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Milk Thistle

By

Laura Shane-McWhorter

, PharmD, University of Utah College of Pharmacy

Last full review/revision Jan 2022| Content last modified Jan 2022
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL VERSION

What is milk thistle?

What claims are made about milk thistle?

Does milk thistle work?

Well-designed scientific studies do not show that milk thistle significantly benefits people with a liver disorder or decreases death due to liver toxicity.

Some studies have found that milk thistle decreased fasting glucose and HbA1C, but it is not clear whether it is recommended for people who have diabetes or poor insulin sensitivity (prediabetes).

Milk thistle may decrease diabetes-related complications such as fatty liver and proteinuria. Milk thistle may also lower cholesterol. It is often combined with other supplements, such as berberine.

What are the possible side effects of milk thistle?

No serious side effects have been reported, although gastrointestinal upset may occur. Also, people who have allergies to chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies may also have allergic reactions to milk thistle.

What drug interactions occur with milk thistle?

Milk thistle may increase the effects of drugs that decrease blood sugar levels (hypoglycemic drugs) and may interfere with drugs used to treat human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection (such as indinavir or saquinavir). Milk thistle may increase the effects of warfarin, sometimes resulting in bleeding. Milk thistle may increase the blood levels of drugs that have certain chemical similarities (such as some chemotherapy drugs, calcium channel blockers, and some antibiotics).

Recommendations

There is no clear evidence to support the claims that milk thistle benefits people with a liver disorder, diabetes, prediabetes, any other disorder.

Milk thistle may lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes; therefore, people with diabetes should consult their doctor before taking milk thistle. Pregnant women and women who have hormone-sensitive conditions should consult with their doctor before taking milk thistle.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL VERSION
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