Milk Thistle: does it works for weight loss?

Milk thistle has a lot of advantage when it comes to weight loss, but all its benefits are not yet definitive proven. The University of Rochester Medical Center says its seeds have been used therapeutically for years, for the treatment of gallbladder and liver diseases.

But What Is Milk Thistle?

It is a plant originally from Europe that has reddish-purple flowers that only grows in dry and rocky soil. The plant seeds have silymarin, which is one of its active compounds, according to the Mayo Clinic. You can buy it as liquid extract, powder, oral tablet or capsule.

As claimed by the University of Rochester Medical Center, silybin is the most active group of bioflavonoids found in the seeds of the plant, which protects liver from any damage by stopping free radicals and toxins from fixing to hepatocytes (the organ’s cells). As such, milk thistle has been used to treat viral hepatitis, carbon tetrachloride poisoning, alcoholic liver disease, mushroom poisoning, cirrhosis and several conditions.

A study published in the December 2013 edition of Natural Product Communications revealed that the medical properties found in silymarin have been explored for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, sepsis, diabetes, osteoporosis, high levels of cholesterol and cholestasis.

This compound also has prolactin and fetoprotective benefits, providing protection against the influence of alcohol and is safe for use during breastfeeding and pregnancy. Further research is needed to confirm its efficacy.


The University of Rochester Medical Center also declares that a common side effect of milk thistle are allergic reactions. In case you are allergic to other herbs in the same family such as daisies, chrysanthemums, marigolds and ragweed, it’s easier for you to have those reactions.

As it can reduce your blood sugar levels, you should consult a doctor if you have hypoglycemia or diabetes before using it, same goes if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or take supplements or any drugs that also affects your blood sugar levels. Milk thistle may interact with some medications such as Valium, certain antibiotics, warfarin, immunosuppressants and diabetes medications.

People also worries that milk thistle may have estrogenic effects, which means it mimics the estrogen produced by your own organism. As such, if you have breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine fibroids or endometriosis, you should avoid milk thistle supplements at any cost.

Mayo Clinic says that taking it orally appears to be safe, if taken in appropriate doses. On the other hand, its side effects may include headache, gastrointestinal issues and itchiness.

Weight Loss with Milk Thistle

An animal based studied was conducted in September 2016 and published in Frontiers in Pharmacologyabout silymarin. It suggests that it helps in the treatment of metabolic dysfunction associated with obesity induced by diets.

After inducing such condition in six mice, they kept treating the animals continuously with either a high-fat diet alone or mixed with silymarin (40mg per 100g of their weight) for another six weeks.

The study found that inflammation, cholesterol, and insulin resistance improved after treatment, suggesting silybin is an effective component of silymarin in treating metabolic syndrome.  On the other hand, to prove its efficacy for weight loss, further studies at a larger scale with humans are needed.

National Center for Biotechnology Information claims that silymarin and silybin are commonly used interchangeably even though they have different purposes and have no confirmed results about its clinical efficacy.

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