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Milk Thistle Seed Important For Hormonal Balance

Milk Thistle Seed Important For Hormonal Balance

Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) supports hormonal balance. It is one of the best plants for liver health. Liver health is vital for hormonal balance. The liver helps to filter toxins from the body, including excess hormones. It is also commonly called Blessed Thistle, St. Mary’s Thistle, Marian Thistle, and Holy Thistle. The name Milk Thistle comes from its milky sap. Traditionally it is associated with increasing breast milk production, which may be another reason for its name.

Liver Cleansing and Renewal
The plant part used is the seed. Milk Thistle Seed Extract is part of our Fertility Cleanse Kits for both women and men. It is part of these kits because Milk Thistle Seed’s stimulate the liver to cleanse itself, while also stimulating it to renew liver cells. Milk Thistle seeds also stimulate the liver and gallbladder to secrete bile, aiding in digestion. Milk Thistle is the most protective plant for liver health! In fact, it is so protective of liver health, it is used to save people from Death Cap mushroom poisoning. It is also used to heal and protect the livers of people who have undergone chemotherapy.

The liver is our chemical processing plant. So you can imagine what must go on in there. The liver removes hormones, drugs, and other biologically active molecules from the blood. It then converts these by changing their structure or inactivating them, through different processes, and then excretes these to be passed through the kidneys. If there are too many excess toxins and hormones overwhelming the liver, they may be stored up, not only in the liver, but other parts of our body. Milk Thistle gives our liver the support and renewal it needs to function at its best!

Silymarin in Milk Thistle Protects the Liver
Silymarin is the main constituent in Milk Thistle that protects liver health. This is only one constituent (part, or chemical compound) found in Milk Thistle. Some people believe that your Milk Thistle product should have at least 420mg of Silymarin to be effective. Unless your product has gone through a processing plant that has scientific researchers testing each batch for chemical constituents in the plant, and then reporting that to the company to put on a label, there is no way to determine how much Silymarin is in each tablet. As an herbalist, my personal opinion on this is that Milk Thistle seeds are best taken in a tincture form (liquid extract), like the one we sell in our Natural Fertility Shop. Milk Thistle seeds are very hard, and hard to digest in capsule or tablet form. Grain Alcohol is the best way to extract the medicinal properties, including Silymarin in Milk Thistle.

There have been some studies on Silymarin in Milk Thistle. These were performed to see why Milk Thistle was helpful to the liver; they found that Silymarin was the main part of the plant that aids the liver in cleansing and regeneration.

  • Animal studies in the German Journal of Medicinal Plant Research, Planta Med., found that Milk Thistle combats oxidative stress and increases glutathione content (enhancing detoxification) throughout the digestive tract, including the liver. Glutathione is a key antioxidant, “nature’s master antioxidant and detoxifier”, for the liver. Researchers at the Department of Gastroenterology, Cisanello Hospital, Pisa, Italy, report evidence from experimental research and clinical studies that glutathione holds promise for those needing to recover from oxidative stress-induced liver damage.
  • Researchers from Alagappa University in India have found based on their work that “The antioxidant and free radical scavenging activity of flavonoids like silymarin… novel therapeutic strategies against environmental contaminant exposure.”
  • The Liver-protecting properties of Milk Thistle in part stem from the flavonid silibinin, which has been found to boost the activity of Kupffer cells (liver cells important in the liver’s response to pathogens). Kupffer cells are known inhibit the inflammatory molecules called leukotrienes, and are “critical mediators of both liver injury and repair.” (Journal: Hepatology)

Findings like these popularized Silymarin and many products are now sold with this name, rather than by Milk Thistle. Personally, I feel that using a whole plant part ensures you are receiving the wide variety of medicinal benefits from the plant, rather than isolating one part of it.

Why Milk Thistle Seed Should Be a Part of Your Natural Fertility Plan

  • Stimulates liver regeneration and cleansing.
  • Flushes excess hormones from the liver.
  • Flushes toxins from the liver.
  • Heals the liver from toxin damage from alcohol, car exhaust, chemical pollution, etc.
  • A clean liver aids in hormonal balance.
  • Protects the liver from future toxin damage.
  • Some research shows it is helpful for people with insulin resistance, including PCOS and type 2 diabetes.

Milk Thistle Increases Breast Milk Production
Fast forward, you are now pregnant and looking forward to meeting your baby. Are you planning to breastfeed? If so (highly recommended), consider having some Milk Thistle Seed Extract on hand in order to help support ample amounts of healthy breast milk for your baby! Milk Thistle has also been found to chase depression away. This makes it very helpful in preventing the baby blues, or postpartum depression.

General Suggested Dosage (for both women and men): 30 drops, 2-3 times a day in a little water.

Milk Thistle has been shown safe for use long-term. It can be made into a tea, but I find it works best as a liquid extract. To see Milk Thistle Extract, click here…

Use in pregnancy: Rated as B1. No harmful effects have been reported from limited use in women. No harmful effects were reported in pregnant animal studies. Please check with your healthcare provider about continued use in pregnancy.

Cautions: If you are allergic to any plants in the Compositae family (daisy) family, avoid this plant.

Additional Thoughts on Milk Thistle
Milk Thistle Seed Extract is one herb I like to have in my home at all times. We are constantly bombarded with toxins daily; our liver takes on a lot of stress. Milk Thistle Extract helps me to know that I am protecting my liver, which allows me to not have to worry as much about the damage being done to it.

If you love to grow plants like I do, you may be interested in growing your own Milk Thistle. Watch out though, this plant is a real pricker. Compared to the normal roadside thistles around, Milk Thistle’s spines are much stronger, longer, and hurt a lot more to be pricked by. Wear thick gardening gloves when handling this plant. It is a beautiful thistle, with a bright purple flower, variegated white and green leaves and spines at the tip of the leaves and below the flower head. The young leaves are also nourishing and protective to the liver. The young flowering tops have a heart that can be eaten; it is said to taste much like an artichoke heart, though I cannot attest to this. At the end of summer as the plants seed are ready, be even more cautious of the spines. As the plant tops begin to dry and die off for the year, the spines become even harder and thinner. If you don’t handle it properly (I know) it feels like a thousand needles are stabbing into you. Literally, it is probably close to this, okay maybe more like hundreds, but still, it hurts!

  • Van De Graff, Fox, La Fleur. (1997). Synopsis of Human Anatomy and Physiology. Wm. C. Brown Publishers.
  • Chevallier, Andrew. (1997) The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. New York, New York: DK Publishing.
  • Hoffmann, David. (1993). The New Holistic Herbal. Boston, Massachusetts: Element Publishing
  • Hoffmann, David. (2003). Medical Herbalism – The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. pp 584. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press.
  • Mills, Simon; Bone, Kerry. (2005). The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety. pp 594-595. St. Louis, Missouri: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier
  • Valenzuela, A., Sspillaga, M., Vial, S. and Guerra, R. (1989). Selectivity of Silymarin on the Increase of the Glutathione Content in Different Tissues of the Rat. Planta Med 1989; 55(5): 420-422. DOI: 10.1055/s-2006-962056. Retrieved from
  • Kiruthiga, P.V., Beam Shafreen, R., Karutha Pandian, S. and Pandima Devi, K. (17 April 2007). Silymarin Protection against Major Reactive Oxygen Species Released by Environmental Toxins: Exogenous H2O2 Exposure in Erythrocytes. BCPT [Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicilogy]. Volume100, Issue6. Pages 414-419. Retrieved from
  • Dehmlow, C., Erhard, J and de Groot, H. (April 1996). Inhibition of Kupffer cell functions as an explanation for the hepatoprotective properties of silibinin. Hepatology. 1996 Apr;23(4):749-54. Retrieved from
Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN
Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN

Dr. Traxler is a University-trained obstetrician/gynecologist, working with patients in Minnesota for over 20 years. She is a professional medical writer; having authored multiple books on pregnancy and childbirth; textbooks and coursework for medical students and other healthcare providers; and has written over 1000 articles on medical, health, and wellness topics.  Dr. Traxler attended the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences and University of Minnesota Medical School,  earning a degree in biochemistry with summa cum laude honors in 1981,  and receiving her Medical Doctorate degree (MD) in 1986.

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  1. Avatar

    I came off of the contraceptive pill two years ago and have not had a regular cycle (or even a full period) since. I have been going to my GP about this on and off ever since, having had all kinds of tests and no real answer or solution besides my estrogen levels being slightly low. I am so worried i will not be able to conceive when i am ready for pregnancy in 2/3 years time. I was told yesterday to go back onto the combined pill although i am really apprehensive about this. Is there anything naturally than i can take to balance my hormones to hopefully encourage ovulation regularly again.

    • Hi Lucy,
      Going back on the pill is not going to fix anything, as I am sure you know, just chemically control your cycle. Since you have some time before you are ready to ttc there are many things you can do, and this is a really exciting opportunity for you since you are able to take some time to get your body back to balance. Starting with diet changes, eating a wholefoods diet rich in phytonutrients, health fats and fiber. You can read about that in depth on this site. Taking time to cleanse with a Natural Fertility Cleanse, then supporting the endocrine system with supportive herbs. You could piece this together from the site or feel free to book a consultation with us and a program can be put together for you based on your specific needs.

  2. Avatar

    Hello. I recently started taking sillymarin after having surgery to remove my stage 3, severe endometriosis. I have been experiencing some ovarian pain (during my period, so I know for sure it’s not due to ovulation). Could this be due to the milk thistle? I thought about stopping the supplement and then starting it again during a different point in my cycle and see if I still get the same pain.

    • Dear Melissa,

      I have not ever heard of sillymarin or Milk Thistle seed extract linked to ovarian pain during menstruation. This herb has an affinity for the liver. It could be that you are experiencing mild cramping/sensitivity due to menstruation/PMS.

  3. Avatar

    Hi, I started taking Milk Thistle extract – a few drops in a cup of water, 2 times per day. My period was more than 2 weeks late. I am usually very regular, 29-30 day cycle. When I was a day late, I stopped taking the Milk Thistle, in case it was affecting anything. Finally at day 18 overdue, I started bleeding. Are you able to tell me if the milk thistle caused the delay, because of the estrogenic properties – like it was trying to regulate my hormones? I am 47 years of age.

    • Dear Deborah,

      I have not ever heard Milk Thistle seed causing menstrual delays. Its potential phytoestrogenic effects are very mild. There can be so many reasons for menstrual cycle shifts, the natural aging process (perhaps this is the start of the natural hormonal transition we all go through as women), changes in stress levels, diet, exercise routines and even travel. Might any of these be a cause? Did you begin any new natural therapies other than Milk Thistle Seed extract?

  4. Avatar

    somebody help me provide seed for milk thistle, so i can grow it in my garden

  5. Avatar

    you wrote in side paragraph that milk thistle has estrogenic effect. But then you did not say anything more or helpful in article. What other herbs detox the liver for a breast cancer patient?

    • Dear Emily,

      Milk Thistle is known to have mild phytoestrogenic properties, but it also is incredibly liver protective which renders it useful for many women dealing with estrogen-dominant fertility health issues (details about which I share in a few other comments on this article).

      It truly would be best if you are interested in using herbs or creating a natural health program, to work with a natural healthcare practitioner, namely a naturopathic doctor, near you. They are able to evaluate your health and review your medical history to help you determine the best course of action moving forward. We want you to have the best support possible!

  6. Avatar

    I read on another health site that Milk Thistle can mimic estrogen, therefore being able to cause more harm than good, say specifically for women who have fibroids or excess estrogen in their bodies. This, if it is accurate, should definitely be mentioned on your site if it isn’t already.

    • Dear Frankie,

      Thank you for your suggestion.

      Many plants are considered phytoestrogenic and have the potential to mimic estrogen in the body. We feel that in order to promote healthy estrogen balance within the body, we have to consider how herbal phytoestrogens, one of which is Milk Thistle, protect us from harmful xenoestrogens (toxins).

      Xenoestrogens come from human-made chemicals (herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers to name a few) and are found in conventional foods, personal and body care products, paper products… a great many of the things many use in their daily lives. Xenoestrogens may cause estrogen dominance and because of this we must consider liver supporting herbs for natural detoxification.

      The liver helps to filter toxins from the body, including excess hormones, and when the body has detoxified from toxins, our good, beneficial hormones are able to connect with hormone receptor sites and benefit various body systems.

      Because Milk Thistle is known as one of the most supportive herbs of liver health and healthy liver function is vital for hormone balance, we feel it valuable for many of our clients including those with excess estrogen.

      I hope this provides a helpful explanation for why phytoestrogens can be important for fertility health.

    • Avatar

      Frankie – I read that if something other than the milk thistle fruits & seeds are taken, it could leave to what you mentioned – being harmful for a woman that does not need extra estrogen. Having severe endometriosis myself, I was very cautious and careful when deciding whether or not to begin use of this supplement. It seems that as long as the product contains only the fruits & seeds, then it is good. If it contains other parts of the plant, then yes, it could be harmful for those kinds of situations. I found a supplement that indicated it contained fruits and seeds only in the ingredients.

  7. Avatar

    Can Milk Thistle stimulate menstruation in a menopausal woman? I have been without a period for two years. I recently started taking Milk Thistle, and suddenly I had a period! I’ve stopped taking the supplement for now, and am working with my ob/gyn to make sure there are no other more serious reasons for my having suddenly had a period. Thank you.

    • Dear Kathy,

      We have had a few women spot, or experience break-thru-bleeding, when stimulating detoxification of the liver, even gentle detoxification. Fertilica Milk Thistle Extract is not known to alone bring back menstruation and not for menopausal women.

      It is great that you are working with your doctor for peace of mind! Take care!

  8. Avatar

    I have recently discovered that I have a 2-inch cyst on my right ovary that has already burst.
    I have been experiencing on and off bloating in my pelvic area. I started to take Vitex in tincture form, but noticed that it caused my menstrual cycle to last much longer. Since I have always naturally been very regular I decided to go off of the Vitex.
    I’m still concerned that I may be having some hormonal imbalances. After reading about all of the great benefits of Milk Thistle, I am hoping that it will aid with my occasional bloating and ovarian health.
    My question is whether it will help with healing the burst cyst? Is there any other herbs that speed the healing process?

    • Dear Madelaine,

      We created a guide, How to Help Ovarian Cysts Naturally and Safely with Herbs and Supplements…, that thoroughly explains natural ways to consider supporting the body, in addition to maintaining normal ovarian health, promoting normal hormonal balance and progesterone levels, supporting the body’s natural ability in reducing excess estrogen in the body, and encouraging normal circulation to the reproductive system.

      Milk Thistle seed is known to help with hormonal balance through supporting healthy liver function which is important for helping the body reduce excess estrogen as mentioned above.

      I wish for you speedy healing!

  9. Avatar

    Can Milk Thistle cause excessive bleeding in low dosage (only 10 drops/day) in women with endometriosis stage IV? I just started using this. My menstruation started inmediately (a week too soon) and I’ve lost 500 ml blood in only two days (no exageration, I’ve measured it with my menstrual cup). Is this the “shift” in my menstruation cycle you mentioned? Should I continue or should I stop using Milk Thistle all together?
    My doctor prescribed Cyclokapron (Tranexamic Acid) to stop the bleeding.

    • Dear Sue,

      I have not heard of Milk Thistle Seed causing or exacerbating excessive bleeding. Its actions on the liver are gentle, but theoretically this may be the “shift”. This being said, it would be best to stop using it. Stopping it will help to determine if what you are experiencing was from the Milk Thistle or something different.

      Stage III and IV endometriosis may require that you work with a natural healthcare provider to create the best plan for addressing symptoms. No matter the stage you suffer from, also consider a natural endometriosis support plan.

      Take care!

  10. Avatar

    I am going to have a FET in a months time. I have already had two failed attempts and so now I am trying lots of different protocols. Is the Milk Thistle Extract safe to take before doing a FET?

  11. Avatar

    Thank you for sharing so interesting and useful information. Your site is like a natural fertility manual and I enter it on a daily basis. I’m 39 and I’m currently trying to conceive. A year ago I was diagnosed with a small fibroid ~13mm and I have some hormone imbalance(high estrogen levels). I take DIM each day and I place castor oil packs before ovulation, but additionally I would like to do some liver cleansing and to start taking Vitex. Is it ok for me to take both herbs having in mind that I’m trying to conceive and I would like to get pregnant asap? Shall I start first with Milk Thistle, or I can take both herbs at the same time?

    • Dear Katrin,

      Thank you for your praise!

      Fertilica Milk Thistle Seed Extract and Fertilica Vitex can be combined with DIM and Castor Oil Therapy all of which can be used while trying to conceive. Fertilica Milk Thistle and DIM are to be discontinued upon first determination of pregnancy. Fertilica Vitex can be weaned off of in the early pregnancy and Castor Oil Therapy is only to be done from after menstruation ends until ovulation during cycles when actively trying to conceive.

    • Avatar

      Hi, I would avoid Milk Thistle if you are oestrogen dominant. I have been taking Livatone plus for liver health, which is amazing, but coupling that with some menopause herbs I just got my period 16 days in. I couldn’t think what changed except I went from taking herbs that helped ridding excess oestrogen to taking livatone plus. Way too much oestrogen activity for me. Sensible health in Candada recommended years ago not to take Milk thistle because of oestrogen. Seems she was right. I do think its a great liver tonic though, but there must be other herbs that help the liver if you are oestrogen dominant.

    • Dear Kate,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, but Livatone Plus is primarily made of “Silybum marianum (Milk Thistle) fruit extract”.

      Milk Thistle is known as one of the most supportive herbs of healthy liver function which is vital for hormone balance. We feel it valuable for many or our clients and that in order to promote healthy estrogen balance within our bodies, we have to consider how herbal phytoestrogens like Milk Thistle seed protect us from harmful xenohormones that cause estrogen dominance. Liver supporting herbs boost the body’s natural ability to detoxify.

      I am thankful your program has proven helpful for you!

  12. Avatar

    I started taking milk thistle a couple weeks ago. I take birth control to regulate my periods. This week, I haven’t gotten my period. Can milk thistle stop women from menstruating? Thank you!

    • Dear Dominique,

      I have not heard of Milk Thistle Seed Extract delaying menstruation. This being said, in stimulating the liver to detoxify and cleanse, which is what Milk Thistle Seed does, there can be shifts in the menstrual cycle. We find any shifts temporary, to work themselves out and a sign the body is responding to the herb’s actions.

      I understand you are on birth control, but it is not 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. Is there a possibility you could be pregnant?

      It may be worth speaking with your healthcare provider about taking Milk Thistle Seed Extract with your birth control as well.

      I hope this is helpful!

  13. Avatar

    I read this on “Since milk thistle may mimic the effects of estrogen, some women should avoid this herb. This includes women who have fibroid tumors or endometriosis. Additionally, women with breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers should not take milk thistle.”
    Is this true? I have included the link above.
    I would be grateful if you could let me know as
    I’m taking this regularly and I have endometriosis.

    • Elizabeth Willett, MA, CH

      Dear Rea,
      We don’t believe this to be true in most cases and if using the general suggested dose of (for both women and men) 30 drops of Milk Thistle Liquid Extract, 2-3 times a day in a little water. If you have great concern or are undergoing medical treatment for any condition mentioned, you should speak with your healthcare provider about using any herb.

      What I should share is that in order to promote healthy estrogen balance within our bodies, we have to consider how herbal phytoestrogens protect us from harmful xenoestrogens (toxins), which come from human-made chemicals (herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers to name a few) and are found in conventional foods, personal and body care products, paper products… a great many of the things many use in their daily lives. Xenoestrogens may cause estrogen dominance. Because of this we must consider liver supporting herbs for natural detoxification. The liver helps to filter toxins from the body, including excess hormones, and when the body has detoxified from toxins, our good, beneficial hormones are able to connect with hormone receptor sites and benefit various body systems.

      Because Milk Thistle is known as one of the most supportive herbs of liver health and healthy liver function is vital for hormone balance, we feel it valuable for many or our clients.

      Take Care!

  14. Update 2014 – We are back! We have been away for a while and we sure have missed all of your wonderful questions and thoughts on our articles. Moving forward, one of our staff herbalists will be here to respond to comments! We look forward to connecting with our readers once again!

  15. Avatar

    Where can i buy milk thistle in Gaborone , Botswana, Southern Africa?

  16. what can i take to bring menstration back

    • Avatar

      didn’t get period in two years. took two milk thistle tablets in one day (hours apart) then next day period started.

  17. Avatar

    Rejuvenzyme what does it focus on in the body.