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Milk Thistle and Fibroids: Does it Help?

Are you thinking of trying milk thistle for fibroid relief? The Fibroid Specialists at ProFibroidMD review the evidence to find out if milk thistle is good for fibroids and if it relieves symptoms.

Milk thistle and fibroids supplement

We are reviewing the evidence of milk thistle and fibroid relief. Several claims have been made about the role of milk thistle in lowering the risk of disease and treating certain ailments. Milk thistle is said to lower cholesterol levels, reduce the severity of diabetes, and treat liver diseases like cirrhosis and hepatitis, among several other conditions. Even though clinical evidence for all of these applications is mostly inconclusive, many have questioned if milk thistle can help with uterine fibroids as well, and some popular sources even list milk thistle as a recommended supplement for women with uterine fibroids. Is there any merit behind these recommendations? Our fibroid specialists at ProFibroidMD review the clinical evidence for milk thistle in fibroids, and attempt to answer.

Readers should be aware that this data-driven overview is for informational purposes only and is not meant to advocate for milk thistle or any other fibroid treatment approach. As you read, you will find that the data for milk thistle and related supplements is extremely limited and totally inconclusive. Based on the lack of evidence, you should not rely on milk thistle to help with your fibroids. Furthermore, authoritative sources, such as the Mayo Clinic, even recommend avoiding milk thistle if you have fibroids. If your uterine fibroids are causing you severe discomfort, you should seek the care of a fibroid specialist that can prescribe a clinically proven therapy.

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About Milk Thistle
Can Milk Thistle Help with Fibroids?
Clinical Evidence for Milk Thistle and Fibroids
Should You Take Milk Thistle for Fibroids?

Fibroid Specialist Dr. Michael Lalezarian

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ProFibroidMD is a leading provider of uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), the least invasive treatment option for uterine fibroid symptom relief. Our Fibroid Specialists have helped countless women overcome their fibroids and get back to their happy, healthy selves without going through a major surgery.

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About Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is an herb with a long history of medicinal uses all around the world. It is a tall, biennial plan with large prickly leaves, large purple flowering heads, and distinct milky white veins along the leaves. It is found naturally in the Mediterranean, in North America, in South America, and in Kashmir, with historically documented uses going back over 2000 years [1].

In modern supplement products, silymarin is the primary active ingredient that is extracted from milk thistle seeds [1]. Silymarin is thought to have antioxidant properties, which is part of the reason why milk thistle is so commonly mentioned as an alternative, homeopathic, or nutritional cure for so many different conditions.

Milk thistle and fibroids plant
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Is Milk Thistle Good For Fibroids?

Milk thistle is said to reduce inflammation, detoxify the liver, and balance hormones. In the context of uterine fibroids, these claims have led some to believe that routine milk thistle supplementation could have a role in shrinking fibroids, especially when combined with other herbs and remedies.

As we discuss in more detail below, milk thistle and its derivative products have not been studied directly in women with fibroids, so the true effect of milk thistle on fibroids remains untested [2]. However, a handful of studies have been done in animals and in cellular cultures to identify the effects of silymarin on several important cellular and metabolic pathways that are involved in cancers, inflammatory disorders, liver diseases, and a long list of other conditions [1].

Research has suggested beneficial effects on the following pathways:

  • Inflammation and apoptosis
  • Steroid hormone receptors, including estrogen receptors
  • Endothelial nitric oxide pathway
  • Drug transporters
  • LXR pathway
  • PPAR-Gamma pathway
  • IGF receptor signaling
  • EGFR-MAPK/ERK1/2/AKT/mTOR/PP2A signaling
  • Beta-catenin signaling

Some of these pathways may be relevant in uterine fibroids as well, but researchers have not looked at uterine fibroid models specifically. The potential impact of milk thistle on estrogen has been of particular interest by homeopaths and healthcare providers alike, with the former claiming that milk thistle has a beneficial effect on estrogen balance, but the latter claiming that the effects of milk thistle on estrogen could actually be harmful in the case of fibroids and other conditions that are influenced by estrogen levels [3].

Even with the detailed list above, it’s important to re-state that scientific evidence related to milk thistle and silymarin is extremely limited and only derived from a handful of studies. Positive findings in the laboratory do not always translate to real-world therapeutic benefits in humans. Silymarin is claimed to impact several different conditions, but there is very little evidence to support any specific application. In our experience as researchers, this pattern of reporting indicates that very little is understood about this molecule in real-world medical applications. A lot of scientific work needs to be done by the clinical research community to translate theory into practice and to determine if milk thistle has any impact at all on uterine fibroids.

Fibroid doctor researching milk thistle and fibroids therapy evidence
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Clinical Evidence for Milk Thistle and Fibroids

Medical practice depends on large-scale, high quality clinical studies to determine if a given medication, supplement, or procedure is safe and works well enough to be prescribed. When drafting this overview, our Fibroid Specialists ran a detailed search for publications on milk thistle and fibroids using PubMed and Google Scholar [2]. We also reviewed common authoritative medical sources like Mayo Clinic and WebMD to evaluate their recommendations on the subject, and even looked at alternative sources to understand what’s been claimed about milk thistle and fibroids by homeopaths and by women that have tried it.

Our research yielded exactly zero scientific publications on milk thistle and fibroids, but we did identify a number of popular websites that listed milk thistle as a recommended supplement for fibroids alongside other homeopathic and nutritional recommendations. In general, we do not take issue with nutritional guidance that involves natural supplements, but readers should be aware that many of these guides are assembled without regard for medical evidence. Diet is an extremely important component of your health, but without evidence, fibroid sufferers should not expect for dietary changes alone to cure their uterine fibroid symptoms.

Should You Take Milk Thistle for Fibroids?

In summary, you probably shouldn’t take milk thistle for fibroids. There is no direct evidence to support that milk thistle has any therapeutic effects on uterine fibroids [2], and authoritative sources like the Mayo Clinic explicitly recommend against taking milk thistle due to unknown estrogenic effects that could worsen your fibroids [3]. We may learn more about milk thistle in the future that changes our understanding, but for now we recommend against it.

If your fibroids are causing you severe discomfort, alternative or natural therapies probably aren’t the most effective way to rid yourself of your fibroids. There are clinically proven treatment approaches that address the root cause of fibroid symptoms and consistently provide long-term uterine fibroid symptom relief [3]:

  • Uterine Artery Embolization: non-surgical procedure that shrinks fibroids
  • Myomectomy: surgical removal of fibroids
  • Hysterectomy: surgical removal of the entire uterus

You can learn more about these clinically proven treatments in this review, and get in touch with us at ProFibroidMD to learn more about your options.

More Resources
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Surgical vs. Non-Surgical Fibroid Treatments: Which Is Best?

When it comes to fibroid treatment, we believe that less is more. A less invasive procedure means less trauma, less risk, and shorter recovery time. Learn more about why we opt for UFE, the least invasive treatment for uterine fibroids.

Uterine artery embolization

Uterine Artery Embolization

Uterine artery embolization is a minimally-invasive procedure that we offer at ProFibroidMD to relieve heavy bleeding, pain, and other symptoms in patients with uterine fibroids. Learn more about our specialty procedure.
Fibroid Specialist in Los Angeles

Fibroid Specialist in Los Angeles

Learn more about Los Angeles Fibroid Specialist Dr. Michael Lalezarian.

References

[1] Neha, Jaggi AS, Singh N. Silymarin and Its Role in Chronic Diseases. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2016;929:25-44. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-41342-6_2. PMID: 27771919.
[2] PubMed Search for “milk thistle & fibroid” (and related terms) yielded no results. Executed May 21, 2022, on https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
[3] Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, November 19). Milk thistle. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-milk-thistle/art-20362885
[4] Gupta JK, Sinha A, Lumsden MA, Hickey M. Uterine artery embolization for symptomatic uterine fibroids. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 May 16;(5):CD005073. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005073.pub3. Update in: Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(12):CD005073. PMID: 22592701.

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