Milk thistle is a popular liver “cleansing” remedy — often marketed as the silver bullet for hangovers. It comes from a prickly plant with distinctive purple flowers, belonging to the Asteraceae family (the same family as daisies and ragweed.)
While evidence for milk thistle’s detox properties is sparse, this herb has powerful antioxidant properties.
This article will answer your burning questions about milk thistle and review the 9 best milk thistle supplements you can get your hands on right now.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a tall, prickly plant native to the Mediterranean. It produces purple flowers and releases a milky sap when crushed – hence the name milk thistle.
Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine have used milk thistle for over 2000 years. In particular, the seeds were made into a tea and used to treat everything from liver and gallbladder issues to acne, diabetes, and even lactation problems. However, science does not support all these claims.
With that said, here’s our list of the best milk thistle supplements on the market.
When buying from this list, you can rest assured the products go through rigorous quality testing.
*Note: We do have affiliate links throughout this article, which means we receive a commission if you purchase from any of our links. This supports our mission to bring complicated health and fitness info into an entertaining package. And it keeps us from putting up annoying things like banner ads. Those suck.
With supplements, it’s not what you take, it’s what you absorb. This is otherwise known as bioavailability. Quicksilver’s milk thistle formula understands this.
For milk thistle, this is especially important, since it typically has poor bioavailability.
They use a liposomal form of milk thistle, which is a protective phospholipid bilayer that may help the milk thistle make it through the digestion system and get absorbed.
Quicksilver Scientific uses a liposomal form of milk thistle, a protective phospholipid bilayer that may help the milk thistle make it through the digestion system and get absorbed. This advanced delivery system is a game changer in fast-acting support for detoxification and digestion.
Each 2 mL of this product delivers 30 mg of milk thistle extract, highly standardized to 80% Silymarin. This potent concentration of active ingredient is designed to provide maximum benefit.
Quicksilver’s Liposomal Milk Thistle is dairy-free, gluten-free, Non-GMO, and tested allergen-free. It uses phospholipids from purified sunflower seed lecithin and does not contain gluten, ensuring a safe and clean product for all users.
The suggested use is to take 1-4 pumps by mouth, hold in mouth 30 seconds before swallowing. They recommend to take it on an empty stomach, at least 10 minutes before meals.
For its superior bioavailability and quality, Quicksilver’s Liposomal Milk Thistle is our #1 pick.
Whether you want a 25-gram bag of milk thistle powder or 1.5 kilograms, Pure Bulk has lots of affordable options.
Each serving of powder provides 250 mg of pure milk thistle extract, standardized for 80% of silymarin (the active compounds used in research studies).
Powder eliminates the need for nasty fillers, additives, and excessive packaging. It’s ideal for adding to smoothies and protein shakes or for making your own capsules. It’s also free from sugar, soy, dairy, yeast, gluten, and corn – perfect for anyone with food intolerances.
Pure Bulk is cGMP compliant and third-party tested by an accredited laboratory. Certificates of Analysis (COA) are available on request.
Life Extension Advanced Milk Thistle uses an advanced phospholipid delivery system to enhance bioavailability.
Binding active silymarin to phosphatidylcholine creates a fatty complex called a phytosome. This is more absorbable than regular milk thistle extract.
Each 2-capsule serving provides:
Unlike the previous options on our list, these are milk thistle capsules. Actually, they’re softgels, which may support the absorption.
Thorne Siliphos is a bioavailable milk thistle formula, providing 180 mg of phospholipid-bound silybin per capsule.
Silybin is one of the most bioactive flavonoids in milk thistle – it makes up roughly 50%-70% of silymarin. Plus, silybin bound to phospholipids is associated with improvements in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Thorne Research supplements go through meticulous testing in their third-party, cGMP-certified facility. They are also the first U.S. supplement company to be TGA Certified by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration – among the strictest regulatory bodies in the world.
NOW Foods has been making high-quality supplements according to cGMP standards since 1968.
Their Milk Thistle Extract is a capsule-based blend of synergistic herbs designed to improve liver, kidney, gallbladder, and digestive health.
Each double-strength capsule contains:
NOW offers this product in bottles of 50, 100, or 200 capsules. It’s gluten-free, vegetarian, non-GMO, halal, and kosher.
Thorne Research S.A.T stands for Silymarin, Artichoke, and Turmeric. It’s a liver and gallbladder supplement and uses phytosome technology to enhance bioavailability.
Each capsule contains 150 mg of milk thistle extract (as Siliphos), 150 mg of artichoke extract, and 150 mg of curcumin from turmeric extract (as Meriva).
Both milk thistle and curcumin are bound to phospholipids to increase absorption.
California Gold Nutrition Silymarin Complex is an anti-inflammatory liver support formula. Each capsule offers 300 mg of milk thistle seed extract standardized to 80% silymarin.
In addition, it contains:
BioPerine is a patented form of black pepper extract known to improve the bioavailability of herbal extracts like turmeric.
This supplement is vegan-friendly and free from gluten, GMOs, and soy.
Codeage Clear Face Vitamins is a multi-ingredient skin health formula for men and women.
This whole-food formula contains milk thistle seed extract in conjunction with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory herbs, vitamins, and minerals. This includes but isn’t limited to vitamins A, C, D3, E, B-vitamins, zinc, selenium, copper, matcha green tea, spirulina, probiotics, and vegan omega-3s.
It’s not a pure milk thistle supplement, but it’s ideal for those wanting a comprehensive nutritional formula that covers all the bases.
Codeage produces scientifically backed anti-aging supplements according to GMP standards.
We ranked what we believe are the best milk thistle supplements available. But we want you to know how we ranked them so you can make the best decisions for your needs.
Here are the factors we took into consideration when finding reputable supplements.
The FDA doesn’t regulate the supplement industry. Unfortunately, unscrupulous companies take advantage of this.
We side-step dodgy companies by prioritizing products with strict third-party testing. In addition, all the products are made according to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) regulations.
We ensure all the products contain standardized levels of milk thistle’s active compound, silymarin.
We also listed products containing additional ingredients to enhance the effects – this is the case with NOW Milk Thistle, Thorne Research S.A.T, and California Gold Silymarin Complex.
We looked for companies that understand the importance of bioavailability. Several supplements bind milk thistle extract to phospholipids to increase absorption.
In addition, California Gold Silymarin contains BioPerine, a black pepper extract that may improve the bioavailability of certain herbal extracts.
There is no specific dosage for milk thistle, but most studies use between 140-600 mg of standardized milk thistle extract.
We’ve listed supplements that allow you to get a therapeutic dose and the freedom to modify your dose.
We believe a healthy lifestyle shouldn’t be a financial burden. The products on this list are high-quality and affordable.
The active ingredient in milk thistle is a group of plant compounds collectively known as silymarin, the collective name for a family of flavonoids found in the fruit and seeds – silybin, isosilybin, silydianin, and silychristin. These compounds are known for their antioxidant, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s the silymarin extracted from milk thistle that gives the supplement its potential health benefits.
Research suggests silymarin increases the body’s antioxidant capabilities and lowers inflammatory markers. It may boost the activity of the master antioxidant glutathione peroxidase.
Your liver depends on antioxidants like glutathione to detoxify and neutralize toxic metabolites and free radicals. Silymarin’s glutathione-boosting properties make it a huge asset to a healthy liver.
You may see milk thistle as an ingredient in various liver detox and liver cleanse products. Unfortunately, the evidence doesn’t back milk thistle as a magical hangover cure. Disappointing, I know…
Will it support healthy liver function? The answer is maybe. Will it heal liver damage? Again, the scientific jury is still out.
However, as we’ll talk about, the purple flower doesn’t have many side effects, so it may be worth a shot.
Milk thistle extract may support blood sugar regulation in people with diabetes.
But don’t drop your diabetes medication in favor of milk thistle. In the above studies, patients took their medication alongside milk thistle.
Milk thistle is NOT approved to for any diseases, and while there’s some research on cirrhosis and hepatitis, this research is early and unconvincing.
Botanists suggest milk thistle gets its name from the milky liquid in the leaves. But traditional herbalists believe it’s because the herb enhances breast milk production.
A small study found that 420 mg of Silymarin daily improved milk production in 50 breastfeeding women.
Research on the safety of milk thistle when breastfeeding is limited. Talk to your doctor before taking any new supplement.
However, we need more high-quality studies to give a definitive answer.
There is no clinical research to suggest milk thistle as a cancer treatment.
However, in vitro studies have found it may inhibit human prostate, skin, breast, colon, ovarian, and cervical cancer cell growth.
It may also protect the liver against chemotherapy-induced toxicity.
If you’re allergic to the Asteraceae/Compositae family of plants, which includes ragweed, then you may have an allergic reaction. Aside from that, milk thistle is well-tolerated. The only other common side effect is minor GI distress.
Acne is an inflammatory skin condition aggravated by free radicals. So, it stands to reason that an anti-inflammatory herb like milk thistle may be soothing.
Interestingly, this small study found silymarin – used in conjunction with other antioxidants N-acetylcysteine and selenium – improved acne by 53%. Since milk thistle wasn’t the sole ingredient, it’s hard to determine its efficacy. But it’s worth a try.
Using it with a whole food diet, adequate water intake, and a healthy exercise regime will likely yield the best results.
There’s no good evidence to support milk thistle and weight loss. So no, the answer is no.
A common dosage range for milk thistle is between 150 to 375 milligrams per day. However, this varies on the product. For example, with Quicksilver Scientific, the improved absorption means you might not need to take as much.
Your dose also varies based on factors like your body weight, metabolism, and more. Before starting any new supplement regimen, chat with your healthcare provider to determine the dose that’s right for you.
When taken at the recommended dose, milk is well-tolerated by most people. Some people may experience mild gastrointestinal symptoms or headaches, but these are rare and usually the result of an excessive dose.
Always speak to your healthcare provider before taking a new supplement, especially if you are pregnant or taking chronic medication.
While we already have a good understanding of the potential benefits of milk thistle, there’s still much to explore. For instance, we need more high-quality research to determine the best dose for different goals. Additionally, researchers are looking to explore the potential of milk thistle in areas such as neuroprotection and cancer treatment.
Who knows if these will pan out. With a dietary supplement and other herbal supplements, a common problem is funding because pharmaceutical companies don’t have the financial incentive for them to succeed. Avoiding a complex discussion of a complicated industry, this means that research on things like milk thistle is often hard to fund.