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Health Research

5 Health Benefits of Milk Thistle Leaf [Infographic]

Milk Thistle Leaf
Milk thistle leaf was used since the ancient Greek and Roman times to treat depression and strengthen immune and liver function. Recent research confirms many of its traditional uses. Scientists now believe the herb helps reduce joint inflammation, stabilizes mental function, fights against diabetes and heart diseases, and supports women’s health.
Milk Thistle Leaf Infographic
What is milk thistle leaf?
Milk thistle is said to have derived its name from the tale that Virgin Mary spilled milk on the plant, giving it white, milky streaks on its glossy green leaves. Commonly used as a decorative element in gardens, it has been revered for thousands of years as an effective healing herb since the ancient Greek and Roman times and was used in Europe for hundreds of years to treat depression and liver problems.
Milk thistle seeds are also roasted for use as a coffee substitute but are better known for their medicinal properties. Milk thistle is now used for a variety of conditions, including liver disorders, indigestion, diabetes, depression, hayfever, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease. Recent research confirmed traditional beliefs that the herb has a protective effect on the liver.
Botanical name: Silybum marianum
Other names: Mary’s thistle
Description: A biennial plant that grows to 5 feet tall with red or purple flowers and pale green leaves
Habitat: Native to the Mediterranean and southwestern Europe
Properties*: Anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, antioxidant, antiviral, hepatoprotective, hypoglycemic
The health benefits of milk thistle leaf according to research
1. Bone & Joint Health
Milk thistle is made up of constituents known as silymarin which have demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity against knee osteoarthritis, a type of degenerative joint disease. In one scientific study, its effect was found to be more effective than some anti-inflammatory drugs such as piroxicam and meloxicam.
2. Energy & Brain Support
Preliminary research suggests that milk thistle extract, in combination with other ingredients, may help to stabilize mental functioning in people with Alzheimer's disease and help prevent functional decline in people with Parkinson's disease.
3. Heart and Circulatory Health
Meadowsweet has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic and anti-rheumatic Milk thistle may have therapeutic value against diabetes and heart disease. In clinical research, silymarin, in combination with conventional treatment, appeared to significantly decrease fasting blood glucose, total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides (fats found in blood) in people with type 2 diabetes.
Other preliminary evidence suggests that milk thistle could reduce insulin resistance. These effects may be due to the antioxidant effects of silymarin. According to a 2006 study published in the academic journal Phytotherapy Research, silymarin may have a positive effect against type 2 diabetes by improving the glycemic profile.
4. Immunity and Overall Health
Research over the past few decades has shown that silymarin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Hundreds of scientific studies have confirmed the herb can substantially protect the liver from damage. In Germany, it has been used successfully to treat hepatitis and liver cirrhosis (or chronic liver disease).
Early laboratory studies suggest that silymarin and other active substances in milk thistle may have antimicrobial and anticarcinogenic (anti-cancer) effects. These substances appear to stop cancer cells from dividing and reproducing, shorten the lifespan of cancer cells, and reduce blood supply to tumors. A study published in the Cancer Research journal reported that silymarin could have an effect against prostate cancer cells. Scientists at the University of Minnesota have also concluded that there is strong preclinical evidence for the anti-cancer effects of silymarin, including inhibition of prostate, skin, breast and cervical cancer.
5. Women’s Health
Clinical research in pre- and postmenopausal women suggests that milk thistle, in combination with other ingredients such as dong quai and ginseng, could help reduce menopausal symptoms of hot flashes and night sweat, and improve sleep quality.


* These are some of the pharmacological actions that have been observed or are under study in various evidence-based research studies. Herb may have other properties not listed here.
The statements on this page are for educational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult your healthcare practitioner prior to the use of any herbal products, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have allergies or medical conditions.
The information has been sourced and extracted from scientific papers, academic journals, research abstracts, and other sources. While Purify Tea makes every effort to present accurate and reliable information on this website, Purify Tea does not endorse, approve, or certify such information, nor does it guarantee the accuracy, completeness, efficiency, timeliness, or correct sequencing of such information. Use of such information is voluntary, and reliance on it should only be undertaken after an independent review of its accuracy, completeness, efficiency, and timeliness. While many traditional or folkloric remedies have a long history of use, modern research has only begun to investigate and substantiate their effectiveness. Research is still ongoing in many areas therefore conclusions are subject to change.


Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. New York, NY: DK Publishing, 2016. Print.
E. Shaker, H. Mahmouda, S. Mnaa. “Silymarin, the antioxidant component and Silybum marianum extracts prevent liver damage”. Food and Chemical Toxicology. March 2010;48(3):803–806.
H. Fallah Huseini, B. Larijani, R. Heshmat, H. Fakhrzadeh, B. Radjabipour, T. Toliat, Mohsin Raza. “The efficacy of Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn. (silymarin) in the treatment of type II diabetes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial”. Phytotherapy Research. October 30, 2006.
Hiroshi Hikino, Yoshinobu Kiso, Hildebert Wagner, Manfred Fiebig. “Antihepatotoxic Actions of Flavonolignans from Silybum marianum Fruits”. Planta Med. 1984;50(3):248-250
Kane, Charles W. Herbal Medicine: Trends and Traditions. New York, NY: Lincoln Town Press, 2009. Print.
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Paula R. Davis-Searles, Yuka Nakanishi, Nam-Cheol Kim, Tyler N. Graf, Nicholas H. Oberlies, Mansukh C. Wani, Monroe E. Wall, Rajesh Agarwal, David J. Kroll. “Milk Thistle and Prostate Cancer: Differential Effects of Pure Flavonolignans from Silybum marianum on Antiproliferative End Points in Human Prostate Carcinoma Cells”. Cancer Research. May 2005;65(10).
Peter Ferenci, Thomas-Matthias Scherzer, Heidrun Kerschner, Karoline Rutter, Sandra Beinhardt, Harald Hofer, Maximilian Schöniger-Hekele, Heidemarie Holzmann, Petra Steindl-Munda. “Silibinin is a potent antiviral agent in patients with chronic hepatitis C not responding to pegylated interferon/ribavirin therapy.” Gastroenterology. November 2008;135(5):15617. Epub August 3, 2008.
Saad A Hussain, Nizar A Jassim, Intesar T Numan, Ihab I Al-Khalifa, Talal A Abdullah. “Anti-inflammatory activity of silymarin in patients with knee osteoarthritis. A comparative study with piroxicam and meloxicam.” J Proteomics. March 10, 2010;73(5):95164. Epub January 4, 2010.
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