aging properties
When is the best time to take milk thistle?
It’s a good idea to take milk thistle 30 minutes before your meal, for the best effectiveness. You will need to wait at least a few weeks to notice the benefits of milk thistle, and if you’re working to reverse a chronic condition, take it consistently for even longer to see benefits.
How much milk thistle should you take?
Follow the dosage guidelines for the specific milk thistle product you buy. In general, if you’re dealing with alcohol-related side effects, consider taking anywhere from 120 to 175 mg of milk thistle three times a day between meals.
For something like gallstones, consider around 100 to 175 mg two or three times a day.
For hepatitis, you might take up to 300 mg, three times a day.
Because milk thistle is categorized as a supplement, there’s no standardized dosage recommendation. The strength of a product can vary, so make sure you read the labels.
When choosing the best milk thistle supplement, look for a potent extract with a minimum of 80% pure milk thistle extract.
What is the best milk thistle?
Our picks for the best milk thistle and the best brands of milk thistle are listed above. Based primarily on customer reviews, reputation, and price, we selected the following as the best milk thistle:
- Neutranetics LiverSmart Milk Thistle Extract
- Farmhaven Milk Thistle Capsules
- Puritan’s Pride Milk Thistle
- Toniq Ultra High Strength Milk Thistle
- Zazzee Organic Milk Thistle
- Gaia Herbs Milk Thistle Seed
- Nature’s Craft Liver Support
Final Thoughts on the Best Milk Thistle
Milk thistle is a great supplement for many people, with a lot of research to back up the potential benefits. Milk thistle is primarily beneficial for liver health and detox, and some even use it for hangovers. Milk thistle may also have anti-cancer properties because it’s an antioxidant, and it could help people with diabetes. If you’re considering using milk thistle, always speak to your doctor first.