What is it?
Milk thistle is a plant which got its name because when the leaves are broken, a milky sap sips out. The seeds are commonly used for medicine. The leaves are sometimes consumed as salad. It has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects hence it may help protect liver cells from toxins and chemicals. It might also enhance the effect of female hormone estrogen.
Milk thistle has been proven by scientific studies to help in allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies) and patients who have gastric reflux and heartburn.
Milk thistle has also been thought to help conditions like mushroom poisoning, hepatitis infection, liver disease, malaria, menstrual issues and gallbladder disease. However currently there are no highly evidence based evidence and studies on its actual benefits. More research need to be done to prove these supposedly helpful benefits.
Possible side effects
Milk thistle is generally safe for most adults. Some possible side effects are diarrhea, nausea, indigestion, bloatedness and loss of appetite.
For lactating and pregnant woman, there are no evidence to determine the pregnancy category of this supplement hence it is best avoided.
As the milk thistle may act like estrogen, it is best avoided in hormone sensitive/related conditions like uterine fibroids, endometriosis, ovary cancer, breast cancer and uterine cancer.
1. Medications broken down by liver enzymes cytochrome P450: milk thistle decreases the rate liver enzymes break down of medications that are metabolized by the liver and hence increasing their side effects. Examples of such medications include lovastatin, ketoconazole, Itraconazole, olanzapine, theophylline, phenytoin, tolbutamide and fexofenadine.
2. Estrogen drugs: milk thistle will decrease the effectiveness of estrogen containing pills like estradiol and premarin.
3. Cholesterol lowering medications: Milk thistle may affect the effectiveness of cholesterol lowering medications.
There is currently no specific guidelines on the dosage. Please follow the instructions on product label and if in doubt consult your doctor first.
Some studies suggested the dose of milk thistle for certain conditions as below:
1. For allergic rhinitis: Milk thistle extract of silymarin 140 mg three times daily.
2. For dyspepsia: A combination product containing milk thistle and other herbs has been used in a dose of 1 mL three times daily.