Milk thistle and dandelion are marketed together as herbal supplements beneficial to the liver. Milk thistle has a 2,000-year tradition as an herbal treatment for many conditions, especially diseases of the liver. Ancient civilizations around the world have used the leaves and roots of dandelions to treat diseases of the liver, kidney, skin, stomach, appendix, eyes, and breast, as well as to remedy fever, diabetes and diarrhea, according to the Medical Center at the University of Maryland.
Benefits of Milk Thistle
Milk thistle, a plant with the scientific name of Silybum marianum, is currently under study for its potential anti-cancer properties. According to the National Cancer Institute, the fruits and seeds of the milk thistle plant, which “are used to make remedies for liver and bile duct ailments … [contain] silymarin, an antioxidant that protects against cell damage.” Some cancer researchers believe that milk thistle’s active ingredients may block toxic chemicals from entering cells, or flush them before they cause damage (however, no human clinical trial results have yet been released). The National Institutes of Health cite the use of milk thistle as an alternative treatment for “liver cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation), and gallbladder disorders.” The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that milk thistle has successfully been tested in animals as an emergency antidote to deathcap mushroom poisoning.
Benefits of Dandelion
The common dandelion that grows in everyone’s lawn (officially called Taraxacum officinale) is also a popular herb. According to the Medical Center at the University of Maryland, “Dandelion is a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc…. [and] has antioxidant properties.” Many people are familiar with dandelion wine, but dandelion leaves can also be used for extra flavoring in salads and sandwiches. The leaves may be used in tea and the roots in coffee substitutes. Modern herbalists use dandelion roots to stimulate appetite, aid digestion, and promote healthy livers and gallbladders. The leaves are thought to have a diuretic effect. Dandelion may also help improve the immune system. According to the National Institutes of Health, “Dandelion is generally regarded as safe with rare side effects including contact dermatitis, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal upset.”
Available forms of Milk Thistle and Dandelion
Each herb can be purchased alone. Milk thistle is available in capsules, as a liquid extract or tincture and as part of a silymarin phosphatidylcholine complex. Dandelion herbs and roots may each be purchased separately, and each is available fresh or dried in several different ways, including as a liquid extract, teas, tinctures, capsules and tablets. Milk thistle and dandelion are also available together in a wide variety of blends sold by diverse herbal supplement manufacturers. It is important to study the websites linked here for precautions and drug interactions and to consult a medical professional before ingesting supplements containing either milk thistle or dandelion.
David B. Ryan has been a professional writer since 1989. His work includes various books, articles for "The Plain Dealer" in Cleveland and essays for Oxford University Press. Ryan holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Indiana University and certifications in emergency management and health disaster response.