If you are looking for natural ways to lower your iron levels, you should explore milk thistle for its iron chelation, antioxidant, and immune-boosting activity.
I have been taking it for a couple of years and wrote this article to share my experience and recommendations related to milk thistle.
What is Milk Thistle?
Milk thistle (Silymarin) is a flower native to Europe and Mediterranean countries. It is also called Mary’s Thistle or Holy Thistle.
Its anti-oxidant properties have long been well-known, and milk thistle has recently been subjected to many studies regarding its benefits for the liver and liver-related diseases. On top of those major functions, it also helps our immune system, lowers cholesterol levels, and helps kidney and pancreatic function – even diabetes.
Milk thistle has also been recognized as a natural iron chelator, making it a great supplement for patients with iron overload – like Thalassemia Major and Hemochromatosis.
What are the benefits of Milk Thistle in Iron Overload and Thalassemia Major?
Milk thistle helps lower liver enzymes in iron overload
I’ve been taking milk thistle off and on now for a few years. And I’ve tested this myself. Every time I start milk thistle, my liver function tests improve within 3 to 4 weeks.
Research has even shown that it can help the liver heal from jaundice as well.
This makes milk thistle quite useful for anyone with high liver enzymes or any sort of liver-related problem.
Research has shown that milk thistle lowers ferritin levels
Studies have shown that milk thistle reduces iron and ferritin levels due to its high antioxidant activity. It also has the ability to hinder the absorption of iron and other heavy metals in the gastrointestinal tract.
Milk thistle improves immune health
Milk thistle is known for its positive impact on the immune system. Studies have shown that it has potent immunostimulatory effects which help in protecting from diseases and toxins.
This characteristic makes it a powerful immune booster.
What are the side effects of milk thistle?
I take 1 tablet of 250 mg milk thistle every day and have not faced any side effects to date. It is generally considered safe to take but you must consult with your doctor for the right dosing to avoid any side effects.
I would recommend you monitor yourself for some time when you start taking milk thistle. If you feel any negative changes, stop taking it and talk to your doctor.
What are natural sources of milk thistle?
The active ingredient of milk thistle is called silymarin. Other than the milk thistle plant, artichokes are the only other food source that contains silymarin.
Hence it is not a commonly found food and I would recommend taking a good quality supplement to meet your daily needs.
What’s the best time to take milk thistle?
Milk thistle isn’t hard on the stomach so it’s okay to take it at any time that feels comfortable to you.
Some people prefer to take it on an empty stomach in the morning but that is when I take my IP6 as I feel that has more benefits on an empty stomach. You can read my article on IP6 for iron chelation here.
I take milk thistle before sleeping. It has worked well for me, so I would recommend the same to you.
Which is the best Milk Thistle Supplement for Iron Chelation?
I have tried some milk thistle supplements but the best one has been Puritan’s Milk Thistle and Dandelion Extract (affiliate link). This has worked the best for me and others I know.
My second option is Nature’s Bounty Milk Thistle. (affiliate link). This is a great product but it’s always been my fallback option when Puritan isn’t available.
So my recommendation is Puritan’s Milk Thistle and Dandelion Extract (affiliate link) and it is my default milk thistle supplement. Has been for the past few years now.
However, there is a milk thistle product with great reviews that I haven’t tried. It’s called Nature’s Craft Liver Support. It has artichoke extract as well as milk thistle which makes it more potent in my view. (affiliate link)
Let me know how it is if you try it.
Does milk thistle lower ferritin levels and chelate iron?
Yes, milk thistle does lower ferritin and iron levels. Studies have shown that an oral dosage of milk thistle resulted in the reduction of stored iron as well as reduced iron absorption from the gut.
Should milk thistle be taken on an empty stomach?
Yes, milk thistle should preferably be taken on an empty stomach or after food. You can take it as it suits you.
What is the right milk thistle dosage for iron chelation?
Milk thistle dosage for iron chelation will depend on your weight. However, I recommend you start with 250 mg to 500 mg.
Keep in mind, this is not going to be your primary chelator. So you don’t need to take high doses.
Is it safe to take milk thistle?
Studies have shown that milk thistle is safe to take. However, there have not been any long-term studies hence I feel it is better to take it intermittently – that’s what I do.
Please consult your doctor before starting milk thistle as natural supplements affect everyone differently.