Milk thistle benefits include lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood sugar levels, improved liver and gall bladder function, natural relief from the symptoms of menopause and increased protection of the liver against toxins. Holy thistle, Mediterranean thistle, Marian thistle and silymarin are some of the other names used to refer to this herb that is a native plant of Europe. Silymarin is not only one of the names for the medicinal plant, is also is the name of what generally is believed to be the active ingredient found in milk thistle seeds. Other parts of the plant also are used in alternative medicine.
It must be remembered that some milk thistle benefits are not benefits for some people. For example, diabetics usually are advised not to ingest milk thistle tea, extract or any other form of the herb because of its ability to lower blood sugar levels. The estrogen-like effect that the plant has on the body is a property that might cause some loss of facial hair in males and the enlargement of the breasts. Females also are advised to be very careful when considering milk thistle benefits for themselves if they are suffering from health conditions such as endometriosis or breast, uterine or ovarian cancer, because the herb might aggravate these problems.
Cirrhosis of the liver, the various forms of hepatitis and mild liver damage are among the health conditions that have been affected during all-natural treatments designed to test milk thistle benefits. One important factor is that necessary changes in one's diet and lifestyle must be made to experience all of the benefits that the herb has to offer. For example, when treating cirrhosis, alcohol intake must cease. Protection of the liver, which can be damaged by prescription medications, is one of the most important benefits of the herb, because prevention of disease and damage to organs are preferable to having to try to cure a problem.
Other milk thistle benefits might actually be referred to as secondary health benefits, because as function of the liver is improved, other health problems that are caused by improper functioning of the organ also are improved or cured. Skin problems often are the result of a dirty or sluggish liver, and when it is cleansed, free of disease and stimulated to function properly, the ski problems usually begin to clear up within weeks of treatment. The common over-the-counter pain medicine acetaminophen can be toxic to the liver, possibly damaging it over a period of time. When milk thistle is taken just before or during pain treatment with acetaminophen, it is believed to serve somewhat as a buffer against the damage that the drug can do. Women suffering from symptoms associated with menopause, such as hot flashes, might turn to the benefits of milk thistle instead of chemical-based hormone treatments, but women who are pregnant or lactating are advised against ingesting this herb without the consent of a physician.