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How Do I Choose the Best Milk Thistle Supplement?

By Kristeen Moore
Updated Feb 09, 2024
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Milk thistle is a type of herb that is most commonly used to treat kidney and liver problems. Although the herb has existed for centuries, supplement forms continue to grow in popularity and are used as alternative treatment methods for various ailments. When considering a milk thistle supplement, it is important to know exactly for what you are taking it, and how much of the herb you should take. The supplements also come in a variety of forms, from tinctures to convenient capsules. You should stop taking a particular milk thistle supplement immediately if you experience any side effects.

Herbs are an integral part of alternative medicine, but certain types like milk thistle have been used for thousands of years. Milk thistle, or Silybum marianum, contains an active ingredient that is better known as silymarin. Some supplemental versions of the herb contain low percentages of silymarin, so it is important that you read all product labels carefully in advance.

When comparing milk thistle supplements, you will likely notice that some brands are specifically designed to help to treat specific ailments. Milk thistle is most commonly used as a part of a liver detoxification for diseases, such as hepatitis, or as a cure for excessive alcohol consumption. Some diabetics use milk thistle as a way to decrease their blood sugar levels, but patients should check with their doctors first. The herb is also sometimes used in order to prevent kidney problems and cancer, although there is conflicting evidence of its efficacy in curing any disease.

Another factor in determining the perfect milk thistle supplement is the way in which you prefer to take the herb. The most common supplements are in the form of capsules, but the herb can also be mixed with other ingredients. If you are looking for a straight milk thistle supplement, you might consider choosing either a liquid extract or a tincture. Teas are not commonly made from milk thistle because the hot water often reduces the efficacy of the herb’s active ingredients.

As with any type of supplement or medication, milk thistle does carry the risk of a few side effects, the most common being gastrointestinal ailments, such as nausea and diarrhea. If you are allergic to ragweed, then you might have a reaction to a milk thistle supplement because the herb is in the same type of family. Perhaps the most serious complications include changes in blood sugar levels, so you should use extra care if you are hypoglycemic and are taking prescription medications. You should call your doctor if you experience any side effects and stop taking any supplements immediately.

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