The Secret Herb That Can Help Control Your Acne

by raychel, June 09, 2021

The Secret Herb That Can Help Control Your Acne

Milk thistle, also known as Silymarin, is a flowering herb that thrives in several regions of the world. Also known as holy thistle or Mary thistle, it is famous for its prime component: the Silymarin extract. A popular antioxidant, it is widely used for liver and gallbladder conditions. 

As a beneficial flavonoid, silymarin may help protect the heart by lowering cholesterol levels. Given its anti-inflammatory effects, it may help control acne as well.

What is Silymarin? 

Silymarin has long been used for its medicinal purposes. The Europeans were the first to wield it, branding Milk thistle as a ‘liver tonic.’ With its ability to ‘open up’ obstructions in the spleen and liver, it was deemed by Nicolas Culpepper as a good treatment for jaundice. 

While it continues to be used in a variety of liver problems, it has beneficial effects on the other organs as well. Modern medicine is making use of milk thistle to treat disorders of the lungs, pancreas, kidney, and prostate, to name a few. 

Milk Thistle for Acne

Silymarin is an all-around supplement that benefits many organs. Given its many actions (as stated below), it may help reduce acne flare-ups as well. 

  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects 
  • Inflammation plays a central role in acne. Apart from pro-inflammatory substances, the organism Propionibacterium acnes may cause inflammation as well. As such, it is important to keep these triggers at bay. 

    Silymarin may just be able to do this with its anti-inflammatory effects on the body. According to Karimi et al., it can help suppress the action of substances that promote skin inflammation.

    Silymarin's anti-inflammatory actions against acne were further explored in the study of Sahib et al. The participants were supplemented with 210 milligrams of Silymarin, or 70 milligrams taken 3 times a day. Results were promising, as the lesion counts decreased by as much as 53% after 8 weeks of use. 

  • Antioxidative Effects 
  • As an antioxidant, silymarin can scavenge free radicals or molecules that damage the cells. While they harm most cells, their effects are more obvious on the skin. For one, free radicals can affect sebum production, making it thicker than usual. This viscous oil ends up clogging the pores, leading to red, painful zits. 

    With that being said, an antioxidant is needed to fight these free radicals before they can wreak havoc on the skin. Good thing there's silymarin, which boasts of good antioxidant properties. Not only can it help minimize acne, but it may also help reduce the signs of skin aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles. 

    Karimi et al. have also stated that silymarin can help increase the production of glutathione, an antioxidant in the body. Not only is this associated with fairer, youthful-looking skin, it plays a role in acne development as well.

    A study by Ikeno has et al. has shown that acne-prone individuals had decreased levels of glutathione compared to the 'normal' population. Having lower levels of glutathione make them more prone to acne since there are lesser antioxidants that can help neutralize free radicals. 

    With that being said, Milk thistle may fight acne by helping increase glutathione concentrations in the body. According to Sahib et al., silymarin can help boost glutathione levels by as much as 271%.  With more antioxidants to neutralize free radicals, acne, and premature aging may be greatly reduced. 

  • Estrogenic Properties 
  • According to Dietz et al., milk thistle exerts estrogenic effects on the body. That means it can mimic estrogen’s effects on the different body organs. This female hormone is necessary for many processes, including counteracting the effects of testosterone. After all, this male hormone is implicated in the development of acne. 

    With that being said, low levels of estrogen make you more prone to the pimple-bearing effects of testosterone. As such, it helps to keep estrogen in balance, which you may be able to achieve with a silymarin supplement. 

    • Immune-Boosting Effects 

    According to Wilasrusmee et al., milk thistle exerts an immunomodulatory effect on the body. In simpler terms, it may help boost the immune system. This is especially important for skin health, as poor immunity may lead to acne. When your defenses are down, the skin is more likely to be infected with pimple-causing germs. 

    • Anti-Fibrotic Properties

    Apart from reducing acne lesions, silymarin may help make pimple scars fade away as well. 

    For the unlucky few, pimple healing often comes with fibrotic tissue or permanent scarring.  As such, it is important to take supplements with anti-fibrotic properties. One good example is the milk thistle, which may help reduce unsightly scarring on the skin.  

    Silymarin for ‘Better’ Skin

    Milk thistle has many positive effects on the skin. Apart from helping minimize acne, it may defend the skin from harmful UV rays as well. According to Vostalova et al., silymarin can help protect the skin from UVB rays that commonly cause skin cancer. 

    Milk thistle may also help inhibit the action of collagenase, an enzyme that breaks down collagen and elastin. Sans silymarin supplementation, collagenase action continues, bringing about wrinkles and further skin damage. 

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    How to Take Milk Thistle

    Milk thistle or Silymarin extracts are available as tablets, capsules, powders, and liquid extracts. Concerning acne supplementation, the recommended dose is 70 milligrams to be taken 3 times a day. The total daily dose of 210 milligrams can be taken for as long as 8 weeks, based on the study of Sahib et al. 

    Milk thistle, an all-natural supplement, comes with few minor side effects. It frequently causes diarrhea. Although rare, nausea, stomach problems, bloating, and gas may happen as well.

    In some people, silymarin may elicit an allergic reaction. Signs include rashes, watery eyes, and swelling of the tongue and other parts of the face. Breathing problems may occur as well. 

    While silymarin is generally safe for use, it should be used cautiously in the following:

    • People with ragweed allergy
    • Women with endometriosis or fibroid tumors
    • Women diagnosed with cancer of the breast, uterus, or ovary

    When it comes to skin health, milk thistle may be a good option to try. With its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties, it may help reduce acne. It may also help control scarring, which may be useful in minimizing pimple marks. With these benefits, silymarin holds potential when it comes to fighting pimples, premature skin aging, even skin cancer.