Milk Thistle/Silymarin: Does This Really Help PCOS?

I didn’t know what other picture to use!

As stated before, I love to do research on supplements and other science/health related things. Too bad I can’t make a career out of it!

Going on Pinterest or just typing “PCOS” into a Google search, comes up with lists of supplements that people say will help this condition. I plan on reading up on them and making posts showing my findings. These may or may not interest anyone but myself.

As the title states, this post is all about milk thistle. I will be discussing what it is, the alleged benefits, research done on it and my thoughts. Read on if you are curious!

Milk thistle: what it is and what it might do

The scientific name for milk thistle is silybum Marianum. This plant is native to North Africa, Southern Europe and parts of Asia. Its use in traditional medicine goes back thousands of years.

The active ingredient that is extracted from the plant is called, silymarin. This is said to be what causes the benefits it is touted as having.

The alleged benefits of milk thistle/silymarin are as follows:

  1. Helps acne and aging of the skin
  2. Treats liver problems
  3. Lowers cholesterol
  4. Treats type 2 diabetes
  5. Helps with indigestion
  6. Helps with hangovers

Milk thistle is sold in oil, capsule and powder form from a variety of brands. The dosage is usually 250 mg taken 1-2 times per day.

The side effects of supplementing with milk thistle include GI discomforts and headaches. It is also important to know that milk thistle should not be combined with medications that are changed by the liver (there are many, with Tylenol being one of them), estrogen pills and statins.

The research

There was a good amount of research articles I found on silymarin. One study did mention that there were poor study methods involved in some of the ones showing evidence of beneficial effects. That didn’t stop me from reading them though!

The liver-helping effects of silymarin were noted in several studies. The positive results that study participants obtained were by way of the lowering of their liver enzymes. Researchers believe that there is a lot of promise in this area.

When looking into milk thistle’s use as a supplement, I did not see that it could possibly be of use in the treatment of cancer. A few of the articles I read discussed there being anti-carcinogenic effects. One study even showed that it could help with chemotherapy side effects.

In most of the articles, there were said to be a lot of antioxidant actions with the supplementation of this plant. The researchers are saying that these effects are what causes the liver healing benefits shown in the studies. There were also some anti-inflammatory benefits that seemed to improve lung impairments.

In terms of the treatment of diabetes, results tended to be mixed. There were declines in blood glucose levels, but it was mainly in the study participants that also had liver problems. Also, the antioxidant actions did seem to show some positive effects on diabetic neuropathy.

The acne and hyperpigmentation lightening ability shown in some of the studies seemed like another promising benefit. There was a moderate reduction in the incidence and severity of acne lesions in the study participants. Antiaging and UVA protection potential was also noted which was attributed to the antioxidant effects that silymarin is said to have.

I only found a couple of research articles that mentioned things that could be relevant to PCOS. One showed there being some phytoestrogenic activity. This means that it could either reduce or increase estrogen levels. There were some mixed results regarding the supplementation of it improving fertility in women and sperm quality.

My thoughts

First, I should start off with the fact that I am not a medical professional or scientists. I know nothing other than what I read from various sources.

In my opinion, lifestyle changes (diet and consistent exercise) should be made if need be before jumping into trying milk thistle/silymarin or other supplements. I have read about women having a lot of success adding in these things to their daily diets though.

 It is important to understand that milk thistle/silymarin should NOT be combined with certain medications (liver changing ones) you are taking. I, myself, am unable to take this supplement due to being on a medication called, Lamictal.

As far as just attempting to treat skin problems (a symptom many of us with PCOS have), it could be worth a try. The silymarin can be bought in powder or solution form (see here:  and used in a DIY skincare recipe.

In summary

Milk thistle/silymarin does show the possibility of having good benefits for a few different things. There needs to be more research done on it though (like so many other supplements!).

There is a lot of positive anecdotal evidence out there for it, but one should still be careful if they decide to take it.

Have you any of you taken milk thistle/silymarin to treat PCOS?

Thanks for reading!

If you are interested in trying milk thistle, Nature’s Bounty is a great choice of brand.


Affiliate disclaimer: Some of the links may be affiliate links. This means that I may get a commission on the links that you click and purchases you make.

#supplements #pcos #pcosawareness #hormones #womenshealth #diet