Milk thistle (silymarin) is a flowering herb related to the daisy and ragweed family. It is native to Mediterranean countries. Some people also call it Mary thistle and holy thistle.
The claimed advantages are that milk thistle helps to protect the liver from toxins, regenerate and heal liver cells and detoxify your liver. Another claim is that milk thistle helps prevent gallstones by stimulating secretion of bile. The final claim (and the one most pertinent to sickle cell), is that milk thistle is a great anti-oxidant, which helps to prevent tissue and cell damage by free radicals. Silymarin also is an anti-inflammatory agent; thus reducing swelling.
Silymarin is both an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It’s unclear what benefits, if any, this may have in the body.
At this point, there is not enough scientific data to say whether or not milk thistle can help liver problems. Some early research suggests milk thistle may aid people with alcohol-related liver disease. Other studies show no improvement in liver function in this group of people.
Medical research does suggest that milk thistle, combined with traditional treatment, can improve diabetes. Studies have shown a decrease in blood sugar levels and an improvement in cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.
Milk thistle can be taken in capsule form, or in a tea. The longest study for long term effects of milk thistle has reached 41 months (a little over 3 years). There is no study that proves that milk thistle is effective beyond that, and if there is a potential for long term issues.
Milk thistle may cause diarrhea. More rarely, it may cause nausea, bloating, gas, and upset stomach. Breast-feeding, pregnant and those with ragweed allergies should stay away from milk thistle. Women with estrogen problems should avoid milk thistle because of its mimic-ing properties.
Have you taken milk thistle? What have you noticed with it?