Milk thistle is commonly used by bodybuilders and athletes focused on weight gain as a complement to protein and nutritional supplements. Many believe milk thistle is integral in improving liver function and protecting it from damage that may occur with supplement use. Milk thistle is also touted as a toxin-removing "cleanse." However, milk thistle's purported benefits have not all been proven by medical science, and it does have the potential for uncomfortable side effects.
Purchase milk thistle in one of the four following forms: as a dried herb capsule, liquid or alcohol extract, tincture or silymarin phosphatidylcholine complex. The latter complex is the most popular form because its high level of silymarin makes it easier for the body to absorb milk thistle. Alcohol extract should not be taken if you are using milk thistle to help cope with liver damage from alcohol.
Take 200 to 400 mg of milk thistle 1 to 3 times each day, if you are taking the supplement. If you are taking milk thistle as a dried herb, consume 12 to 15 grams of the dried herb with a meal.
Grind dried milk thistle and put it into a cereal, oatmeal or other flavorful food. Many people don't like the taste of the supplement and prefer to disguise it in another food. Conversely, you can bring water to a boil and put milk thistle in it to make tea.
If you are using a liquid milk thistle extract, add it to juice or another flavored beverage to make the supplement more palatable.
Talk to your doctor and make sure consuming milk thistle will not interfere with any other medications or supplements you are taking.
Increased cholesterol and testosterone levels are potential consequences of taking bodybuilding substances, but milk thistle is not proven to help.
Milk thistle is not an alternative to seeking professional help if you have liver problems or any other medical condition.
If you are using a packaged milk thistle supplement, always follow the manufacturer's instructions.