Could a Simple Plant Be the Key to Stopping Cancer in Its Tracks?

For over two thousand years, milk thistle has been utilized for the treatment of liver and gallbladder conditions. Recent research from the University of Colorado Cancer Center indicates that a compound extracted from milk thistle, known as silibinin, could be a beneficial complementary or alternative medicine for lung cancer. But how does silibinin work, and what makes it a potential alternative to current cancer treatments?

Silibinin’s anti-inflammatory properties

The scientists behind the study assert that silibinin can disrupt a chain of cellular signals, leading to reduced inflammation and tissue damage. During a laboratory trial, it was found that silibinin could prevent the production of two enzymes, STAT1 and STAT2. These enzymes allow DNA to bind with specific proteins and continue in a harmful chain of events that lead to the production of damaging enzymes COX2 and iNOS.

Alpna Tyagi, Ph.D., one of the researchers of the study, said, “This relatively nontoxic substance — a derivative of milk thistle, called silibinin — was able to inhibit the upstream signals that lead to the expression of COX2 and iNOS.” Consequently, silibinin’s ability to prevent these harmful biological processes shows promise for mitigating inflammation-related health issues.

Inhibiting cancer growth

Aside from silibinin’s anti-inflammatory properties, the University of Colorado Cancer Center study found that the compound was able to stop the spread of existing lung cancer cells. This crucial finding suggests that silibinin could outperform current cancer drugs.

Traditional chemotherapy treatments often involve a combination of drugs aiming to kill cancer cells by damaging their DNA or hindering their ability to divide. However, many common chemotherapy drugs can also affect healthy cells in the process, leading to numerous side effects. Identifying alternative treatments, such as silibinin, could potentially help patients avoid these harmful side effects while still targeting cancerous cells effectively.

The benefits of Milk Thistle

Milk thistle offers numerous health benefits due to its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These properties can provide support to the liver by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, improving insulin resistance, and preventing the accumulation of excess iron in the body. Furthermore, research has shown that milk thistle could help protect against cancer by promoting DNA repair, inhibiting cancer cell growth, and boosting the immune system. However, further research is needed to determine whether milk thistle can be used as a natural alternative to more aggressive cancer treatments.


As researchers continue to explore the benefits of milk thistle and its compound, silibinin, its potential as an alternative treatment for lung cancer looks promising. Silibinin’s anti-inflammatory effects, combined with its ability to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, may offer a more natural and less invasive treatment option for patients whose cancer has not responded well to traditional treatments. Although more research is necessary, the discoveries from the University of Colorado Cancer Center study could pave the way for future advances in cancer treatment.