Holistic doctors, herbalists, and Ayurvedic practitioners have been using milk thistle, for centuries, to successfully manage several disorders, especially those related to the liver (1).
Silybum Marianum is the scientific name of milk thistle. Silybin, also known as silibinin, is the active component of milk thistle and derived from the seeds of the plant.
Silymarin is a complex of biological compounds that also includes silibin, and this silymarin is known to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties (2). They are highly effective in protecting and regulating many organ functions, mainly the liver (3).
The liver is the largest organ in our body and probably the most worked on. It is constantly working to keep us safe from environmental toxins, chemicals, poisons, alcohols, and drugs. Therefore taking care of this organ is of utmost importance.
Milk thistle helps build and rejuvenate this organ. It increases protein synthesis that can help in the growth of new liver cells. It also protects the liver from toxins such as amatoxin. Milk thistle supplements can scavenge free radicals, reduce liver inflammation and metabolize toxic substances thereby protecting the organ (4).
Milk thistle supplements are used for cirrhosis of the liver, hepatitis, alcohol damage, or even for correcting a sluggish liver. In addition, they help slow down brain decline, protect your bones, lower blood sugar levels in people with type-2 diabetes, and many more.
Milk thistle supplements are easily available in the market. Read and find out our top 6 best picks and buy the one that suits you the best.
Our Best Picks:
1. Best Milk Thistle Supplements with Highest Absorption Rate – 1MD Liver MD®
2. Best Herbal Milk Thistle Supplements – Puritans Pride Milk Thistle Extract
3. Best Allergen-free Milk Thistle Supplements – Jarrow Formulas Milk Thistle (Silymarin Marianum)
4. Best Rapid-release Milk Thistle Supplements – Nature’s Bounty Milk Thistle Herbal Health
5. Best Vegan Milk Thistle Supplements – FarmHaven Milk Thistle Capsules
6. Best Organic Milk Thistle Supplements – Zazzee USDA Organic Milk Thistle Extract
1. Best Milk Thistle Supplements with the Highest-Absorption Rate: 1MD Liver MD®
Silybin, which is a water-soluble flavonoid is compounded with sunflower lecithin to make it a lipid-soluble compound. This allows for better absorption compared to most other milk thistle products in the market. The other ingredients present in this product amplify the absorption.
About 1MD Liver MD®
Liver MD is easily a premium choice because of its patented formula which delivers 6 powerful, clinically studied ingredients that is specially developed to make the product 10 times more bioavailable than any other milk thistle extracts in the market.
This special formula helps purify your liver and optimize its function.
Being a 2020 NEXTY Award Finalist for Best Condition-Specific Supplement, Liver MD®, its special formulation supports healthy liver function, detoxification, and helps boost immune system functions.
Liver MD® is made in the USA in the GMP facility and it is free of any preservatives, dairy, or soy. It is 100% sugar-free and completely devoid of gluten. The product is highly recommended by doctors and contains one of the most powerful liver health formulas on the market. The product also comes with a 90-day money-back guarantee.
What it Contains:
Each serving (2 capsules) consists of:
- Siliphos (Silybin-sunflower lecithin formulation) – 80mg
- Vitamin E – 3.5mg
- N-Acetyl Cysteine – 800mg
- Alpha-Lipoic acid – 100mg
- Zinc – 15mg
- Selenium – 200mcg
As a dietary supplement, the manufacturers recommend taking 1 capsule twice a day with a meal. You should also have a glass full of water along with it. The container has 30 capsules which can suffice you for 15 days.
Liver MD contains EVNolMax®, a kind of Vitamin E which is supercharged and has shown to prevent abnormal cell division in the liver. The Siliphos® Bioavailable silybin is derived from the bioactive ingredient present in milk thistle and has shown to be 10 times more absorbable than the general ones found in the market.
The other ingredients such as selenium, zinc, and alpha-lipoic acid are strong antioxidants that help boost liver health.
- 10 times more Bioavailable
- Sugar-free and Vegan
- With Clinically Proven EVNolMax® and Siliphos® Bioavailable silybin
- Maximum Enhanced Absorption
Summary: 1MD Liver MD® is one of the best milk thistle supplements in the market which is 10 times more bioavailable than any other product. These capsules are sugar-free, gluten-free, and vegan.
2. Best Overall Milk Thistle Supplement: Puritan’s Pride Milk Thistle Extract
This product is our choice for the best overall milk thistle supplement. This product excels in purity, has no additives, is totally free of any kind of allergens, affordable, easy to take.
About Puritan’s Pride Milk Thistle Extract
Puritan’s Pride is a US-manufactured product and like all its products, Puritan’s Pride Milk Thistle Extract undergoes an extensive development and quality control process.
Trusted since 1973, the products are scientifically formulated and produced from the finest raw materials. It is made from concentrated extract herbal supplement and contains milk thistle supplement in higher dosage and very low added extras. This herbal softgel is absolutely pure and has no added preservatives, sugar, milk, lactose, fish, wheat, starch, or fish. The product is gluten-free and has no sodium at all.
By supporting the outer cell membranes of the liver cells, it helps maintain healthy liver function.
What it Contains:
Each serving contains 1 softgel. They consist of:
- Milk Thistle Extract – 250mg at a 4:1 concentration (this means that one serving is equal to one gram of raw milk thistle)
The supplement comes as a gelatin-based softgel, and therefore is unsuitable for vegans and strict vegetarians.
1 softgel taken once or twice daily along with meals is recommended by the manufacturer and one bottle can supply you for 3-6 months.
Made from the finest herbs, the softgels are specially made for quick release.
- 1000mg Equivalent Traditional Herb
- Made in the USA
Summary: Puritan’s Pride Milk Thistle Extract is made in the USA, promises purity without any allergen and unnecessary additives. Made from the finest raw material, this product is affordable, effective, and overall the best.
3. Best Allergen-free Milk Thistle Supplement: Jarrow Formulas Milk Thistle (Silymarin Marianum)
A lot of supplement becomes unusable if it contains allergens in some form or the other, whether it is dairy or sometimes soy or gluten. This product is our best choice for people with allergies as it does not contain any of the common 8 allergens identified by the FDA (5).
About Jarrow Formulas Milk Thistle
Jarrow formulas have been formulating world-class products for the last 40 years. It’s a supplement distributor based in Los Angeles, California, USA.
Founded in 1977, like all other Jarrow Formulas products, its milk thistle supplements are also manufactured in GMP certified facilities.
The veggie capsules are standardized to give you 80% total flavonoids, silymarin. This silymarin is a strong antioxidant and helps support liver function in improving overall health.
Formulated with milk thistle seed extract which is effectively standardized for silymarin flavonoids, this product is highly affordable, gluten-free, and very effective.
The product is suitable for vegans and vegetarians and is totally free from wheat, gluten, peanuts, and tree nuts, eggs, soy, dairy, and shellfish.
What it Contains:
Each serving size is 1 capsule and consists of:
- Milk Thistle Seed 30:1 Extract (Silybum marianum) (80% Total flavonoids) – 150mg
The manufacturers recommend you take 1 to 3 capsules per day or as per the direction of your doctor. However, you should not take them if you are pregnant, lactating, trying to conceive, or below the age of 18 years, without consulting your health professional.
With no additives and fillers, and completely devoid of all the major food allergens, we rank it the best and most suitable for people who are prone to allergies.
- Suitable for Vegans and vegetarians
- Good source of antioxidants
- Major 8 allergen-free
Summary: Jarrow Formulas Milk Thistle Supplement is affordable, simple, manufactured in GMP certified facilities, suitable for vegans and vegetarians, and each serving contains 150mg of milk thistle seed 30:1 extract.
4. Best Rapid Release Milk Thistle Supplements: Nature’s Bounty Milk Thistle Herbal Health
Often the softgels can be encased in a layer that takes time to break down in the body slowing down the bioavailability. Rapid release supplements can be the perfect solution promising instant action.
About Nature’s Bounty Milk Thistle
Nature’s Bounty products are made in the USA and have been committed to health for over 50 years with their trusted products. They have been using only the purest of the ingredients to produce their supplements, which is laboratory tested.
Nature’s Bounty Milk Thistle Supplement is totally herbal, non-GMO, contains no artificial sweetener or color. The softgels are completely free of gluten, preservatives, wheat, yeast, and fish.
These rapid release softgels are sugar-free as well as free of sodium making them a good choice even for people who have metabolic disorders such as diabetes and hypertension.
What it Contains:
Each serving of this product is 1 softgel that is comprised of:
- Milk Thistle Extract (Silybum Marianum) (seed) – 250mg
(4:1 Extract, equivalent to 1000mg whole herb)
The bottle contains 50 rapid release softgels, which can be sufficient for a month or more depending on your consumption. You can take it once or twice daily, preferably with your meal.
These soft gels release rapidly into your system when taken and support your liver health very efficiently.
- Rapid Release Liquid Softgels
- Free of sugar and sodium
- No artificial sweetener
- 1000 mg concentrated herbs
Summary: Nature’s Bounty Milk Thistle Herbal Health is made of high strength concentrated herbs, and its unique coating is made to release rapidly in the body after consumption.
5. Best Vegan Milk Thistle Supplements: FarmHaven Milk Thistle Capsules
Most softgels contain a gelatin coating which makes them non-usable for vegans. When the best of the ingredients are encased in a vegan-friendly coating, what more can you ask for?
About FarmHaven Milk Thistle Supplements
FarmHaven always committed to creating nourishing and wholesome supplements that are made from the best ingredients found in nature. The products are made in accordance with the highest standards that are believed in FarmHaven.
FarmHaven Milk Thistle Supplements are natural, non-GMO, and are packaged in the USA in NSF Certified cGMP facilities. These veggie capsules are vegan and free of gluten, corn, soy, and preservatives. It doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients and is totally plant-based.
These vegan products support a healthy immune system, reduce inflammation, and promote antioxidant support.
What it Contains:
Each serving size is 1 vegetarian capsule and it has:
- Organic Milk Thistle Seed 30:1 Concentration Extract ( Silybum Marianum) ( Standardized to 80% Silymarin) – 375mg
The potent 30:1 concentration gives you a high strength veggie capsule that has the power of delivering the equivalent of 11,250mg of raw Milk Thistle seed that ensures improved bioavailability and better absorption.
A bottle of the product contains 120 veggie capsules which can suffice you for 3 months. The manufacturer recommends 1 capsule daily.
- 80% Silymarin Standardization
- 30:1 Concentration
- 11,250mg Strength per Capsule
- Plant-Based veggie Capsule
- Purely Vegan
Summary: FarmHaven Milk Thistle Supplements are veggie capsules which have high strength and great absorption. This non-GMO, purely vegan supplement has no artificial ingredients and is totally plant-based.
6. Best Organic Milk Thistle Supplements: Zazzee Naturals USDA Organic Milk Thistle Extract
Products that are 100% organic and certified proving the same are a great way to ensure that there is very less exposure to pesticides and harmful nitrates. They are richer in nutrients and completely natural.
About Zazzee Naturals USDA Organic Milk Thistle Extract
Zazzee Naturals Organic products are 100% USDA Certified. They have a wide range of natural herbal supplements that are completely devoid of chemical fillers.
Like its other products, their milk thistle supplement is all-natural, non-GMO, and completely organic. It is 100% vegetarian and vegan friendly which comprises a unique Organic Stabilizer Blend.
Manufactured in the USA, with stringent quality control can be the right supplement for you that can detoxify your liver, and provide more strength with fewer capsules.
The product is FDA and GMP Certified and tested by confirmed FDA Labs. The veggie capsules are free of wheat, gluten, milk, egg, fish, soy, and tree nuts.
What it Contains:
Each serving is 1 veggie capsule that gives you:
- Organic Milk Thistle – 7500mg
(Silybum marianum)(seeds) (from 250mg of a 30:1 Extract)
(Standardized 80% to 200mg Silymarin Flavonoids)
The manufacturers recommend 1 capsule 1 to 3 times daily preferably with your meals. With 120 capsules per bottle, a single bottle can very well contain a 4 month supply.
- USDA Certified Organic
- 7500 mg strength per capsule
- 30:1 Extract for maximum strength dosage
- 80% Silymarin Flavonoids
- Manufactured in the USA
Summary: Zazzee Naturals USDA Organic Milk Thistle Extract is an organic product that is USDA Certified. These veggie capsules are vegan and are free from most common allergens. Manufactured in the USA, they are a great way to detoxify your liver and boost your overall health.
Benefits of Milk Thistle Supplement
Milk thistle is a flowering plant with prickly leaves and a purple flower. It comes from the same family as daisies and has been in use for centuries to make natural remedies (6).
Milk thistle has been most commonly used for liver problems, however, it is also believed to have other potential benefits.
- Promoting healthy skin: The anti-inflammatory property of milk thistle promotes healthy skin and reduces acne. Its antioxidant effect on human skin works as an anti-aging. Milk thistle can slow aging and prevent the appearance of wrinkles, dark spots, and discoloration (7).
- Reducing cholesterol: People suffering from diabetes have been specifically shown to have reduced their cholesterol level when consumed milk thistle supplements regularly (8).
- Help reduce Insulin resistance: Insulin resistance is a problem that is the heart of most metabolic disorders such as Type-2 diabetes, high triglyceride level, hypertension, fatty liver, and many more. Some studies have confirmed the positive benefit of milk thistle in reducing insulin resistance, however, more research is needed in this field. Silymarin in milk thistle has shown to significantly reduce HbA1c, which measures your blood sugar for three months (9), (10).
- Lowers the spread of cancer: Studies have mentioned that milk thistle has cancer lowering properties (11), (12), (13).
- Supports bone health: Milk thistle has been shown to stimulate bone mineralization and help delay bone loss. However, human tests are yet to be conducted to confirm the authenticity of the claim.
- Improve brain health: The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties have neuroprotective functions and can deter brain decline (14). The active component, silymarin in milk thistle helps prevent oxidative damage and reduce the formation of amyloid plaques. These plaques are sticky clusters of protein and sugar and can build up inside your nerve cells (15).
- Strengthens the immune system: Studies have found that milk thistle is immunostimulatory and can increase lymphocyte proliferation. It also decreases inflammation and boosts your immune system (16).
This isn’t all! Milk thistle can also ease hangovers, prevent piles, and facilitate digestion.
Summary: Benefits of milk thistle supplements are many. They help protect the liver and gallbladder, boost your immune system, help reduce insulin resistance thereby lowering blood sugar level as well as blood triglyceride. It is good for your brain and can lower the spread of cancer.
Dosage of Milk Thistle Supplements
There is no standard dosage that is recommended for milk thistle. It is therefore best to stick to the recommended dosage that is suggested on the packaging. Normally the dosage ranges from 175mg to 1000 mg.
It is normally considered safe in dosages 420mg/day when taken by mouth for up to 4 years.
However, scientific researches have given different dosage in accordance with the need.
- For insulin resistance: Some milk thistle supplements are specifically made for people who have insulin resistance. They are either pre-diabetic or have a full form of type-2 diabetes. If the product contains around 140 mg of milk thistle extract, it is recommended to take it three times daily.
Usually, you start getting results sooner and see a mark difference by the 45th day. The supplements containing 200 mg of milk thistle extract can be taken once for a year or thrice daily for 4 months for similar results.
- For indigestion: Normally for indigestion, milk thistle supplements which have several other herbs have been taken three times a day for 4 weeks for greater results.
Summary: 420mg/day is normally considered as safe, however dosage varies depending on your necessity and purpose. Most supplements have dosage recommendations given.
Side Effects of Milk Thistle Supplements
Milk thistle extract is an herbal product that has been in use for 2000 years. It is usually considered safe for most people when taken orally (17), (18). However, like most other supplements some people may experience certain negative effects. They are:
- Intestinal gas
- Loss of appetite
- Minor headache
People who are sensitive to Asteraceae or Compositae plant family can experience allergic reactions to milk thistle supplements. Some of the other flowers from that particular family are chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies.
People with diabetes may experience too much lowering of blood sugar especially when taken with other diabetes medication. Under those circumstances, a dosage adjustment might be necessary for your medication.
Milk thistle extracts sometimes work like estrogens and incase if you have a condition that worsens with estrogen exposure, it is better to steer clear of the extract.
Summary: Milk thistle supplements are considered safe for most when taken as per dosage recommendations. However, some may have digestive problems or allergic reactions if sensitive to Asteraceae plant family.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is Milk Thistle?
Milk thistle is a flowering herb that belongs to the Daisy family and is mostly grown in Mediterranean countries. Widely believed for its therapeutic properties, milk thistle has been in use for centuries.
The active component, silymarin is used to treat gallbladder and liver disorder, prevent and slow down certain cancers, improve brain health, and reduce insulin resistance.
Why are Milk Thistle Supplements Used?
Milk thistle is taken orally to treat certain liver disorders such as jaundice, chronic inflammatory disease of the liver, cirrhosis, and chronic hepatitis.
It is also used for treating indigestion, reducing insulin resistance which in turn reduces your blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels. Milk thistle is believed to help increase milk production in lactating mothers.
Can Milk Thistle Supplements be Taken with Vitamins?
Milk thistle supplements do not normally interact with vitamins. However, it is best to consult your physician for better understanding.
Who all can Benefit from Taking Milk Thistle Supplements?
Milk thistle supplements are mostly promoted for its liver-protecting effects. People with varying degrees of liver damage, such as alcoholic liver, non-alcoholic liver disease, hepatitis, cirrhosis, and cancer may benefit from taking milk thistle supplements.
Others with digestive problems may also give it a go.
The Final Note
Milk thistle supplements are safe and have great potential as a therapy for several ailments that include diseases related to the liver and gallbladder, diabetes, and certain cancers.
Even though the number of scientific research done on milk thistle is not as much, it has been used as a complementary therapy for 2000 years because of its anti-inflammatory, antioxidative and anti-viral properties.
Milk thistle supplements have no side effects on most, affordable, readily available, and can be a great way to keep your body happy, mostly liver.
This fascinating herb supplement can be just the answer to your problems.