No, milk thistle cannot detox your liver

By: Emmi Kivi
March 22 2024

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No, milk thistle cannot detox your liver

Source: TikTok


The Verdict False

There is no scientific evidence that milk thistle or other supplements detox the liver or cure an existing liver condition.

Claim ID b817ff0e


In a video shared on TikTok, online users claimed that milk thistle is a "potent liver detoxifier and healer" that can remove toxins from the body in less than 24 hours. So far, the viral post has garnered over 700,000 likes and 28,000 re-shares. 

However, no scientific proof exists that milk thistle or other supplements will detox the liver or cure an existing liver condition.

In fact

The liver is the body's natural detoxifier. A healthy liver cleanses itself and the body of its toxins. Liver detox programs do not treat damage or prevent disease, and an unhealthy liver cannot heal with a liver detox. Instead, an unhealthy liver requires medical treatment and possible lifestyle or dietary changes.

WebMD defines a liver detox or cleanse as "a program that claims to take out toxins in your body, help you lose weight, or improve your health." A variety of natural health practitioners and supplement companies argue that the liver accumulates toxins during the natural filtering process and that, over time, these toxins cause serious diseases. However, there is little evidence to support these claims. At the same time, most medical practitioners agree that the liver does not need detoxing, and doing so may be dangerous by causing drug-induced injury to the liver.

Milk thistle is a flowering plant whose active ingredient is silymarin. Some studies have suggested that milk thistle may have some beneficial effects on treating liver conditions, including cirrhosis and hepatitis C. In addition to liver treatment, a few studies indicate that milk thistle may help lower cholesterol and help manage type 2 diabetes. There are no conclusive studies or sufficient scientific evidence on milk thistle as an efficient detox treatment.

Without specifically referring to liver detox, the British Liver Trust issued its standard response on milk thistle to Logically Facts, stating, "Herbal medicines like milk thistle do not have to undergo the same research trials and stringent regulatory processes as medical drugs, and there is not enough evidence to prove or disprove the benefits."

Moreover, little is known about whether milk thistle is effective in people, as the research results have been mixed. There is also a lack of studies on humans, well-designed and clinically meaningful research, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reported.

Health hacks and scam experts on social media

The viral post included the claim that naturopath Barbara O'Neill's daughter "was sentenced to 155 years in prison for revealing top secret health hacks." The claim is shared with an image of a young hand-cuffed juvenile in an orange jumpsuit at a trial. However, the picture does not show O'Neill's daughter. 

LeadStories covered a similar image shared by the same account, noting that it was an AI illustration. The story also points out that the image does not show Barbara O'Neill's daughter, Emma. Logically Facts could not find credible reporting that she has been imprisoned or put on trial. Instead, we found social media posts of Emma, not incarcerated, as recently as 21 March 2024. 

Screenshot on the left shows the viral image while image on the right shows the actual daughter of Barbara O'Neill, Emma. Source: TikTok

Barbara O'Neill is known to spread false claims and unproven health remedies, including false claims that statins increase the risk of heart disease, sugar consumption prevents and cures cancer, and castor oils treat tonsil stones – all covered and debunked by Logically Facts. In 2019, the Health Care Complaints Commission of New South Wales, Australia, referred to O'Neill as an "unregistered practitioner" in a public statement. She has been permanently barred from rendering any medical services after the panel determined that she endangers the public's health or safety. 

The verdict

There is no evidence that detox programs or supplements, such as milk thistle, detox or cure any liver conditions. On the contrary, detoxes and supplements may be harmful. While some studies may indicate that milk thistle may benefit treating liver conditions, the research has been mixed, scarce, and often lacking quality. Therefore, we have marked this claim as false.

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We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before