Often considered to be a wonder herb for liver health, milk thistle sure does have its share of side effects. Some of which you may not have expected.
Keep reading to know more.
Milk Thistle Side Effects
- Might Cause Abdominal Issues
- May Cause Allergic Reactions
- Can Interact With Estrogen
- Can Interact With Cholesterol Medication
- Might Lower Blood Sugar Way Too Much
- Can Have Interactions During Breastfeeding And Pregnancy
- Might Interact With Other Drugs
- Can Cause Weakness
1. Might Cause Abdominal Issues
Research states that milk thistle can cause certain abdominal problems like diarrhea, bloating, gas, and an upset stomach (1). Oral ingestion of milk thistle has also been linked to abdominal fullness (or abdominal pain), anorexia (a loss of appetite), and changes in bowel habits (2).
2. May Cause Allergic Reactions
Milk thistle can cause allergic reactions in people, especially in those individuals who are also allergic to ragweed, marigolds, daisies, and chrysanthemums (3).
Certain reports also state that milk thistle can cause skin rashes, hives, and eczema. Skin rashes from milk thistle are because of the IgE antibodies that elevate the skin histamine levels – thereby leading to the condition. As you ingest the herb, your immune system reacts to it as if it were dangerous – and builds a defense mechanism against the supplement.
If you develop any allergic reaction after taking milk thistle, stop use and consult your doctor.
3. Can Interact With Estrogen
Milk thistle is known to have several estrogen-like properties, and certain sources say that it might worsen a few health conditions (like endometriosis, where the endometrial tissue appears outside the uterus and causes pain) sensitive to estrogen.
Milk thistle might also decrease the hormone levels in the body. Taking it along with estrogen pills might reduce their effectiveness. Some of these estrogen pills include equine estrogens, ethinyl estradiol, estradiol, etc.
4. Can Interact With Cholesterol Medication
Milk thistle might interact with statin drugs, which are known to lower cholesterol levels (lipid-lowering). Some of these drugs include Mevacor, Lescol, Zocor, Pravachol, and Baycol. This happens because both milk thistle and these drugs are broken down by the same liver enzymes (4).
5. Might Lower Blood Sugar Way Too Much
Milk thistle is known to lower blood sugar levels. If you already are on blood sugar medication, ingesting the herb might lower your sugar levels way too much.
6. Can Have Interactions During Breastfeeding And Pregnancy
Though milk thistle has been historically used to improve the flow of breast milk – there is limited research in the modern times that speaks of the benefits of milk thistle during breastfeeding and pregnancy. Hence, stay safe and avoid use (5).
7. Might Interact With Other Drugs
Certain drugs are broken down in the liver, and milk thistle might decrease how quickly this happens. Taking milk thistle along with certain drugs and medications can increase their effects or even the side effects. Some of these drugs include:
Since milk thistle affects how well the liver breaks down these medications, it can affect how well these medications can work.
8. Can Cause Weakness
Certain individuals might also experience weakness after taking milk thistle. Other related symptoms include a tingling sensation in the muscles and muscle cramps.
Another case report from Australia had described the reactions to milk thistle extract that included sweating and weakness (6).
There is limited research on the side effects of milk thistle. A major part of the research says it can only do more good than harm. But do talk to your doctor once before you use this herb.
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Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
What is the daily upper limit for milk thistle?
Taking 420 mg of milk thistle a day (standardized to 70% silymarin) in divided doses is safe, for up to 41 months. Beyond that time frame, usage is not recommended – however, consult your doctor for the best advice.
Where to buy milk thistle?
You can buy milk thistle online in the supplement form. You might also get the herb at your nearest supermarket.
- “Milk thistle: Benefits and side effects”. WebMD.
- “Milk Thistle: Effects on liver disease and…”. National Center for Biotechnology Information.
- “Milk thistle”. Mayo Clinic.
- “Possible interactions with: Milk Thistle”. University of Maryland Medical Center.
- “Milk Thistle”. WebMD.
- “Milk Thistle”. US National Library of Medicine
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