Milk thistle is probably one of the most popular liver support supplements out there, and — frankly speaking — an overrated one.

Here’s why we think you may need to look for an alternative, and why we don’t sell milk thistle to our clients.

What is Milk Thistle?

Put simply, milk thistle is a herb. A plant that grows naturally in the Mediterranean region. 

It’s not milk thistle itself that is responsible for all the hassle it generates: it’s the active substance, called silymarin, found exclusively in milk thistle.[1]

Silymarin itself is not a «thing» itself. Just like Estrogen is a collective term for a family of female sex hormones, like Estradiol and Estrone, silymarin is a complex structure. It contains:

  • Silybin A and B;
  • Isosilybin A and B;
  • Silychristin;
  • Neosilyhermin;
  • Silyhermin;
  • Silydianin. 

Not even mentioning the whole spectrum of other flavonoids in milk thistle, but you get the point: it’s a complex thing, not just a one-component drug, like UDCA or NAC. 

Milk Thistle’s Supposed Benefits

This is where we need to separate the facts from the aura of a panacea. Anecdotally, Milk Thistle is capable of: 

  • Clearing mind fog;
  • Improving sleep patterns;
  • Eliminating depression and anxiety;
  • Resolving gallbladder issues;
  • Skin condition improving;
  • Stopping chronic cough.

It’s all just anecdotal, spread over the Internet in baseless claims. What does science say? Milk thistle is currently studied as:

  • Treatment for heart diseases;
  • Cure for chronic lung health issues;
  • Industrial toxins blocker;
  • Cure for hepatitis A and B;
  • Thyroid health improvement supplement.

It would be easier to list some things that milk thistle is NOT capable of. It’s a true wonder-drug, a one-size-fits-all magic bullet solution for all your health concerns. Including — of course — liver support on oral anabolic steroid cycle. 

So, where’s the catch? 

According to multiple meta-analysis reviews, milk thistle and silymarin are overrated. 

  1. For example, in this 2007 study, it was concluded that of ALL research papers that represented milk thistle in a positive light, just 28,6% had decent methodology used. So of 1088 studies on milk thistle, we can seriously look at just about 300. Spoiler: they’re contradicting each other as well [2];
  2. Another study from 2002 concluded that real data from human trials is limited and not conclusive enough to make any statements on milk thistle’s effectiveness (enough to say that it’s safe, though). [3];
  3. Even the US National Center For Complementary and Alternative Medicine official stance on Milk Thistle is «conflicting» and «not clinically meaningful». In other words — just as we said before — overrated. 

In comparative analysis, Milk Thistle lost a “fight” in terms of effectiveness to Liv52 — an ayurvedic medicine, a wild mix of herbs and substances like iron oxide nano-sized particles, that actually is more beneficial for your liver than the plant we’re talking about [4].

What are the REAL Benefits of Milk Thistle?

So far, it looks like we’re crushing hard on milk thistle for no apparent reason in a myth-busting way. It’s not the purpose though. We need it to bring the expectations down to earth and counter all the hype around the supplement. The reality, at least the things we know, is much less impressive: 

  • Milk thistle actually lowers blood sugar, which is beneficial for people with diabetes;
  • Some of milk thistle’s components may cause anti-inflammatory effects, overall beneficial to liver health. 

And… that’s it. In all other aspects — it’s either «inconclusive» or «insufficient». 

Does it mean that you should avoid milk thistle by all means? Hell no. If you BELIEVE in its effects, maybe it’ll act as a placebo. Maybe your personal response to all the silymarin’s components will result in actual improvements. And after all, anti-inflammatory effects may make a difference in the way your liver survives the oral steroid cycle. 

The Conclusion

Like all supplements, milk thistle should NEVER be your only compound for the purpose. Want to try milk thistle for liver support? Great! Add some actual medicine on top: 

  • NAC;
  • UDCA;
  • TUDCA (though it’s also labeled as a supplement in Canada).

Only in this case you’re good to go and can proceed with experiments. Do not rely solely on herbs.

MIlk thistle for liver support — how effective it really is? Cheat sheet


  1. WebMD Milk Thistle: Benefits and Side Effects [];
  2.  Milk thistle for alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C virus liver diseases [];
  3. Milk thistle for the treatment of liver disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis [];