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What Is It: Milk Thistle

June 3, 2012 Reviewed by admin 5 Comments

For over 2,000 years, milk thistle has been working its magic. The Ancient Greeks and Romans used it to treat everything from liver ailments to snake bites; in the Middle Ages, it was considered a remedy for liver toxins. It's been an antidote for 'death cap' mushroom poisoning for centuries, and today, homeopathic practitioners use the compounds in milk thistle seeds to treat a range of disorders including jaundice, gallstones, and peritonitis. The National Cancer Institute now considers milk thistle a potential treatment for liver cancer as well. Recently, Milk Thistle has been popping up as an herbal acne cure and anti-aging ingredient. What is it about this lovely member of the daisy family that packs so much power?

Traditional milk thistle extract is made from the seeds, and consists of about 80% silymarin (a flavonolignan complex) and 20% fatty acids, including linoleic acid, known to help maintain healthy cell membranes and control cellular metabolism. The powerhouse of milk thistle extract is silymarin, an antioxidant that protects against cell damage, and its most active compound, silybin. Silymarin and silybin may protect the body from chemicals by blocking toxins from entering the cell or by moving toxins out of the cell before damage begins. They can strengthen cell walls, stimulate enzymes that make toxins less harmful to the body, as well as block free radicals - responsible for signs of aging - from attacking cells, according to the National Cancer Institute. Much of the research done on this antioxidant has been focused on the liver, where milk thistle has built its reputation as a powerful healer.

And milk thistle can do wonders for the skin as well. All of these cleansing properties that milk thistle exhibits are thought to serve as a acne treatment from the inside out. Herbalists, who have been prescribing it for centuries, recommend that acne sufferers consider the wider context of their body and its functions and take milk thistle as an oral supplement. Taken daily, it works its way through the liver and flushes out the toxins, purifying the body as a whole and reflecting a healthier chemical balance in the skin. It is considered a 'bitter remedy,' and therefore has cooling properties. milk thistle is thought to clear up acne along with other chronic inflammatory diseases of the skin. Ultimately, this antioxidant-laden herb is supposed to increase your liver function, therefore promoting more cleansing and consequently eliminating acne, according to Dr. Simon Mills at

Milk thistle is also a popular herbal ingredient in topical creams, due to its antioxidant and cooling properties. In a double-blind study done on patients suffering from Stage I–III rosacea, patients were treated for one month with a topical cream containing silymarin, the powerhouse antioxidant component in Milk Thistle. A significant improvement in skin redness, papules, itching, hydration, and skin color occurred. In another study focusing on UV-induced Oxidative Stress, "Silymarin inhibited UV-induced oxidative stress in both epidermal and dermal cells." Its ability to block free radicals within the body can apparently also translate into topical skin creams as well, shielding the skin from UVB damage. I'm hoping that down the road, all of its toxin-blocking and cleansing properties within the liver will be translated to skin cells and milk thistle will be a real triple threat!

There are very few negative side effects to taking milk thistle as an oral supplement, although studies have shown that some patients have seen a laxative effect or suffered nausea, heartburn, or a mild upset stomach. Most milk thistle supplements are measured by how much silybin they contain. Special forms of silybin made to be easily absorbed and used by the body are sold under the names Legalon, Silipide, and Siliphos. It can also be marketed as Holy Thistle, Marian Thistle, Mary Thistle, St. Mary Thistle, Our Lady's Thistle, Wild Artichoke, Mariendistel (in German products), and Chardon-Marie (in French products).

Ultimately, it appears that milk thistle can work from the inside out, the outside in, and is a safe herbal supplement and product ingredient that's full of a powerful antioxidant. It also comes with a bonus benefit: it is a helpful cure for hangovers, flushing out liver toxins after one too many glasses of wine!

Recommended Products Containing Milk Thistle:

Bliss Fabulous Foaming Face Wash, Xen-Tan Transform Gradual Self Tan, Nutra-Lift Rejuvenating Therapy

  • June 25, 2016

    by Dr. Asif Khan

    It ll have to be dispensed by a pharmacist at pharmacy o

  • December 22, 2010

    by marta

    Hi Peggy, milk thistle is relatively rare in face creams. We have a few though: <a href="" rel="nofollow">Perfecting Day Lotion</a>,<a href="" rel="nofollow"> Nutra-Lift Rejuvanating A</a>, and <a href="" rel="nofollow">KaplanMD Perfecting Serum</a>

  • December 21, 2010

    by Peggy

    I looking for a facial cream with Milk thistle in it. And where I can find it. Thank you.

  • June 16, 2009

    by marta

    You can buy it at <a href="" rel="nofollow">New Directions Aromatics</a>

  • June 15, 2009

    by Nhan

    Oooh Where can I find this product?

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