The National Cancer Institute states that the fruits and seeds of the milk thistle plant have been used for over 2,000 years as herbal remedies to address problems of the liver, bile ducts and gallbladder. Silymarin is the primary active ingredient in milk thistle. This anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant agent can produce both benefits and side effects in the individuals that choose to use it.

Improve Diabetes

Research studies have shown that the milk thistle plant helps to improve the health of type 2 diabetes sufferers who include milk thistle in their comprehensive treatment plan. Specifically, research shows a boost in insulin resistance, as well as a decrease in both cholesterol and blood sugar levels. However, medical professionals caution diabetes sufferers to consult a doctor before incorporating milk thistle into their treatment plan, as it may interfere with the effectiveness of other prescribed medications.

Protect Against Cell Damage

The National Cancer Institute has conducted many research studies to ascertain how to utilize the silymarin in milk thistle in the fight against cancer. Laboratory studies show that the anti-oxidant properties of silymarin in milk thistle strengthen cell walls, which prevents toxins from passing into them. In addition, research shows that silymarin anti-oxidants work to stop free-radicals from successfully attacking cells, while stimulating the production of enzymes that reduce the effects of toxins in the body. There have been very few human studies to date, but initial human experimentation shows that milk thistle has successfully helped reduce the negative affects of chemotherapy in both children and adults.


Researchers at the Mayo Clinic report that some milk thistle study participants experienced a loss of appetite, stomach upset and diarrhea after taking extracts from this plant. These mild stomach problems are reportedly rare and in all cases, symptoms improved after 24 hours.


Avoid milk thistle tea if you have ragweed allergies. Studies show that some research participants taking milk thistle extracts have experienced allergic reactions. Individuals with ragweed allergies or allergies to artichoke, daisies, kiwi or regular thistle plants, should not take any form of milk thistle extract. Cases of anaphylactic shock have been reported amongst patients taking extracts of this plant in pill or tea forms. Other reported allergic reactions to milk thistle include skin rashes and, in rare cases, temporary gastrointestinal problems.