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3 Milk Thistle Benefits You Should Know

Discover why milk thistle goes above and beyond supporting healthy liver function.

Milk thistle is well known for the effectiveness of silymarin, the active ingredient found in milk thistle. Silymarin is a flavonoid that has been shown to protect and strengthen liver cells, and act as an antioxidant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory agent. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, milk thistle reduces inflammation and scarring in the liver. But the health benefits of milk thistle go beyond supporting liver function. Milk thistle has been shown to help patients with type-2 diabetes, cancer and osteoarthritis as well.


Type-2 Diabetes

Milk thistle has been gaining attention for the hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic properties of its ingredient silibin, which is part of the silymarin found in milk thistle. Silibin has demonstrated beneficial effects on diabetic complications such as diabetic neuropathy, diabetic nephropathy and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Silibin has also been shown to work as an insulin sensitizer, lowering blood glucose levels in patients with type-2 diabetes. It is believed to be the antioxidant properties of the silibin that is creating these benefits.


Both silymarin and silibin have been shown to offer anti-metastatic properties believed to suppress the inflammatory process that leads to hyper-proliferation, promotion and the progression of carcinogenic processes. Studies have shown that silymarin and silibin down-regulate the expression and secretion of growth factors of cancer cells, which regulates the expression of various genes involved in inflammation and cancer cell survival, differentiation and growth.


Patients with osteoarthritis can also benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of silymarin. In studies of patients with osteoarthritis in the knee, treatment with silymarin alone resulted in increased scores in pain control from the first week of treatment reaching maximum pain control levels in week 4 – and remaining at this level throughout the study. Treatment with silymarin and other pain medications resulted in higher levels of pain control from the first week, which lasted throughout the study.



While milk thistle is well known for use among those with liver and gallbladder disorders, patients suffering from a variety of inflammation-based disorders can benefit from the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of this powerful herb.

Kazazis, C.E.; Evangelopoulos, A.A.; Kollas, A.; Vallianou, N.G. (2014). The therapeutic potential of milk thistle in diabetes. The Review of Diabetic Studies. 11(2): 167-174. Retrieved on 8/12/16 from

Numan, I.T.; Abdul, S.; Hussain, R.; Abdullah, T.A.; Jasim, N.A. (2007). Evaluation of the clinical use of silymarin in knee osteoarthritis: Application of the dual inhibitory concept of cyclooxygenase  and 5-lipoxygenase. The Iraqi Postgraduate Medical Journal. 6(4): 2. Retrieved on 8/12/16 from

Ramasamy, K.; Agarwal, R. (2008). Multi-targeted therapy of cancer by silymarin. Cancer Lett. 269(2): 352–362. Retrieved on 8/12/16 from

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About the Author

Stephen Holt, MD, PhD, FACP

Stephen Holt, M.D. is a Distinguished Professor of Medicine NYCPM (Emerite) and a medical practitioner in New York State. He has published many peer-review papers in medicine and he is a best-selling author with more than twenty books in national and international distribution. He has received many awards for teaching and research. Dr. Holt is a frequent lecturer at scientific meetings and healthcare facilities throughout the world. He is a best selling author and the founder of the Holt Institute of Medicine.

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