COMMON NAME (Chinese Name)
Milk Thistle Seed (Shui Fei Ji)
Taken orally, milk thistle seed supplements may be useful in the treatment of sepsis, diabetes and other metabolic conditions, as well as neurodegenerative conditions. The most significant mechanism of all its biological activities is its potent antioxidative properties. These antioxidative effects are so powerful as to make milk thistle seed supplements a (potentially) practical treatment in response to environmental and food-related toxicity. Some research and anecdotal evidence also strongly suggests that milk thistle seed supplements may be useful in treating indigestion, especially when used in combination with other supplements.
Used topically, milk thistle seed extracts and oils may prove useful in cosmetic applications, as they may have some UV-protective and antioxidative impacts on the skin. Topical applications may also be helpful in treating burns. Unlike many other herbs and natural supplements, milk thistle seed derivatives are known to be safe to ingest during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Doing so may even have the effect of protecting fetal development from damage due to alcohol exposure.
Lastly, some of the most novel research on the benefits of milk thistle supplementation suggest that it may be useful in preventing the symptoms of withdrawal from morphine and other opioid drugs. Though much more research is needed to understand and verify this effect, milk thistle seed supplements do show some promise for use as an alternative or supplemental therapy for people recovering from morphine and other opioid addictions. Milk thistle seeds are categorized as a hepatoprotective herb, a use if the herb since the 1400s. In Traditional Chinese medicine, milk thistle is classified as bitter, sweet, and oily and affects the Liver.
PREPARATION & ADMINISTRATION
The most popular milk thistle seed supplements are teas and extracts. Consequently, whole dried seeds are sometimes available for purchase (for at-home hot water decoction) as are pre-made alcohol and aqueous extracts.
Milk thistle is a member of the ragweed family, so people who have a known or suspected allergy to ragweed should avoid taking milk thistle supplements of any kind. Symptoms of an allergic reaction to milk thistle seed supplements are generally fairly mild, though, and may include itchiness and a headache. Some gastrointestinal upset has been reported following the ingestion of milk thistle seed derivatives. That said, all milk thistle seed derivatives have relatively low toxicity, so the chances of overdosing or experiencing adverse side effects in the absence of an allergic reaction are relatively slim.
Anyone interested in adding milk thistle or any other herbal supplement should consult with a physician, certified herbalist, or other qualified healthcare professional. People who are taking Warfarin should not take milk thistle seed supplements, as there is some risk of drug interaction between the two. Likewise, people who are diabetic or sensitive to changes to their blood sugar levels should be sure to bring these specific concerns up when consulting with a professional prior to taking.
Brantley, Scott J., et al. “Two Flavonolignans from Milk Thistle (Silybum Marianum) Inhibit CYP2C9-Mediated Warfarin Metabolism at Clinically Achievable Concentrations.” Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, vol. 332, no. 3, 2009, pp. 1081–1087., doi:10.1124/jpet.109.161927.
Fanoudi, Sahar, et al. “Milk Thistle (Silybum Marianum) as an Antidote or a Protective Agent against Natural or Chemical Toxicities: a Review.” Drug and Chemical Toxicology, vol. 43, no. 3, 2018, pp. 240–254., doi:10.1080/01480545.2018.1485687.
Malekshah, Rahime Eshaghi, and Ali Khaleghian. “Influence of Silybum Marianum on Morphine Addicted Rats, Biochemical Parameters and Molecular Simulation Studies on µ-Opioid Receptor.” Drug Research, vol. 69, no. 11, 2019, pp. 630–638., doi:10.1055/a-0975-9124.
Milić, Nataša, et al. “New Therapeutic Potentials of Milk Thistle (Silybum Marianum).” Natural Product Communications, vol. 8, no. 12, 2013, doi:10.1177/1934578×1300801236.
“Milk Thistle.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 14 Oct. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-milk-thistle/art-20362885.
Tajmohammadi, Atefeh, et al. “Silybum Marianum (Milk Thistle) and Its Main Constituent, Silymarin, as a Potential Therapeutic Plant in Metabolic Syndrome: A Review.” Phytotherapy Research, vol. 32, no. 10, 2018, pp. 1933–1949., doi:10.1002/ptr.6153.
Zhao, Fei, and XinHua Li. “Ultrasonic-Assisted Enzymatic Extraction of Silymarin from the Silybum Marianum Seed Shell and Evaluation of Its Antioxidant Activity in Vitro.” EXCLI Journal, Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors, 27 July 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4849107/#__ffn_sectitle.