Milk thistle is an herbal supplement that comes from the plant Silybum marianum, which is native to the Mediterranean region but is now also found in other parts of the world. It is also known by its Latin name, Silybum marianum, as well as other common names such as holy thistle, Mary thistle, and St. Mary’s thistle.

Milk thistle contains a flavonoid complex called silymarin, which is the active ingredient that is believed to provide many of its health benefits. Silymarin is made up of several different compounds, including silybin, silydianin, and silychristin.

Milk thistle is known for its liver-protective properties, and is often used to support liver health and treat liver disorders. It has been studied for its potential to prevent or treat liver damage from alcohol, drugs, and other toxins. Some studies have suggested that milk thistle may also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and could potentially benefit other areas of health such as skin health and diabetes.

There are different forms of milk thistle available, including capsules, tablets, liquid extracts, and teas. The dosages may vary depending on the form and brand, but a common dosage is 200-400 milligrams of standardized milk thistle extract (containing 70-80% silymarin) taken two or three times per day.

Numerous studies have been conducted on the health benefits of milk thistle. A review of several studies on milk thistle’s liver-protective effects found that it may help improve liver function and reduce liver damage in people with liver diseases such as cirrhosis and hepatitis C. Other studies have suggested that milk thistle may have potential in treating skin conditions such as acne and atopic dermatitis, and may also help improve insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes.

However, while milk thistle is generally considered safe, it can cause mild side effects such as upset stomach, diarrhea, and bloating in some people. It may also interact with certain medications, so it is important to talk to a healthcare professional before taking milk thistle if you are taking any prescription drugs.