Cancer treatment is a journey for all cancer patients. Starting with diagnosis and coping with the
anxiety a diagnosis brings, decisions about treatment are usually close to follow. What’s the
best treatment out there for me? Will this treatment work? Which treatment is better? Which
should I take?
All of these questions swirl, and for good reason. The most standard, commonplace treatments,
chemotherapy and radiation, have been used for decades. As a result, their pros and cons are
well known. Yes, chemotherapy and radiation therapy have posited success for a lot of cancer
patients. But the side effects that they come with are also fairly notorious for making the
management of cancer treatment challenging. Coupled with the risk of chemotherapy not
working and cancer becoming resistant, the need for new ways to treat cancer and support
cancer patients during treatment are needed.
Many alternatives to chemotherapy and radiation offer great options for people looking for ways
to improve their quality of life and live more comfortably. Keep reading to learn how one plant
supplement, milk thistle, could help.
What is milk thistle?
Milk thistle is a plant known to have several health benefits and qualities. Use for centuries as a
health remedy and supplement,
What role does milk thistle play in our health?
Milk thistle gets its name from a white sappy substance produced by the plant. This substance
contains a compound called silymarin, which is where milk, thistle derives many of its health
benefits and qualities from.
Silymarin is a flavonoid and is known to have antioxidative properties, the key to many of milk
thistle’s health benefits. Flavonoids and other antioxidants play an important role in limiting the
amount of oxidative stress the body experiences.
Oxidative stress is caused by an overabundance of free radicals in the body. Normally, the body
produces some free radicals to help fight things like infections, using naturally-occurring
antioxidants to neutralize them once they have completed their work. Left unchecked, free
radicals, which are highly reactive, can cause damage to healthy cells. This is called oxidative
Certain habits can also lead to an increase in the number of free radicals in our body, such as
drinking, smoking, and diet. Coupled with the fact that the body naturally produces less
antioxidants as we age, free radicals can make us more susceptible to a range of conditions.
Studies have shown that milk thistle, in particular, can help protect against some of these
conditions. These include:
- Indigestion problems
- Liver issues, such as liver disease
How does milk thistle help with cancer?
Some studies suggest that oxidative stress can be a precursor to cancer. Damage to healthy
cells can also lead to mutations and damage to DNA, which can cause cells to grow incorrectly
or out of control, the underlying cause of cancer.
The idea behind using milk thistle, ultimately, its antioxidative qualities. Researchers have
studied whether and how milk thistle could be used to treat cancers, prevent cancers, or support
cancer patients undergoing cancer treatments.
Is milk thistle an effective treatment for cancer?
Studies have been conducted exploring a range of uses for milk thistle in cancer patients. Here
are some key findings from research about the possible benefits of milk thistle:
- Supports chemotherapy treatment. One clinical trial found that in children with a certain type of leukemia receiving chemotherapy, milk thistle offered some protective benefits, particularly to the liver, without reducing the effectiveness of the chemotherapy.
- Improves quality of life in cancer patients. Several studies have indicated that milk
thistle can improve the quality of life of patients both during and after treatment. For
example, patients with head and neck cancer who received radiation and took milk
thistle had lower rates of sore and inflamed mouths and guts compared to people who
did not take milk thistle.
Is milk thistle a safe treatment for cancer?
Generally speaking, when taken in the correct dosages, milk thistle is a safe treatment option for
a range of conditions. It has been shown to cause mild
With any type of cancer treatment, it’s important to make sure you fully understand the available
treatment options and choose options that work for you. This should include talking to your
doctor before starting any cancer treatment. They can help you decide which treatment options
are right for you.