Last updated: August 12, 2021

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Welcome to our large milk thistle test 2021. Here we present all the milk thistle products that we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the internet.

We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best milk thistle preparation for you.

You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should definitely pay attention to if you want to buy milk thistle.




The most important facts

  • Milk thistle is an ancient medicinal plant. Its effectiveness was already recognised by doctors and naturopaths 400 years ago.
  • This prickly medicinal plant is said to help the liver in detoxification and regeneration thanks to the bitter substances it contains.
  • Milk thistle preparations cause no known side effects, but may interact with other medicines. Animals also benefit from the healing power of milk thistle.

The Best Milk Thistle: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying milk thistle

What is a milk thistle?

The milk thistle, also known as the crown of Christ, thunder thistle, fever thistle, lady's thistle or healing thistle, is an ancient medicinal plant. Apart from the leaves, it is mainly the fruits, i.e. the seeds, that are used

Blossoming milk thistle with its typical purple flower. (Image source: pixabay.com / annca)

The pericarp of the milk thistle contains substances such as silymarin, flavonoids, phytosterols and tocopherols. In addition, milk thistle has a rich oil with a high content of linoleic acid, oleic acid and palmitic acid. Thanks to the substances it contains, it is often used to purify the blood and detoxify the liver.

Who is milk thistle suitable for?

The liver as the detoxification organ of the human body is very stressed by today's standard of living (alcohol consumption, cigarettes, low-quality food, etc.) and the liver has to perform at its best.

Especially in times when people like to get together, celebrate festivities and enjoy hearty meals (Christmas, New Year, but also summer barbecues), a liver detoxification treatment with active substances from milk thistle is suitable and recommended for everyone.

A study from 2005 tried to determine to what extent milk thistle can have an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immunomodulatory effect against skin cancer.

Silymarin, a plant flavonoid that can be extracted from the seed of milk thistle, enables a chemoprevantive effect against chemical carcinogenesis as well as photocarcinogenesis in various animal tumour models.

Experimental information suggests that silymarin can be used for the human system against skin cancer. Furthermore, it can be used as a supplement to common sunscreens. (1)

The crushed fruits or leaves also help with flatulence, bloating and upper abdominal pain. Milk thistle can also help with the following complaints:

  • Allergies
  • Inflammations
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Bile complaints
  • Vascular disorders,
  • Ulcers
  • Acne
  • Cramps
  • Liver complaints
  • Gastrointestinal complaints
  • Spleen complaints
  • Rheumatism
  • Poisoning

But milk thistle can not only help humans and animals as a preventive measure. People with liver problems can benefit from the effect of this ancient medicinal plant and use its substances to strengthen damaged liver function.

A study from 2009 looked at how milk thistle can improve liver function in people infected with hepatitis C. The results improved quickly, and the patients' liver function improved. The values improved quickly, the yellow pigmentation decreased, dark urine decreased and the patients' quality of life improved. (2)

One study looks at the effect of milk thistle on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). A reduction of the transferases AST/ALT/GGT, an improvement in ultrasound and a positive influence on the biochemical and inflammation-relevant parameters were found. (3)

But also with regard to the efficacy of milk thistle in alcohol-related liver diseases, a study has already been published. The results show that mortality in liver cirrhosis could be reduced. (4)

In addition, another study dealt with the investigation of milk thistle in chemotherapy-associated hepatotoxicity, as positive effects could already be shown.

Although no significant differences in the frequency of side effects or infections were observed between the groups - in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and liver toxicity, milk thistle was associated with a trend towards a significant reduction in liver toxicity. (5)

In what form is milk thistle available?

Milk thistle products can be bought in different forms. The most common form is tablets or capsules. Tinctures or oil extracts from parts of the milk thistle plant are also available in addition to the seeds and leaves.

  • Tablets / Capsules
  • Tinctures / Tonic / Extract
  • Seeds (whole or powdered)
  • Leaves

What are the alternatives to milk thistle?

As an alternative to milk thistle, you can also use artichoke or dandelion. Thanks to the bitter substances they contain, they also support the liver in its work. Often these three plants are offered together as a complex

In addition, you can support the functioning of the liver through your diet by avoiding alcohol, sugar, fatty foods and other toxins as much as possible and by including tried and tested vegetables with bitter substances in your diet (e.g. chicory, sorrel, endive, etc.).

Vegetables such as chicory lettuce have more bitter substances and thus promote the detoxification of the bile and liver. (Image source: pixabay.com / aitoff)

Can milk thistle cause side effects?

So far, it is not known that taking milk thistle products can cause side effects. However, those who have an allergy to cornflower should be aware of this and possibly look for the alternatives artichoke or dandelion.

Even with an overdose, there are at most mild side effects such as:

  • Flatulence
  • Headache and stomach ache
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea

After stopping or after reducing the dose to the prescribed level, the symptoms subside again. Permanent damage is ruled out.

If you are taking other medicines or are pregnant, you are advised to inform your doctor about the planned cure. Studies have shown that an interaction with the intake of milk thistle preparations can occur.

Decision: What types of milk thistle are there and which is right for you?

If you want to buy milk thistle, there are four types to choose from:

  • Tablets
  • Tincture
  • Seeds
  • Leaves

Depending on the area of application, you can choose one of these four categories. The following sections will help you make your decision.

What distinguishes milk thistle tincture and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Milk thistle tinctures or tonics contain the healing powers in liquid form and can be taken pure or in combination with another food. The advantage is certainly the use for people who have difficulty swallowing tablets or capsules.

The taste of the tonic is also more positive than that of tea and the consumer does not have to overcome a bitter taste to take it.

Disadvantages can be found in the storage of the tonic. After opening, the bottle should be stored in a cool place. It is also not easy to transport or take along (e.g. in hand luggage on a flight).

Advantages
  • No swallowing necessary
  • Dilutable with water (e.g. for children or allergy sufferers)
  • Taste
  • Mixable with other foods
  • Easy to take
Disadvantages
  • Refrigeration required after opening
  • Unsuitable for travel

What distinguishes milk thistle seeds and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

Seeds are considered the best part of the plant with the most valuable ingredients. Milk thistle seeds are either crushed or ground whole and then either eaten pure, mixed with another food (e.g. muesli) or poured over water (tea).

The advantage of the seeds is certainly their natural form and therefore every vegan or vegetarian can be sure that they are not consuming animal products. The shelf life and their storage conditions are also clearly an advantage over a tonic.

The disadvantage is the rather laborious intake. Seeds have to be crushed or ground first, and those who want to take a tea also need boiling water. In addition, silymarin is not water-soluble. This means that the valuable active ingredient silymarin is hardly contained in teas. In addition, the tea does not taste very digestible and would have to be taken more often than one capsule.

Advantages
  • Easy storage
  • Vegan
  • Ensures the most valuable ingredients
  • Mixable with other foods as a powder
  • Suitable for animals
Disadvantages
  • Difficult to prepare
  • Use as a tea means hardly any silymarin present
  • Taste
  • Take more often

What are the advantages and disadvantages of milk thistle tablets?

Milk thistle tablets are an excellent everyday companion because they are handy and easy to take. The tablets / capsules are available either in screw-top jars with a supply for a course of one month to three months. Blister packs with individually packed tablets are also available.

Advantages of the tablets are the hygienic and easily transportable packaging and the simple dosing option. Disadvantages can arise at most in the capsule if it does not fit the selected diet or can trigger allergies. Swallowing the capsules can also be a disadvantage for certain people and animals.

Advantages
  • Easy storage
  • Easy to use and take
  • Ensuring the dosage amount
Disadvantages
  • Not safely vegan
  • Must be swallowed

What makes milk thistle leaves special and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

Milk thistle leaves and other components (except the seeds) of the plant can also be used as a tea. It must be said, however, that the ingredients of the rest of the plant never have the quality of the milk thistle fruit bodies, which is a clear disadvantage compared to the fruit bodies.

The advantage of milk thistle leaves is that they are relatively easy to collect in nature or to grow yourself. It is also easy to mix the active substances of milk thistle into the drinking water of animals.

Advantages
  • Easy storage
  • Can be collected
  • Simple DIY production
  • Vegan
  • Suitable for animals
Disadvantages
  • Difficult to prepare
  • Less active ingredients
  • Hardly any silymarin present
  • Taste
  • More frequent intake

Buying criteria: These are the factors you can use to compare and evaluate milk thistle

In the following, we will show you how you can make your choice regarding the right milk thistle product for you on the basis of various aspects.

The following criteria will help you make the right decision:

  • Dosage
  • Intake
  • Tolerance
  • Vegan

In the following paragraphs we will explain to you what exactly is important in the criteria.

Dosage

When using capsules, it can be ensured that the recommended dose is neither exceeded nor undercut. Either the dose is divided into one or two capsules per day. Tinctures can also specify exactly how much of the ingredients are to be taken per ml number.

With seeds, leaves and teas, on the other hand, it is impossible to give an exact dosage, as the untreated plants can have a different composition of ingredients.

Intake

The method of intake plays an important role for many people. Capsules are taken 1-2 times a day on an empty stomach with enough water, and swallowing is the decisive factor. Tinctures offer a suitable alternative, which usually also taste quite good.

Seeds, plant parts and leaves, on the other hand, are the most natural form of ingestion, but should - especially in the form of tea - be distributed throughout the day to reach the recommended dose. Depending on the taste, this can make it difficult to take.

Tolerance

In general, milk thistle is considered to be a very well-tolerated remedy with no side effects worth mentioning. Allergy sufferers (e.g. lactose, histamine, cornflower) must pay attention to the form of the product and its compatibility with their allergy.

While the form of the capsule, tablet and tonic is clearly specified and the choice is therefore limited, the allergy triggers can be clearly ruled out in the case of seeds and tea made from the plant parts. Except, of course, in the case of daisy allergy sufferers.

They must think carefully about whether they want to take the risk and if so, then better with a light variant by means of a tea.

Vegan

For vegetarians or those on a vegan diet, all forms of milk thistle preparations can be considered, although care must be taken as to how the capsule or tonic was produced. Seeds and plant parts do not play a decisive role, as they are 100% vegan.

Interesting facts about milk thistle

The history of milk thistle

The botanical name of the milk thistle contains the Greek word silybon or silybos, which means tassel. This alludes to the violet glowing spherical basket flower. Pliny and Dioscorides already mentioned a thistle-like medicinal plant with "silybum".

It was also recommended in Adam Lonitzer's herbal book (1679) as a remedy "good for the inflamed liver". Hildegard von Bingen called the plant "Carduus marianus". For the ancient Romans, "Carduus" referred to certain thistles and "marianus" means Mary.

The German name Mariendistel comes from an old legend. It says that the white stripes on the leaves come from the milk of the Virgin Mary.

But the milk thistle owes its current fame as a medicinal plant to the German doctor Johann Gottfried Rademacher (1772-1850). At that time, he was already using milk thistle to treat chronic liver and spleen disorders.

Milk Thistle Destination and Use

Milk thistle can be found mainly on dry, warm and rocky sites. It thrives on fallow land, roadsides and next to fields or railway tracks.

Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn" - as it is botanically called - is originally native to North Africa, Asia Minor, southern Russia and southern Europe. Today it is also found in Europe, North and South America as well as South Australia and New Zealand.

Characteristic of the milk thistle are its green-white marbled, pointed-toothed leaves and the purple, spherical flowers.

The milk thistle is characterised by its pointed, marbled leaves. (Image source: pixabay.com / perfectly)

Milk thistle flowers from July to August. After that, the fruits and seeds ripen. The seeds are harvested from August onwards, as soon as they are fully ripe. In order to use the seeds, they must first be completely dried.

Property Information
Botanical name Silybum marianum
Plant family Compositae
Other names Fever Thistle, Thunder Thistle, Saviour's Thistle, Christian Crown, Thunder Thistle, Fairy Thistle, Lady's Thistle
Sowing February to April
Flowering May to September
Harvest From the second year
Location Sunny location with humus-rich and well-drained soil
Use in medicine Liver complaints, bile flow disorders, alcohol abuse, travel sickness, indigestion, migraine, hepatits C
Use in the kitchen Oil as dressing, flowers as wild artichoke, leaves as salad

Milk thistle cultivation

Milk thistle is cultivated commercially for pharmaceutical use and for the manufacture of the milk thistle products mentioned above. Well-known European cultivation areas are mainly the Austrian Waldviertel and Westerwald in Germany. It is also grown commercially in Hungary, Poland and Romania.

For cultivation in your own garden, all you need is a sunny, humus-rich soil. You can sow milk thistle in a cold frame from March or directly outdoors from the beginning of May. Make sure that the rows in the garden are at least 50 cm apart, as the plant can grow up to 2 metres high.

If the plants are too close together, the stems of the plants can become too long and too thin and bend over in strong winds. The germination period is between 2 and 3 weeks.

The leaves are used in the kitchen as salad, the flowers as wild artichoke and the oil for dressings.

Picture source: pexels.com / pixabay

References (5)

1. Santosh K Katiyar. Silymarin and Skin Cancer Prevention: Anti-Inflammatory, Antioxidant and Immunomodulatory Effects (Review). Int J Oncol. Jan 2005; 26 (1), 169-76.
Source

2. Hamid Kalantari, Zahra Shahshahan, Sayed Mehdi Hejazi, Taghi Ghafghazi, Vahid Sebghatolahi. Effects of Silybum Marianum on Patients With Chronic Hepatitis C. J Res Med Sci. Mar 2011; 16 (3), 287-90.
Source

3. Fulvio Cacciapuoti, Anna Scognamiglio, Rossella Palumbo, Raffaele Forte, Federico Cacciapuoti. Silymarin in Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. World J Hepatol. 2013 Mar 27; 5 (3), 109-13.
Source

4. Reinhard Saller, Reto Brignoli, Jörg Melzer, Rémy Meier. An Updated Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis for the Clinical Evidence of Silymarin. Forsch Komplementmed. Feb 2008; 15 (1), 9-20.
Source

5. Elena J Ladas, David J Kroll, Nicholas H Oberlies, Bin Cheng, Deborah H Ndao, Susan R Rheingold, Kara M Kelly. Cancer. 2010 Jan 15; 116 (2), 506-13.
Source

Why you can trust me?

Wissenschaftliche Studie
Santosh K Katiyar. Silymarin and Skin Cancer Prevention: Anti-Inflammatory, Antioxidant and Immunomodulatory Effects (Review). Int J Oncol. Jan 2005; 26 (1), 169-76.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Hamid Kalantari, Zahra Shahshahan, Sayed Mehdi Hejazi, Taghi Ghafghazi, Vahid Sebghatolahi. Effects of Silybum Marianum on Patients With Chronic Hepatitis C. J Res Med Sci. Mar 2011; 16 (3), 287-90.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Fulvio Cacciapuoti, Anna Scognamiglio, Rossella Palumbo, Raffaele Forte, Federico Cacciapuoti. Silymarin in Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. World J Hepatol. 2013 Mar 27; 5 (3), 109-13.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Reinhard Saller, Reto Brignoli, Jörg Melzer, Rémy Meier. An Updated Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis for the Clinical Evidence of Silymarin. Forsch Komplementmed. Feb 2008; 15 (1), 9-20.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Elena J Ladas, David J Kroll, Nicholas H Oberlies, Bin Cheng, Deborah H Ndao, Susan R Rheingold, Kara M Kelly. Cancer. 2010 Jan 15; 116 (2), 506-13.
Go to source
Reviews