Milk Thistle: An Herb That Stops Cancer and Cures Hangovers!

Does Mother Nature Have a Remedy for the Hangover? 

Alcolohism has been with us for ages, and we’ve been figuring out ways to treat it way longer than we’ve had AA.

For centuries milk thistle has been used in home remedies to treat diseased livers of all varieties.  For the last twenty years different clinical trials have been conducted to contrast perception with reality.

The overall result?

Milk thistle seems to have a few components in it that act as superfoods for the liver to fuel its various metabolic functions.

And that’s not all it does for your body……

Milk Thistle
Mother Nature's Remedy for the Hangover

Health Benefits of Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle’s health benefits to the liver are widespread. Various clinical trials have shown that it helps with the following ailments:

  • liver cirrhosis
  • hepatitis C
  • ethanol metabolism (ie, getting alcohol out of your system)
  • reduces oxidative stress

Milk Thistle also has powerful chemopreventive properties. It’s two active compounds silymarin and silibinin are powerful antioxidants that have been shown to have a remarkable ability to reverse cancererous cell growth in the following tissues:

  • skin
  • cervix
  • prostate
  • breast

Neato burrito. Sounds like good stuff, right?

Well, that’s because it is!

Sometimes folk tales are bunk and nothing but shallow mysticism. However, sometimes they contain a lot of wisdom because they’re the result of lots of trial and error experimentation.

I’d venture this is the case with Milk Thistle, since most of its publicized health benefits have more or less been clinically verified.

Milk Thistle and the Liver

As I stated before, Milk Thistle is perhaps the liver’s most potent super nutrient. It has a remarkable ability to aid in seemingly all of its vital functions, and so far no there have been no adverse side effects observed with continual consumption of Milk Thistle.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is an infectious disease that’s the leading cause of liver induced morbidity in the world. Its traditional drug treatments are with the substances Ribavarin and interferon therapy, but these are expensive and often associated with a variety of nasty side effects.

Some of the evidence with Milk Thistle and hepatitis C is mixed, but there are a few ace clinical studies that have shown it improves almost all components of patient well being. One of the better examples is a randomized, placebo controlled study conducted in Iran that treated 100 patients with Milk Thistle extract for 6 months.

The patients had acute Hepatitis C, and the majority of the patients treated with the extract showed widespread subjective and measured metabolic improvements compared with the placebo group.


A similar story exists with liver cirrhosis. Particularly cirrhosis induced by alcoholism. Acute cirrhosis is typically pretty brutal, but treatment with Milk Thistle consistently leads to patients reporting improved subjective conditions, even when there’s no measurable improvement in traditional markers of liver health.

Milk Thistle and hangovers
The Hangover might have gone differently if they had taken some Milk Thistle!

Milk Thistle and Hangovers

Excessive alcoholic consumption leaves an icky residue of stress-inducing compounds pumping through your liver.

To varying degrees, Milk Thistle has shown to push back all of them. Even when  you hit the bottle hard.

After you get drunk your liver has to start working overtime to process the extra ethanol sitting in its chambers, and compounds like Glutathione (GSH), glutathione reductase (GSR), and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) are leftover as a result. These chemicals are all “free radicals” that start to scavenge the guts of your liver cells if they’re allowed to sit around long enough.

For reasons that aren’t entirely understood, Milk Thistle reduces the liver’s need to produce these chemicals when metabolizing alcohol, and allows the liver to leave more of the “good” compounds around like superoxide dismutase (SOD).

Keep that in mind the next time you get hammered.

Milk Thistle Flower

Milk Thistle and Cancer Prevention

In addition to its superfood like effects on the liver, Milk Thistle can also halt the cell growth of a few different types of cancer.  Most notably:

  • skin cancer
  • prostate cancer
  • breast cancer
  • cervical cancer

The strongest evidence exists for prostate cancer, where the tumor suppressing effects of Milk Thistle appear to be fairly robust.

The evidence for the other three types is a bit more mixed.

How does Milk Thistle achieve these effects?

In a variety of ways, some of which are very similar to how milk thistle protects the liver from oxidative stress. Milk thistle helps the body naturally express compounds called ligands that halt the progression of cancer cells, and it may also cause cells to produce more rRNA, which promotes normal cell growth and protects your DNA from oxidative stress.

Milk thistle in general seems to be a metabolic laxative that smoothes over various rough edges in cell replication cycles that result from dietary abuse.

That’s like really cool.

Milk Thistle Supplements

I’m not aware of any common recipes that contain Milk Thistle.  It’s not very flavorful, apparently.

So if you want to take some, you’ll probably have to take a supplement.

To be honest, I’m not sure of any differences in absorbance/availibility of the different forms of Milk Thistle.

Most of the studies I’ve read where milk thistle has had an observable impact involves taking an extract, so perhaps digesting it in liquid form is a plus. But this is entirely conjecture on my part.


Hamid, Kalantari, et. al. “Effects of Silybum Marianum on Patients With Chronic Hepatitis C” Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. March 2011. Pgs 287-290.


Sangmin Kim, et al. “Silibinin Suppresses EGFR Ligand-induced CD44 Expression through Inhibition of EGFR Activity in Breast Cancer Cells” Anticancer Res November 2011 31 (11) 3767-3773


Tyagi, Alpna, et al. “Silibinin Impairs Constitutively Active TGF?-EGFR Autocrine Loop in Advanced Human Prostate Carcinoma Cells” Pharmaceutical Research. September 2008. Pgs 2143-2150


El Kamary, Samer, et al. “A Randomized Controlled Trial to Assess the Safety and Efficacy of Silymarin on Symptoms, Signs and Biomarkers of Acute Hepatitis” Phytomedicine. May 2009. Pgs 391-400.

Naheer, Bhatia, et al. “Inhibition of human carcinoma cell growth and DNA synthesis by silibinin, an active constituent of milk thistle: comparison with silymarin” Cancer Letters. July 1999. Pgs 77-84.


Davis-Seares, Paula et al. “Milk Thistle and Prostate Cancer: Differential Effects of Pure Flavonolignans from Silybum marianum on Antiproliferative End Points in Human Prostate Carcinoma Cells” Cancer Research. May 2005. Pgs. 4448-4457.


Kumar Das, Subir et. al. “Protective Effects of Silymarin Derivative on Ethanol-Induced Oxidative Stress in liver.” Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics. July 2006. Pgs 306-311.


Ferenci P. et. al. “Randomized Controlled Trial of Silymarin Treatment in Patients with Cirrhosis in Liver” Journal of Hepatology. Pgs 105-113.


Katiyar, SK. “Silymarin and Skin Cancer Prevention: Anti-Inflammatory, Antioxidant, and Immunomodulatory Effects”


Katiyar, SK.  “Protective Effects of Silymarin Against Photocarcinogenesis in a Mouse Skin Model” JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst (1997) 89(8): 556-565 doi:10.1093/jnci/89.8.556


Wellington, Keri, et. al. “Silymarin: A Review of its Clinical Properties in the Management of Hepatic Disorders”  Drug Evaluation. Fall 2001. Pgs 465-489.


Zi Xiaolin, et al. “Novel Cancer Chemopreventive Effects of a Flavonoid AntioxidantSilymarin: Inhibition of mRNA Expression of an Endogenous Tumor Promoter TNF?” Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. October 1997. Pgs 334-339.


6 thoughts on “Milk Thistle: An Herb That Stops Cancer and Cures Hangovers!”

  1. You mention that Glutathione is a free radical. It is not, in fact it is an antioxidant which prevents free radical damage. Milk thistle is thought to help maintain levels of Glutathione.
    In fact, the alcolohism preventor, Anabuse, blocks the bodys production of Glutathione to create massive hangovers!


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