Milk thistle is a flowering plant from which, silymarin, a type of plant-based flavonoid antioxidant is extracted from its fruit and seeds. It is this extract that gives milk thistle its skin health properties. Milk thistle has long been used to help treat liver diseases. However, recent research has shown promise for this plant-based antioxidant to help with inflammatory conditions like arthritis and skin cancer.
Recent research reveals that the policosanol level of the milk thistle extract gives it these anti-arthritic and antioxidant properties. The immature seeds of milk thistle are thought to contain the highest levels of policosanol, which is a mixture of alcohol compounds derived from various natural sources.
So, how does this plant help your skin?
The skin health properties of this plant stem from findings that milk thistle extract helps repair DNA skin cell damage caused by UVB radiation sun exposure. Not only that, but this mechanism has also been shown to reduce skin inflammation caused by such UVB exposure.
Therefore, milk thistle, most commonly consumed in capsule form, is safe to consume to help provide antioxidant benefits. Milk thistle that is made of 70 to 80% silymarin, is safe in doses up to 420 milligrams a day in divided doses, for up to 41 months, or nearly 3.5 years, according to current safety research. However, before starting any new supplement, be sure to talk to your pharmacist to be sure any current medications you are taking do not interact with milk thistle such as the hepatitis C medication simeprevir. Milk thistle teas are also available but may not contain silymarin in its most bioavailable form.
It is important to remember that dietary supplements for photoprotection should be used concurrently with a topical mineral-based zinc oxide sunscreen for optimal UV protection. The dietary supplements alone should not be relied upon to keep your skin safe from UV damage.
Drugs.com (September 18, 2017) “Milk Thistle.” https://www.drugs.com/npp/milk-thistle.html
Harrabi, S., Ferchichi, A., Bacheli, A., and Fellah, H. (2018) “Policosanol composition, antioxidant and anti-arthritic activities of milk thistle (Silybium marianum L.) oil at different seed maturity stages.” Lipids in Health and Disease, 17:82.
Singh, R.P. and Agarwal, R. (2005) “Mechanisms and preclinical efficacy of silibinin in preventing skin cancer.” European Journal of Cancer, 41(2005): 1969-1979.