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8 Best Milk Thistle Supplements (2022) Reviewed and Compared

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Milk thistle is a popular liver “cleansing” remedy — often marketed as the silver bullet for hangovers.

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.

But first…

What is Milk Thistle?

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.

The Health Benefits of Milk Thistle

Most of the research on milk thistle has been around silymarin, the collective name for a family of flavonoids found in the fruit and seeds – silybin, isosilybin, silydianin, and silychristin.

Research suggests silymarin increases the body’s antioxidant capabilities and lowers inflammatory markers. It may boost the activity of the master antioxidant glutathione peroxidase (find out more about the benefits of glutathione here).

May Support Live Health

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.

Unfortunately, the evidence doesn’t back milk thistle as a magical hangover cure. Disappointing, I know…

But limited studies have found it may improve symptoms of chronic liver disease and even reduce elevated liver enzymes.

May Regulate Blood Sugar Levels

Milk thistle extract may support blood sugar regulation in people with diabetes.

This study of type-2 diabetics found that 600 mg of silymarin daily for four months improved short and long-term blood sugar control. A 2016 meta-analysis further confirmed these results.

But don’t drop your diabetes medication in favor of milk thistle. In the above studies, patients took their medication alongside milk thistle.

9 Best Milk Thistle Supplements

With that said, here’s our list of the 9 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.

1) Pure Bulk Milk Thistle Powder

bulk milk thistle extract

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Pure Bulk Milk Thistle Powder makes the top spot for quality, affordability, and convenience. 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.

2) Micro Ingredients Milk Thistle Powder

 

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Micro Ingredients manufacture pure nutritional powders free from additives, preservatives, fillers, GMOs, soy, and gluten. Their powders allow you to adjust your dose as needed and are often easier to absorb.

Micro Ingredients Milk Thistle Powder is USDA organic and standardized for 80% silymarin. Each bag provides 400 250 mg servings for just $22.74.

3) Life Extension Advanced Milk Thistle

 

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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:

  • 760 mg of a proprietary phospholipid blend of milk thistle extract containing 480 mg of silymarin
  • 160 mg of Siliphos, a phospholipid-bound milk thistle extract providing 47.52 mg of silybin

4) Thorne Research Siliphos

 

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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.

5) NOW Double-Strength Milk Thistle Extract

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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:

  • 300 mg of milk thistle extract (providing 240 mg silymarin)
  • 100 mg of dandelion extract
  • 50 mg of artichoke root

NOW offers this product in bottles of 50, 100, or 200 capsules. It’s gluten-free, vegetarian, non-GMO, halal, and kosher.

6) Thorne Research S.A.T

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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.

7) California Gold Silymarin Complex

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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:

  • 100 mg of dandelion extract
  • 50 mg of artichoke extract
  • 25 mg of turmeric extract,
  • 25 mg of ginger powder
  • 5 mg of BioPerine

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.

8) Codeage Clear Face Vitamins

codeage clearface vitamins

 

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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.

How We Ranked

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.

Strict Testing Standards

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.

Ingredients

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.

Bioavailability

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.

Dosage

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.

Value

We believe a healthy lifestyle shouldn’t be a financial burden. The products on this list are high-quality and affordable.

FAQ

Does Milk Thistle Improve Lactation?

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.

Can Milk Thistle Improve Cholesterol Levels?

Animal and human studies have shown that milk thistle may support heart health by lowering total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and triglyceride levels.

However, we need more high-quality studies to give a definitive answer.

Does Milk Thistle Have Anti-Cancer Properties?

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.

Can Milk Thistle Reduce Acne?

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.

Does Milk Thistle Have Any Side Effects?

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 doctor before taking a new supplement, especially if you are pregnant or taking chronic medication.

About the Author

Katherine is a South African-born nutritionist, freelance wellness writer, and rooibos tea enthusiast (iykyk). When she's not researching new "biohacking" trends and writing for her clients, you'll find Katherine swimming at a local Cape Town beach or practicing breathwork at any opportunity.

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