Milk thistle may be used by some people to manage endometriosis symptoms, but studies are inconclusive on whether it provides any real benefits.
Although medications such as progestins and oral contraceptives are the first-line treatment for endometriosis, they don’t successfully treat symptoms in about
Therefore, herbal and natural alternatives, such as milk thistle, continue to be investigated for their potential role in the long-term management of endometriosis symptoms.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a medicinal plant from the Asteraceae family, which also includes daisies and sunflowers. The plant has been used for thousands of years in traditional and herbal medicine systems around the world to treat various
The fruits and seeds of the plant — which contain silymarin, the active component of milk thistle — are crushed and used alone or in concoctions with other herbs.
Also called St. Mary’s thistle, holy thistle, Christ’s crown, and wild artichoke. Milk thistle is available over the counter as a dietary supplement in the form of capsules or liquid concentrates.
Read on to learn what science has to say about the safety and efficacy of using milk thistle to manage symptoms of endometriosis.
Here are some ways that milk thistle may help with endometriosis.
Lowers inflammation and pain
Endometriosis is now considered a
Animal research in
More research is needed on the effects of silymarin in humans living with endometriosis.
May reduce the growth of endometrial lesions
Milk thistle extracts are shown in animal research to
While symptoms from
Milk thistle is generally considered safe when taken by mouth.
It’s important to always check with a healthcare professional before starting a new supplement, especially if you take other medications.
In rare cases, people may report the following
Allergic reactions may also be seen in people with allergies to other plants in the Aster family, like daisies.
In addition, milk thistle is available over the counter as dietary supplements, many of which are not regulated by the
This means that, for some supplement brands, it’s not guaranteed that the ingredients listed on the label are actually found in specified amounts, which impacts the potential benefits of the product.
Choose supplements that have independent, third-party testing, and always check with your healthcare professional before taking a new supplement.
More well-designed clinical trials in humans are needed to determine the long-term health impacts of milk thistle use in the management of chronic, noncommunicable conditions such as endometriosis.
Does milk thistle increase estrogen?
Milk thistle is considered to be an
Who should not take milk thistle?
Given the lack of human research, some people should be cautious when taking milk thistle:
- persons with allergies to the Asteraceae plant family
- pregnant people
- persons with estrogen-sensitive conditions, such as some types of breast cancers
Endometriosis is a chronic, inflammatory condition marked by the growth of endometrial tissue outside of the uterus.
It’s associated, in some cases, with:
- endometrial lesions
- painful menstrual cycles
- liver dysfunction
The milk thistle plant contains a group of health-promoting flavonoids called silymarin, that may be effective in managing endometriosis by lowering inflammation, reducing the growth of endometrial lesions, and improving liver function.
However, research is inconclusive and study results vary on the effectiveness of milk thistle for managing endometriosis. Always discuss the benefits and risks with a healthcare professional before beginning any new supplements.