What is milk thistle

Milk thistle

Helps with digestive problems and protects the liver

The fruits of the milk thistle are called Marien- or stinging grains. They are traditionally given for various liver diseases. Its healing properties have been known since ancient times. Some studies actually suggest beneficial effects on liver disease. The active ingredient complex seems to be responsible for this Silymarin to be.


The milk thistle was originally native to southern Europe. Today it is grown in Argentina, Venezuela, Hungary and China. There are also some fields in Austria and Germany. In addition, the medicinal plant also occurs wild in our latitudes.

Milk thistle - this is what the medicinal plant looks like

The up to 1.5 meter high daisy family has an upright stem that branches out. The glossy, green leaves are spotted with white, strongly toothed and have thorny lobes. The conical, purple-red flowers are encased by pointed scales. The elongated fruits are dark brown.

Already knew?

According to legend, the white stripes on the leaves of the milk thistle come from the milk of the Virgin Mary. When the Virgin Mary was nursing her child, a few drops of milk fell on the thistle. White spots formed there, which are so typical of the plant today. This is how the plant got its name.

Milk thistle - these are the ingredients

In the fruits of the medicinal plant is Silymarin contain. This is a mixture of active ingredients, which is composed of different flavonolignans. Which includes:

  • Silibinin
  • Isosilibinin
  • Silychristin
  • Silydianin

In laboratory tests it could be shown that Silymarin stabilizes the outer shell of the liver cells. On the one hand, this shields the cells from toxic substances and, on the other hand, important components remain in a damaged cell. With silymarin, the liver should recover from damage more quickly and fatty liver disease should progress less quickly. In addition, the active ingredient complex is said to be helpful in the event of various types of poisoning, for example from the death cap, some bacterial toxins and various heavy metals.

Already knew?

The silymarin contained in milk thistle not only protects the liver cells from damage caused by toxins such as alcohol and drugs. It also promotes the regeneration of diseased and already damaged cells, for example in the case of liver inflammation (med. hepatitis) and can e.g. B. slow down the progression of fatty liver disease.

Other ingredients of milk thistle

In addition to the silymarin, milk thistle contains high-fat oil and plenty of protein. The oil consists in particular of the Linoleic and oleic acids. These are among the healthy, unsaturated fatty acids. There are also:

  • Bitter substances
  • biogenic amines
  • Tannins
  • Dyes

The milk thistle is used for this

According to the effect attributed to it, the milk thistle becomes traditionally against various liver diseases used. These include:

  • chronic inflammatory liver disease
  • toxic liver damage
  • Cirrhosis of the liver


Hildegard von Bingen already recommended the intake of milk thistle for the treatment of jaundice and against poisoning.

In addition - so it is assumed - milk thistle helps with digestive complaints such as bloating, nausea, loss of appetite and abdominal pain. It is also said to promote the flow of bile.

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Dosage forms of milk thistle

Preparations are available as Tinctures, capsulesorTablets available. The fruits of the milk thistle are also dried to prepare one Herbal teas offered. However, the concentration of the active ingredient complex silymarin in finished medicinal products is higher. With regard to chronic inflammatory liver diseases and poisoning, only these agents are recommended. The daily dose here should be around 200 to 420 milligrams of silymarin. If, on the other hand, you want to cure digestive problems, you are welcome to prepare a tea from the medicinal plant. However, due to the lower silymarin content, this does not develop a liver-protecting effect.

Tips for making a milk thistle tea

- Take 2 teaspoons of crushed milk thistle fruits and pour a cup of hot water over them.
- Strain the fruit after 10 to 15 minutes.
- Take a cup of milk thistle tea 3 to 4 times a day.
- Fennel fruits can be added to improve the bland and greasy taste.

Side effects of milk thistle

Milk thistle has few side effects. However, overdosing can lead to gas and abdominal pain.

People that allergic react to daisy family should refrain from taking milk thistle-containing preparations. Discuss the intake of this medicinal plant with your doctor.

Milk thistle in homeopathy

Milk thistle is also used as a remedy in homeopathy. The active ingredient is known there as "Carduus Marianus". Usually it is used in low potencies (between D1 and D6). Areas of application are various liver diseases such as jaundice as well as bleeding and hemorrhoids.

Instructions for taking and using milk thistle

Do not ingest milk thistle fruits without talking to a doctor first. The concentration of silymarin in commonly available finished medicinal products is much higher than, for example, in tea. This also means that milk thistle tea is unsuitable for treating liver diseases. Such an herbal tea is recommended to relieve digestive problems such as gas or bloating. If you are diabetic, you should be particularly careful when taking milk thistle supplements as they can lower blood sugar levels.

Not as sole therapy!

If there are serious liver diseases or poisoning (e.g. due to the death cap mushroom), the milk thistle preparations should only be used as a supportive measure in addition to the conventional therapy prescribed by the doctor. Treatment with medicinal plant preparations alone would be grossly negligent in the case of complex diseases such as hepatitis. In addition, if you are suffering from acute death by poisoning, the emergency doctor must be called in any case!

Our pages are for your information only and are not a substitute for diagnosis and treatment by the doctor.

For information on risks and side effects, read the package insert and ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Despite careful research and the use of reliable sources, errors can sometimes creep into our texts. Help us improve. Send information to: [email protected]

As of: 28.12.2019

For reasons of better legibility, the male form is used in the text for personal names. It goes without saying, however, that the information relates to members of both sexes.