What is milk thistle and how does it work?

silymarin, thistle, hangover, hangover cure, milk thistle

Silymarin is a compound found in milk thistle (Silymarin marianum) - a plant that originates from the Mediterranean and North African coasts [1]. Milk thistle has been used as a remedy for multiple ailments for thousands of years for its protective qualities for the liver and gallbladder with milk thistle today being primarily used to treat high cholesterol levels and  cirrhosis of the liver [1]. Silymarin is the ideal solution for the clean living, health-concious person, who is looking for a solution to relieve the symptoms of hangover associated with the occasional overindulgence in drink.

What are the benefits of silymarin ?

Alcohol is one of the best known toxins that damages the liver and large amounts creates extreme oxidative stress on liver tissue. Significant alcohol consumption produces accumulations of fat in liver cells, with small areas of dead tissue, accompanied by a rise in liver enzymes in the blood (from leaking, dying cells).

Silymarin is thought to protect the brain due to the role it plays in protecting cells from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is caused by by-products of reactions involving oxygen within the cell metabolism [2] such as the breakdown of Alcohol to prevent it's inflammatory effects on the brain. It also "stimulates detoxification pathways and stimulates the regeneration of liver tissue* "

How does it work ?

In the liver, milk thistle exerts an anti-fibrotic effect. Liver fibrosis is caused by a build of proteins outside the cell, including collagen. As part of this, normal liver cells are converted to myofibroblasts, which are cells that are similar to skin cells.  However, milk thistle extract has been shown to stop this process and in doing so protecting the liver [3].

A study by Ferenci et al. demonstrated this in a placebo controlled trial of the use of silymarin in people with cirrhosis. A systematic review published in 2005 by Rambaldi et al. studied 13 randomised control trials and concluded that silymarin may increase the life expectancy of patients with liver disease [4]  Furthermore, a systematic review of 13 randomised control trials published in 2005 by Rambaldi et al. concluded that silymarin may increase the life expectancy of patients with liver disease [5]


brain feed's silymarin

Our 400mg strength tablets may be beneficial to people looking to relieve the symptoms associated with the occasional over-indulgence in drink. brain feed's silymarin is 100% and therefore suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Take one tablet before you start drinking and one before bed.

The UK’s premium supplier, brain feed put your health and wellbeing front and centre of product design, using 100% naturally derived ingredients to drive results grounded in science. All brain feed's products are made from the highest quality extracts taken from sustainable sources. *US NIR National Cancer Institute, complemetary Therapies Editorial Board 2003


As a reward for reading the full article we’ve an extra 10% off our natural silymarin!  Simply use a discount code silymarin_2017  This offer is available only till the March 31st  2018.


Summary of studies of how milk thistle extracts can improve the outcome of liver disease:


Study Disease Silymarin Dosage (mg/day) Treatment Duration (days)  Results
Ferenci   [3] Chronic alcohol and other forms of liver disease 420 730 58% of patients increased life expectancy
Salmi       [5] Chronic alcohol liver disease 420 28 73% of patients improved
Palasci-ano [6] Chronic drug-induced liver disease 800 90 Reduction in liver cell damage
Buzelli    [7] Chronic hepatitis 240 7 Reduction in liver cell damage


  1. Zhu, H.-J., et al., An Assessment of Pharmacokinetics and Antioxidant Activity of Free Silymarin Flavonolignans in Healthy Volunteers: A Dose Escalation Study. Drug Metabolism and Disposition, 2013. 41(9): p. 1679-1685.
  2. Coyle, J.T. and P. Puttfarcken, Oxidative stress, glutamate, and neurodegenerative disorders. Science, 1993. 262(5134): p. 689-695.
  3. Yadav, S. and S.K. Prajapati, Silymarin: A Review of the Pharmacology and Bioavailabity Enhancement Whacks. Pharmatutor, 1982.
  4. Rambaldi, A., B.P. Jacobs, and C. Gluud, Milk thistle for alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C virus liver diseases. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2007(4): p. Cd003620.
  5. Ferenci, P., et al., Randomized controlled trial of silymarin treatment in patients with cirrhosis of the liver. Journal of Hepatology, 1989. 9(1): p. 105-113.
  6. Rambaldi, A., B.P. Jacobs, and C. Gluud, Milk thistle for alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C virus liver diseases. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2007(4): p. Cd003620.
  7. Salmi, H.A. and S. Sarna, Effect of Silymarin on Chemical, Functional, and Morphological Alterations of the Liver. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, 1982. 17(4): p. 517-521.
  8. Palasciano, G., et al., The effect of silymarin on plasma levels of malon-dialdehyde in patients receiving long-term treatment with psychotropic drugs. Current Therapeutic Research, 1994. 55(5): p. 537-545.
  9. Buzzelli, G., et al., A pilot study on the liver protective effect of silybin-phosphatidylcholine complex (IdB1016) in chronic active hepatitis. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther Toxicol, 1993. 31(9): p.

The Science

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