Milk Thistle Is Highly Beneficial For Osteoporosis And Overall Health - Save Our Bones

A healthy liver is critical in the battle against bone loss. That’s because the main cause of reduced bone mass is the acidification of the body. When your pH balance is too acidic, the body saps minerals from your bones. The liver plays an important role in the maintenance of an alkaline pH because it filters out acidifying toxins.

Since taking care of your liver is essential for protecting your bones, today we’ll look at a powerful liver-boosting compound derived from a flowering plant: milk thistle.

Milk Thistle And Silymarin

Milk thistle is a spiky-leafed plant native to Southern Europe and Asia that has since spread throughout the world. It has long been used as a medicinal or therapeutic treatment for dyspepsia and liver conditions. You would likely recognize it for its bright purple-pink flower, blooming above a bud of thorns.

Silymarin is the active compound found in milk thistle that makes it an effective therapy. The active molecular compound in silymarin is called silybin or silibinin, and it has wide-ranging health effects. Let’s have a look at the many benefits of milk thistle.

1. Liver Protection

We can’t survive without the filtering action of the liver to protect us from the deleterious effects of toxins. Liver disease and cirrhosis are both deadly conditions, but even in people with diseased livers, milk thistle can generate improvement.1

Silymarin has been shown to trigger liver cell regeneration, an increase in liver enzymes, and healthier liver tissue. It also increases glutathione levels, the Master Antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the ravages of oxidation.2

Not only does this liver protection keep your whole body running smoothly, but it helps your bones to resist fracture by supporting your liver’s detoxifying action.

2. Fat Cell Inhibition

The silibinin in milk thistle has been shown to inhibit fat cell differentiation (adipogenesis) in lab cultures. This makes it a potential tool for reducing the production of body fat. Regulation of adipogenesis helps to avoid metabolic diseases and obesity.3

3. Antioxidant Boost

Clinical studies have shown that silymarin supplementation increases antioxidant levels in people with Type 2 diabetes. A 2015 study reported no adverse effects from silymarin supplementation, but recorded significantly increased levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD), activity of glutathione peroxidase (both are powerful antioxidant enzymes), and total antioxidant capacity compared to patients taking a placebo.4

Antioxidants protect cells from oxidative damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS), also known as free-radicals. An increase in antioxidants results in reduced inflammation and increased functionality in the liver and across several bodily systems.

4. Protection From Chemicals And Toxins

No matter how careful you are, in the modern world, you will inevitably come into contact with chemicals and toxins in food, water, and everyday household products, such as dryer sheets. Milk thistle has been shown to protect against toxicity, and even reverse hepatotoxic effects of the toxin microcystin-LR.5

Researchers who conducted a meta-analysis on the effects of silymarin found that liver-related mortality rates in patients with liver cirrhosis were 7% lower with the supplementation of silymarin than with a placebo.6

5. Heart Protection

The cardio-protective qualities of milk thistle extract have been demonstrated in human clinical studies7

In a study on mice, milk thistle was found to protect the muscle cells in the heart (cardiac myocytes) from injury caused by isoprenaline, a medication used for the treatment of slow heart rate.8

6. Anti-Infective Effects

Silibinin has been used to improve the condition of people with the Hepatitis-C virus who did not respond to treatments, and with liver disease, viral infections, and liver damage from poisonous mushrooms.9,10,11

In animal studies, silymarin has even been shown to have positive effects against influenza A virus, MRSA in combination with antibiotics, and E.coli. 12,13,14

7. Anti-Diabetic Effects

A 1997 study found that treatment with silymarin significantly decreased insulin resistance, thereby reducing the need for insulin administration in cirrhotic diabetic patients. It also reduced markers of oxidative stress, harkening back to its anti-oxidative properties. These results mean a lower insulin requirement, easing a potentially exhausting insulin injection schedule.15

A reduction in oxidative stress and improved management of blood glucose levels is a great outcome, whether you have diabetes or not.

8. Neuroprotective Qualities

Silibinin has also been shown to reduce memory impairment and learning difficulties caused by lipopolysaccharide-induced brain inflammation in rats. Silibinin activated neurochemical pathways and suppressed the inflammatory response. These studies suggest that silibinin could be used to fight neurodegenerative diseases.16

9. Osteoporosis Benefits

In mice who were recovering from a tibial fracture, silymarin supplementation increased bone mineral density and levels of osteocalcin, a non-collagenous bone matrix protein synthesized by osteoblasts that’s linked to bone formation. Silibin’s powerful antioxidant and anti-hepatotoxic properties contribute to its osteoprotective effects.17

Additionally, silibinin promotes the formation of osteoblasts, leading to more bone deposition, and it slows down bone resorption, resulting in increased bone density.18

In a 2013 study, ovariectomized mice were given a silymarin-rich milk thistle extract. Researchers found that the supplement inhibited femoral bone loss induced by the ovariectomy, and increased femoral bone mineral density.19

These results reveal milk thistle to be a proven tool for building stronger bones.


Protecting heart muscle, rebuilding liver cells, and increasing bone mineral density: the silymarin in milk thistle has a bevy of health benefits.

Food Sources Of Silymarin

Like any phytonutrient, you can get silymarin from food sources. It shouldn’t be surprising that the best source of silymarin is milk thistle. The seeds of the plant contain the greatest concentration, but they aren’t readily available as a grocery item.

Wild artichokes are related to the thistle plant, and also contain decent amounts of silymarin. In fact, silymarin is why artichokes are excellent antioxidants. Be aware that Jerusalem artichokes are a different type of plant and do not contain silymarin at all.

Turmeric root and coriander seeds and leaves also contain silymarin. You can include these spices in many dishes (they’re common in many cuisines) for a little boost of silymarin, but ultimately they won’t provide much.

There are trace amounts of silymarin in:

*Indicates Foundation Food

These are all great foods to include in your diet, but unless you have a thistle garden in your backyard, your best bet for harvesting the benefits of silymarin is to take a supplement.

Harvest The Benefits Of Milk Thistle

Supplements are usually, and ideally, in the form of milk thistle extract. It’s the seeds that are used for the extraction. Look for a supplement with a high percentage of silymarin (around 80%), and buy from a known manufacturer whose word you trust.

The Save Institute recommends a base dosage of 200 mg per day. Doses 10 times greater than that have been shown safe and well tolerated, but less than 200mg most likely wouldn’t confer the benefits observed in the studies cited above.

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When you provide your body with natural compounds instead of synthetic drugs, it uses them to stay strong and healthy, so that you can enjoy a fuller, happier life!

Till next time,


1 Newaz Hossain, et al. “A Comprehensive Updated Review of Pharmaceutical and Non-pharmaceutical Treatment for NAFL.” Gastroenterol Res Pract. 2016; 2016: 7109270. Web. /

2 Lucena MI, et al. “Effects of silymarin MZ-80 on oxidative stress in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis. Results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study” Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2002 Jan;40(1):2-8. Web.

3 Ka SO, et al. “Silibinin attenuates adipogenesis in 3T3-L1 preadipocytes through a potential upregulation of the insig pathway” Int J Mol Med. 2009 May;23(5):633-7. Web.

4 Ebrahimpour Koujan S, et al. “Effects of Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn. (silymarin) extract supplementation on antioxidant status and hs-CRP in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial” Phytomedicine. 2015 Feb 15;22(2):290-6. Web.

5 Jayaraj R, et al. “Hepatoprotective efficacy of certain flavonoids against microcystin induced toxicity in mice” Environ Toxicol. 2007 Oct;22(5):472-9. Web.

6 Saller R, et al. “An updated systematic review with meta-analysis for the clinical evidence of silymarin” Forsch Komplementmed. 2008 Feb;15(1):9-20. Web.

7 Kumaraguruparan Ramasamy, et al. “Multitargeted therapy of cancer by silymarin.”Cancer Lett. 2008 Oct 8; 269(2): 352–362. Web.

8 Zhou B, et al. “Protective effect of silibinin against isoproterenol-induced injury to cardiac myocytes and its mechanism.” Yao Xue Xue Bao. 2007 Mar;42(3):263-8. Web.

9 Ferenci P., et al. “Silibinin is a potent antiviral agent in patients with chronic hepatitis C not responding to pegylated interferon/ribavirin therapy.” Gastroenterology. 2008 Nov;135(5):1561-7. Web.

10 Freedman ND., et al. “Silymarin use and liver disease progression in the Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment against Cirrhosis trial.” Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011 Jan;33(1):127-37. Web.

11 Hruby K., et al. “Chemotherapy of Amanita phalloides poisoning with intravenous silibinin.” Hum Toxicol. 1983 Apr;2(2):183-95. Web.

12 Dayanne Rakelly de Oliveira, et al. “In Vitro Antimicrobial and Modulatory Activity of the Natural Products Silymarin and Silibinin.” BioMed Research International. Volume 2015, Article ID 292797, 7 pages. Web.

13 Kang HK., et al. “Synergistic effects between silibinin and antibiotics on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus isolated from clinical specimens.” Biotechnol J. 2011 Nov;6(11):1397-408. Web.

14 Dai JP., et al. “Identification of 23-(s)-2-amino-3-phenylpropanoyl-silybin as an antiviral agent for influenza A virus infection in vitro and in vivo. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2013 Sep;57(9):4433-43. Web.

15 Velussi M., et al. “Long-term (12 months) treatment with an anti-oxidant drug (silymarin) is effective on hyperinsulinemia, exogenous insulin need and malondialdehyde levels in cirrhotic diabetic patients.” J Hepatol. 1997 Apr;26(4):871-9. Web.

16 Song X., et al. “Protective Effect of Silibinin on Learning and Memory Impairment in LPS-Treated Rats via ROS-BDNF-TrkB Pathway.” Neurochem Res. 2016 Jul;41(7):1662-72. Web.

17 Mohd Fozi NF,. et al. “Milk thistle: a future potential anti-osteoporotic and fracture healing agent.” Curr Drug Targets. 2013 Dec;14(14):1659-66. Web.

18 Kim JL., et al. “Osteoblastogenesis and osteoprotection enhanced by flavonolignan silibinin in osteoblasts and osteoclasts.” J Cell Biochem. 2012 Jan;113(1):247-59. Web.

19 Kim JL., et al. “Antiosteoclastic activity of milk thistle extract after ovariectomy to suppress estrogen deficiency-induced osteoporosis.” Biomed Res Int. 2013;2013:919374. Web.

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Comments on this article are closed.

  1. Ita Fitzgerald

    Thank you, Ita.

  2. Andrea Shemmings

    I am confused about the fact that milk thistle is said to slow down bone resorption when this is seen as a negative effect of conventional osteoporosis drugs (which I stopped immediately after finding this site by the way!).

  3. Robin Labita

    I am happy to follow the program ..anxious to get started , I have made a choice not to go on the drug Forteo at this point in time …too afaid of the side effects ..

  4. Denise

    I am a lung transplant patient so have to take anti-rejection meds which gives me an acidic body. This is heartening news. Now, I just need to get permission to take it. I have to run everything by my transplant team. Thank you for giving access to the ingredient list. Anything you can think of I might need to be aware of? I also have a liver that may contain chains of deformed proteins (directly related to lung destruction) thus my need for a lung.

  5. Irene Osgood

    How much does TRUE Milk Thistle cost and where can I find it? Remember that I live in Skiatook,Oklahoma. I have access to Tulsa too. Thanks Irene Osgood

  6. Vida

    Hi vivian ,
    I want to thank you first for all informations .i am member of saveourbones program.i have osteoprosis and i am folowing your program ..i am talking milk thistle 1000mg a day …from natures bounty…what do you think???
    Also i want to know that one cup of coffee to drink daily is harmful for me becuse i already have osteoproises?..

  7. Penny-Anne Beaudoin

    Any side-effects or cautions we should be aware of? Thanks!

  8. Chris

    Would the milk thistle supplement be safe for someone without a gallbladder?

  9. Kathy

    What about milk thistle tea? Does that have enough of the ingredient to use as a source?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Hi Kathy,

      Milk thistle tea is a much more diluted form of the herb than the extract – it’s certainly healthful, and a cup of milk thistle tea is good for liver health. But it definitely has less of the active ingredients.

  10. sharon dunham

    have known about milk thistle and its benefits for years but did not know about it raising the liver enzymes. Because I have Paget’s disease I have to worry about my Alkaline Phosphatese levels so
    would it be safe for me to take the milk thistle?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Sharon, do you have a naturally-minded doctor or chiropractor you could speak with about your specific situation? He or she could advise you as to whether milk thistle is right for you. That would be the best route to take. 🙂

  11. El

    I need more info when diagnosed with osteoporosis!,

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You’ve come to the right place, El! The Save Our Boens website is chock-full of information about osteoporosis and how to reverse it without drugs. I encourage you to explore, research, and learn!

  12. Colette

    I would have liked more information on milk thistle like that it contains NAC won’t to see other ingredients,and make sure their was no magnesium steariteiin the ingredients,which most manafacter are adding.Could not find list off ingredients so try ringing did not like the massage to goon line, also which was a surprise they not sent to UK only Australia US @Candan

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Hi Colette,

      If you take a look at the information page on True Milk Thistle (just click on the picture above), you’ll find the following quote about NAC:

      “Each serving of TrueMilkThistle™ provides 250mg of NAC”

      And this link provides a picture of the label itself, so you can check the ingredients closely:

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