Anyone with a small understanding of supplements knows that milk thistle extract – scientific name Silybum marianum – as a supplement that protects your liver. But recent studies suggest that milk thistle can do a lot more than just this. Animal studies have shown, for example, that milk thistle protects against Alzheimer's. And a study that Korean researchers published recently in Experimental Biology and Medicine shows that milk thistle helps broken bones heal faster.
The active ingredients in supplements containing milk thistle are flavonolignans like silychristin, isosilychristin, silydianin, silibinin and isosilibin. They all resemble each other strongly. All these compounds together are referred to as silymarin.
Citrus fruits contain compounds that resemble silymarin, such as hesperidin. Because this compound increases the strength of lab animals' bones [J Appl Physiol. 2008 Mar; 104(3): 648-54.] scientists at Hallym University in South Korea suspect that silymarin may also have a bone-building effect. In a study financed by the Korean economic ministry, the Koreans tested this hypothesis in cell and animal studies.
The researchers broke mice's shinbones [Fractured] and studied the recovery for up to three weeks after the break happened. Some of the mice were given a daily oral dose of 10 mg silymarin per kg bodyweight [Silymarin treated].
If you convert this dose into a dose suitable for humans you arrive at 0.8 mg silymarin per kg/day. So if you weigh 80 kilograms you would need 65 mg active ingredients per day. This amount is not a problem. If you used a concentrated supplement, one capsule per day is enough.
The figures below show that this dose resulted in a faster recovery. The supplementation also boosted bone mass [BMD] and mineral density [BMC] in the broken bone.
Silymarin raised the concentration of osteocalcin and alkaline phosphatase in the mice's blood, and the production of bone morphogenetic protein-2 and collagen-I in bone cells.
Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2012 Apr 1;237(4):417-28.