Milk thistle extract, also called silymarin, has been used for thousands of years to treat liver and gall bladder ailments. Recent research supports its use as a liver tonic, especially to counteract the effects of alcohol, poison mushrooms and drugs, and has identified few side effects and drug interactions. This has made milk thistle a popular remedy that is widely available in several forms.
Native to the Mediterranean region but grown today across Europe and in the United States, milk thistle has been used for at least 2,000 years as a remedy for liver and gallbladder ailments as well as other disorders, according to “The American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines.” By the early 20th century, most people had lost interest in it. But in the 1960s, scientists began researching its benefits. Today, milk thistle extract, also known as silymarin, is used not only as a liver tonic but to aid in proper digestion, waste processing and other body functions.