The Nootropics Library: Poria Mushroom

Everything You Need to Know About Poria Mushroom

General Information

Scientific Name: Wolfiporia extensa (of the Polyporaceae family)

Any Other Names: Bai Fu Ling, Bokryung, Champignon Poria, China Root, Cocos, Fu Ling, Hoelen, Matsuhodo, Poria cocos, Tuckahoe, Wolfiporia cocos

Primary Constituents: Amino Acids, Monosaccharides, Triterpene derivatives (primarily Pachymic acid)

Country or Region of Origin: Found in Subterranean Habitats; Grows on Decaying Wood; Native to China (not the same as Native American Tuckahoe);

Known Uses: Memory, Anti-Fatigue, Promotes Cellular Function, Improves Immunity, Stress and Anxiety, Digestive Support, and More

General History & Introduction

Poria mushroom holds a strong place in traditional Chinese medicine (Cheng et al., 2015). In fact, it has been considered an edible, medicinal mushroom in Chinese medicine for more than two thousand years (Li et al., 2019). Recently, the fungus has been receiving more attention in modern studies and research. Poria is typically hailed for its primary triterpene derivative, Pachymic acid (PA), which has been used for a lexicon on effects (Cheng et al., 2015). These therapeutic constituents are extracted from the spores of the fungus and used as a supplement and medicine (Prieto et al., 2003). The benefits of these extractions are extensive. In fact, some of the effects the constituents purportedly offer even includes anticancer benefits (Cheng et al., 2015).

Nootropic Benefits of Poria Mushroom

Brain Health and Memory

Poria Mushroom has a long history of being used as a memory booster (Lin et al., 2012). The herb’s innate support for cerebral blood flow has been suggested to contribute to its cognitive enhancing and memory improving properties (Sun et al., 2021). For similar reasons, the fungus has been suggested for use as a treatment for dementia, as it has the potential to repair the memory (Lin et al., 2012).  Traditional Chinese medicine has turned to the mushroom to treat many neurogenetic disorders (2012). It is used to enhance learning ability and associated memory recall (Wu et al., 2020).

Promotes Cellular Function, Prevents Fatigue, Improves Immunity

Poria Mushroom has been referenced in many ancient Chinese texts, dating as far back as three thousand years ago (Lin et al., 2012).  It has been used by many renown physicians throughout these generations for its ability to improve general vitality (2012). Poria is a traditional, holistic remedy for chronic fatigue syndrome (Chen et al., 2010). The mushroom is also considered in many studies to be an immune-modulatory herb (Sun, 2014), meaning the herb has the ability to offer favorable modifications to the immune system.

Stress, Anxiety and Depression


The mushroom has purported anti-depressant-like properties and may have a significantly favorable impact on mood (Huang et al., 2020). Poria’s antioxidant effects contribute heavily to its anti-anxiety properties (Lin et al., 2012).  The fungus has been studied for its relaxation and sleep-improving qualities (Chen et al., 2010). Poria’s reported sedative and relaxation effects have only briefly been investigated, however, the promising results which exist thus far warrant further investigation (Huang et al., 2020).

Digestive Support

Poria Mushroom is well-known for its use in providing aid and relief to the digestive tract (Gong et al., 1989). As a supplement, the mushroom can ease the symptoms of diarrhea and relax the stomach (Li et al., 2019). The mushroom is also an effective diuretic (Huang et al., 2020), which means it promotes the production of urine.

Other Benefits

Poria has a long history of being used for respiratory support and to treat kidney disease (Li et al., 2019).  The herb can provide aid for people suffering from insomnia, cough, and various types of infections (2019). Poria Mushroom is being investigated for its purported positive effects on pancreatic cancer patients (Cheng et al., 2015). A polysaccharidum-based solution of Poria cocos has been approved as an oral medicine to treat many types of cancers (Li et al., 2019).  The Chinese FDA has also cleared the herb to treat hepatitis and to help with radiation and chemotherapy.  And many studies have determined Poria to possess remarkable antitumor properties (2019). The fungi has been known to prevent some cancers from forming (Cuellar et al., 1997).


Poria has been traditionally used for its anti-inflammation effects (Li et al., 2019). The mushroom is considered anti-hemorrhagic, which basically means it promotes hemostasis. It has been called an anti-ageing herb. It can reduce the symptoms and help resist the development of diabetes (2019). Like its anti-inflammation properties, the mushroom has the purported ability to reduce swelling (Cuellar et al., 1997).  It can significantly improve immune function (1997).

Dosing and Usage Information

Poria Mushroom is typically offered as a dietary supplement in capsule form.  Sometimes, it is used as a powder (much like a pre-work out supplement), although the capsules are far more popular. Daily serving sizes of Poria in terms of dietary supplements can vary greatly with some supplements including as little as 50 mg of extract. With that said, the mainstream brands of Poria supplements range from suggesting 400 to 1000 mg of extract per day.

Side Effects


Although research is still a little young, Poria Mushroom is generally considered safe for most individuals.  Still, the fungus has been used for a variety of purposes throughout traditional Chinese medicine and has been accepted in Chinese culture for its therapeutic benefits.  No side effects are typically reported, although pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid use of Poria.


Although Poria Mushroom is less known and less discussed than other nootropics, the herb is still being investigated for its therapeutic benefits (and with promising results pouring in). Chinese medicine has fully incorporated the herb for its distinguished and proven pharmaceutical effects (Li et al., 2019). While the verdict is still out in Western culture, it has become more popular around the rest of the world. And Poria’s versatile uses more than make it worth further research.  The mushroom is an excellent candidate for many nootropic stacks.

A Note from NooFiles

This article is intended to be used for information only.  We want to remind you that consulting your physician is recommended before adding any dietary supplement of any kind to your daily regimen.


Chen, R., Moriya, J., Yamakawa, J., Takahashi, T., and Kanda, T. (2010). Traditional chinese medicine for chronic fatigue syndrome. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine. Vol. 7(1). Pp. 3–10. DOI:

Cheng, S., Swanson, K., Eliaz, I., McClintick, J. N., Sandusky, G. E., and Sliva, D. (2015). Pachymic acid inhibits growth and induces apoptosis of pancreatic cancer in vitro and in vivo by targeting ER stress. PloS one. Vol. 10(4) [e0122270]. DOI:

Cuellar, M., Giner, R., and Recio, M. (1997). Effect of the basidiomycete Poria cocos on experimental dermatitis and other inflammatory conditions. Chem Pharm Bull. Tokyo. Vol. 45. Pp. 492-4.

Gong, Q., Wang, S., and Gan, C. (1989). A clinical study on the treatment of acute upper digestive tract hemorrhage with wen-she decoction. Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih. Vol. 9. Pp. 260-273.

Huang, Y., Hsu, N., Lu, K., Lin, Y., Lin, S., Lu, Y., Liu, W., Chen, M., and Sheen, L. (2020). Poria cocos water extract ameliorates the behavioral deficits induced by unpredictable chronic mild stress in rats by down-regulating inflammation. J Ethnopharmacol. Vol. 258. DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2020.112566

Li, X., He, Y., Zeng, P., Liu, Y., Zhang, M., Hao, C., Wang, H., Lv, Z., & Zhang, L. (2019). Molecular basis for Poria cocos mushroom polysaccharide used as an antitumour drug in China. Journal of cellular and molecular medicine. Vol. 23(1). Pp. 4–20. DOI:

Lin, Z., Gu, J., Xiu, J., Mi, T., Dong, J., and Tiwari, J. K. (2012). Traditional chinese medicine for senile dementia. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine. PMID: 21808655. DOI:

Sun Y, Liu Z, Pi Z, Song F, Wu J, and Liu S. (2021). Poria cocos could ameliorate cognitive dysfunction in APP/PS1 mice by restoring imbalance of Aβ production and clearance and gut microbiota dysbiosis. Phytother Res. DOI: 10.1002/ptr.7014

Sun, Y. (2014). Biological activities and potential health benefits of polysaccharides from Poria cocos and their derivatives. Int J Biol Macromol. Vol. 68. Pp. 131-4. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2014.04.010

Wu, F., Li, S., Dong, C., Dai, Y., and Papp, V. (2020). The Genus Pachyma (Syn. Wolfiporia): Reinstated and Species Clarification of the Cultivated Medicinal Mushroom “Fuling” in China. Frontiers in Microbiology. Vol. 11. DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.590788

The Nootropics Library: Panax Ginseng

Everything You Need to Know About Panax Ginseng

General Information

Scientific Name: Panax Ginseng

Any Other Names: Chinese Ginseng, Ginseng, Ren Shen (Chinese), Renshen (Chinese variant)

Primary Constituents: Acetylenic compounds, Panaxans, Sesquiterpenes, Triterpenoid saponins and Ginsenosides

Country or Region of Origin: Native to China, Eastern Russia, and North Korea

Known Uses: Cognitive Function, Memory, Simulant, Stamina, Athletic Performance, Life-Enhancing Tonic, Adaptogen, Anti-Anxiety, Aphrodisiac, Libido, Erectile Dysfunction, Menopause Tonic, and More

General History & Introduction

Panax Ginseng is one of the most popular and well-known nootropics around the world. It has a history of over 7,000 years of recorded therapeutic use (Chevallier, 2016). It has been so well-sought after that there have been wars fought over the territory controlling its cultivation (2016). Panax is exceptionally popular in Western culture as a dietary supplement.  Its many active components make the herb useful for many parts of the body, as well as general wellness (Beshara, 2019).  It has been called one of the most famous adaptive tonics in traditional Chinese medicine (Orr, 2014). One thing is for sure: Ginseng is arguably one of the most useful herbs in holistic practice.

Nootropic Benefits of Panax Ginseng

Cognitive Function, Memory

Panax Ginseng is popular worldwide for its ability to improve cognitive performance (Beshara, 2019).  Many clinical trials have revealed the herb to offer significant improvements to cognitive performance in healthy adults.  And many clinical trials have suggested the herb can improve cognitive function for Alzheimer’s patients (2019). Ginseng has been proven in recent Russian studies to improve mental activity (Balch, 2010).  The plant’s proven ability to increase attention, alertness, and energy, make it an excellent cognitive nootropic (2010).

Stimulant, Stamina, Athletic Performance


Panax is frequently used by athletes for a stimulating boost, and for its stamina-promoting properties (Chevallier, 2016). It improves the body’s ability to fight fatigue and offers a well-known energy boost (2016).  Panax is revered for its capability to improve chronic fatigue syndrome (Beshara, 2019). It is so impactful in terms of preventing fatigue due to its ability to bypass glycogen, and instead making use of fatty acids for energy (Balch, 2010). The herb can improve one’s ability to adapt to extreme temperatures (Chevallier, 2016). Panax’s favorable impact on sustaining respiration is also very helpful for athletes and stressful situations (Orr, 2014).

Life-Enhancing Tonic

The Chinese, as well as Western cultures, have recognized Panax Ginseng’s general capability as a life-enhancing tonic (Chevallier, 2016).  The herb can stimulate circulation and regulate blood sugar fluctuations (Conkling & Wong, 2006).  It has the power to moderate blood pressure (2006). It has been used for its rejuvenation and detoxifying properties (Balch, 2010). There are studies which support the idea that Panax can improve kidney function, cool fevers, and even influence and regulate digestion (Orr, 2014).  Panax ginseng has been called a powerful antioxidant and a youth-preserving herb (Walker & Brown, 1998).  The herb is able to stimulate and strengthen the heart, as well as regulate the central nervous system (1998).

Adaptogen, Anti-Anxiety

Panax ginseng has capability to help the body handle difficult situations (Orr, 2014). Panax helps the body adapt to stress (Chevallier, 2016).  It will improve the mind’s ability to relax, eliminating both mental and emotional stresses.  The herb’s reduction in common stresses can include decreased worries about hunger, fatigue, and extreme temperature (2016).  As an adaptogen, Ginseng regulates and influences a lot of systems within the body (Conkling & Wong, 2006). The herb provides the body anxiety adaptation and a range of stress responses, applying them as necessary to combat the independent adverse effects of stress (Orr, 2014).  Ginseng’s heavy triterpenoid saponin content is purportedly responsible for the plant’s adaptogenic properties.  The active constituents also do a great job of improving mood (2014).

Aphrodisiac, Libido


Panax has been used for thousands of years as a male aphrodisiac (Chevallier, 2016).  It has been said to improve general vitality and virility in men and women.  It has also been used to improve libido for women going through menopause.  Panax is also reportedly a great treatment for erectile dysfunction.  It can even be used to improve impotence (2016). One Russian study proved Ginseng had a positive effect on sex glands, and helps men correct sexual dysfunctions (Balch, 2010). 

Other Uses

Panax Ginseng has been used to resist infection and improve liver function (Chevallier, 2016).  It is often taken by to improve the quality of life in cancer patients. It has been known to improve immune function (2016).  In one recent study, Panax was proven to reduce the likelihood participants would catch the flu (Beshara, 2019). In higher doses, it can be used to help reduce inflammation, especially with rheumatoid arthritis (Balch, 2010).  Its purported benefits for diabetes patients are likely due to the decrease of the cortisol hormone in the blood (2010).

A recent study has found Panax to have the power to regulate adrenal glands (Orr, 2014).  This same research outlined its additional ability to regulate the pancreas.  There are reports of the Native Americans using Ginseng to treat convulsions and palsy. They also classically used the plant to recover from general illness as well (2014). This could be considered the Native American version of Western culture’s “Chicken Noodle Soup” tonic.

Dosing and Usage Information

Although traditional Chinese preparation of Panax was normally a vegetable soup (Chevallier, 2016), this method is rarely used today. And despite there being a lot of different Panax supplements, from untreated or blanched, whole or part root, liquid or concentrate, tincture or tea, Panax is most popularly consumed in Western culture via capsule form (Balch, 2010). Typically, a Panax Ginseng dietary supplement will offer daily servings of around 400 to 2000 mg of extract.  Pills and capsules are also more convenient for short-term usage.

Side Effects


Panax Ginseng is generally considered safe within established daily values. Exceeding the established daily value dosages can increase the likelihood of adverse side effects such as insomnia and high blood pressure (Chevallier, 2016). It is important to consult a physician before using Ginseng if pregnant, nursing, or using blood-thinning medication.  It is suggested to avoid using Ginseng with caffeine (2016).  Panax Ginseng should be limited to 6 months of use at a time, as it can have strong, hormone-like effects on the body (Beshara, 2019).  Still, it is a generally accepted as safe for consumption, nontoxic adaptogen (Orr, 2014).

Other Important Information

Cultivation of Panax Ginseng requires immense skill and attention (Chevallier, 2016).  Typically, the roots will only be harvested after having grown for 4 years to ensure the active constituents are strongest in content and concentration. Traditionally, the dry roots are chewed for energy boosts.  The extract form of the herb is often used by women in menopause for its ability to increase sexual arousal as well as reduce hot flashes and improve mood (2016).

It is important to note that there are two primary variations (species) of Ginseng being Siberian ginseng [Eleutherococcus senticosus] and Chinese ginseng [Panax ginseng] (Orr, 2014). Both species share similar qualities and offer nearly the same benefits, however, this article is focusing on Panax ginseng. Panax ginseng is a bit rare, as it is highly endangered. For this reason it is difficult to find trustworthy vendors, as the market has been flooded with falsely labeled “Panax” ginseng products which actually contain Siberian ginseng (2014).

One finicky version of Ginseng, Panax quinquefolius, grows in forest areas of North America (Orr, 2014). This variant of the plant was well-known for its therapeutic properties throughout traditional Native American culture. In fact, it was loved by many Native American tribes including the Cherokee, Delaware, Iroquois, and Seminole. By the end of the eighteenth century, Native American priests and healers would be administering the plant for a variety of ailment s (2014). Ginseng would only grow in popularity, becoming one of the most prevalently marketed nootropic supplements of modern times.


Panax Ginseng is widely known for its therapeutic benefits.  It has been well-revered in Chinese medicine, as well as throughout the world.  It is commonly known as a general tonic in so many traditional, holistic practices for its ability to influence such versatile systems of the body (Conkling & Wong, 2006). Although it can be a bit more difficult to source high quality Panax (and even harder to cultivate it), it could easily be argued one of the most valuable natural herbs used in modern, holistic healing and nootropic stacks to date!

A Note from NooFiles

This article is intended to be used for information only.  We want to remind you that consulting your physician is recommended before adding any dietary supplement of any kind to your daily regimen.


Balch, P. (2010). Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Fifth Edition. Avery Publishing. New York, New York. ISBN 978-1-58333-400-3

Beshara, J., Engle, D., and Haynes, K. (2019). Beyond Coffee. Monocle Publishing. ISBN 9781544505459

Chevallier, A. (2016). Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Third Edition. DK Publishing. New York, New York. ISBN 978-1-4654-4981-8

Conkling, W. and Wong, D. (2006). The Complete Guide to Vitamins and Supplements: The Holistic Path to Good Health. Avon Health Publishing. New York, NY. ISBN: 978-0-06-076066-3.

Orr, S. (2014). The New American Herbal. Clarkson Potter Publishers. New York, New York. ISBN 978-0-449-81993-7

Walker, L., and Brown, E. (1998). The Alternative Pharmacy. Prentice Hall Press. Paramus, New Jersey.  ISBN 0-7352-0021-1

The Nootropics Library: Nigella sativa

Everything You Need to Know About Nigella sativa

General Information

Scientific Name: Nigella sativa (of the Ranunculaceae family)

Any Other Names: Black Caraway, Black Cumin, Black Seed, Kalanji, Nigella, Nutmeg Flower, Onion Seed, Roman Coriander, Spanish Nigella

Primary Constituents: 40% Oils, Fatty Acids (Linoleic acid, Oleic acid, Palmitic acid), Saponin (melantin), Terpenes and More (Nigellicine, Nigellidine, Nigellimine N-oxide, Thymoquinone)

Country or Region of Origin: Native to Western Asia, Mediterranean, Northern Africa, and Europe

Known Uses: Antioxidant, Breathing Support, Digestive Support, Inflammation, Headache, Lowering Cholesterol, and More

General History & Introduction

The Nigella sativa plant is considered an annual plant, blooming pale blue-to-white or purple flowers, typically only growing about 1 foot tall (30 cm) (Chevallier, 2016).  It is a member of the buttercup family and is a different plant from cumin or caraway, neither of which it shares relation (2016).  It is well known, with a rich historical value in many cultures, and has been used for its medicinal and culinary applications (Orr, 2014).  There are records of the herb being used as far back as the 16th century, B.C. (Ahmad et al., 2013).  It has a strong presence throughout Ancient Egyptian and Greek cultures (Chevallier, 2016).  In modern times, it is popular still throughout Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world (Ahmad et al., 2013). Some of the benefits Nigella sativa offers may include antioxidant properties, breathing support effects, anti-inflammation properties, preventative support for many diseases, and more (2013).

Nootropic Benefits of Nigella sativa


Many have tested Nigella sativa to find effective antioxidant properties (Burits & Bucar, 2000). Some more recent research has revealed the seed’s thymoquinone content to be notably high (Bordoni et al., 2019). This same study suggested the high thymoquinone content to be primarily responsible for the herb’s high performance as an antioxidant. These antioxidant properties were reportedly strongest when the thymoquinone was extracted from the seeds (such as in a dietary supplement dose of the herb) (2019). And research supports the theory that Nigella sativa’s antioxidant properties can be used to protect the liver (Orr, 2014). 

Breathing Support (Asthma, Bronchitis, etc.)


Modern empirical data is beginning to suggest Nigella sativa seeds as a reasonable treatment supplement for many breathing issues. The seeds have been purportedly able to treat nasal congestion (Chevallier, 2016). They have been studied for its potential to treat bronchial asthma, and with good efficacy (Shakeri et al., 2016). Al-Jawziyya, a Muslim scholar from the 14th century recorded Nigella’s positive effects on breathing, even suggesting it was used as an aid for gasping, shortness of breath, and hard breathing (Koshak et al., 2017). It is suggested to have the ability to reduce and even stop phlegm.  Modern uses of Nigella still include cough and asthma, especially in its native regions (2017).

Digestive Support

Black Cumin seeds are reportedly great for the digestive tract, both in a culinary sense and as a dietary supplement (Chevallier, 2016).  It can treat stomach pain and ease stomach spasms.  These digestive benefits also include reduced bloating, flatulence, and gas (2016).  It has been said to offer incredible healing benefits during gastrointestinal disturbances (Shakeri et al., 2016). It has been used to treat constipation with great success (2016). And some sources report its powerful diuretic properties (Orr, 2014).

Many new models and clinical trials have been supporting the suggestion that Nigella sativa has preventative and therapeutic effects on many gastro-intestinal conditions (Shakeri et al., 2016).  Much like the plant’s antioxidant properties, the digestive support can mostly be traced to the herb’s thymoquinone content. The anti-inflammation properties of the herb are also partly to contribute to its success as a treatment for many gastrointestinal diseases (2016).

Inflammation, Headache, and Toothache

Kalanji (Black Cumin) is extremely well-known for its anti-inflammation effects (Chevallier, 2016). It is an essential anti-inflammatory throughout the Middle East and India, also being used to treat infection (Orr, 2014). The seeds offer excellent holistic treatment for headaches and migraines, even being used to treat toothaches (Chevallier, 2016). In fact, some studies have reported the herb to have incredibly high efficacy in treating headaches of all kinds (Shakeri et al., 2016).  This same research also revealed Nigella’s potential to decrease inflammation, reduce oxidative damage, and improve intestinal barrier function (2016).

Lowering Cholesterol


Black Cumin seeds may possess a powerful ability to treat cholesterol (Chevallier, 2016).  Some research has suggested that the seeds may be able to treat metabolic syndrome (2016). A recent study showcased Nigella’s ability to significantly reduce body weight, body mass index (BMI), and cholesterol in participants (Farhangi et al., 2018). The seeds are shown to have an innate ability to improve dyslipidemia associated with type 2 diabetes, and is considered protective against atherosclerosis and some cardiovascular issues (Kaatabi et al., 2012).

Other Uses

Nigella sativa has many other traditional uses, some which have been backed with clinical trials or studies, and others which are only purported applications.  It has been shown to possess antiviral properties and might be a potential treatment for chronic viral infections such as hepatitis (Chevallier, 2016).  These properties contribute to its use as an antiseptic and has antimicrobial properties. Ayurvedic practice uses Nigella seeds to increase breast-milk production and promote menstrual periods (2016).

Some sources call Nigella an excellent treatment for diarrhea (Orr, 2014). It has been cited for its purported ability to combat cancer symptoms, and hypertension (2014). It is anti-fungal, anti-histaminic, and can relieve symptoms of many conditions (Shakeri et al., 2016). Some of the conditions which benefit from the therapeutic properties of Nigella sativa previously unmentioned include anorexia, back pain, conjunctivitis, dysentery, hydrophobia, obesity, paralysis piles, and some skin diseases (2016). The seeds have even been found to have anti-ulcer effects (Al Mofleh et al., 2008).

Dosing and Usage Information

A typical suggested daily dose of Nigella sativa in most dietary supplements is between 200 and 600 mg of extract. Usually only the seeds of the Nigella plant are used.

Side Effects

Nigella sativa is generally considered safe in normal, established daily value limits. Throughout much research and many studies, very few adverse effects were reported (Tavakkoli et al., 2017).  Although, it should not be taken by individuals with hypotension, on chemotherapy drugs, or whom are breastfeeding or pregnant.

Other Important Information


Black Cumin seeds have a bitter taste with a flavor comparable to an onion (Orr, 2014). As it is toasted or extracted, the taste will be comparable to a nut and the fragrance will be strong.  The seeds are especially enjoyed as a regular culinary asset throughout India and the Middle East, often being included on flatbreads and cakes of all types. The plant’s flowering head will bloom into a puffball after pollination, also paving its way as a gardener’s favorite for ornamental arrangements (2014).


Although Nigella sativa may not be the most exciting herb, it is a huge part of many holistic healing traditions.  There is a lot of modern research which has suggested the herb is worth further investigation and clinical studies.  Its antioxidant effects make it an excellent supplement to add to any daily regimen. Even the prophet Muhammad is famous for advocating the seed, proclaiming “…it has a cure for every disease except death” (Orr, 2014). The herb promotes a healthy body weight (Farhangi et al., 2018) and the proper functioning of so many other organs.  In the end, it is no wonder the therapeutic benefits of these seeds have been used for thousands of years!

A Note from NooFiles

This article is intended to be used for information only.  We want to remind you that consulting your physician is recommended before adding any dietary supplement of any kind to your daily regimen.


Ahmad, A., Husain, A., Mujeeb, M., Khan, S. A., Najmi, A. K., Siddique, N. A., Damanhouri, Z. A., AND Anwar, F. (2013). A review on therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa: A miracle herb. Asian Pacific journal of tropical biomedicine. Vol. 3(5). Pp. 337–352. DOI:

Al Mofleh, I. A., Alhaider, A. A., Mossa, J. S., Al-Sohaibani, M. O., Al-Yahya, M. A., Rafatullah, S., and Shaik, S. A. (2008). Gastroprotective effect of an aqueous suspension of black cumin Nigella sativa on necrotizing agents-induced gastric injury in experimental animals. Saudi journal of gastroenterology : official journal of the Saudi Gastroenterology Association. Vol. 14(3). Pp. 128–134. DOI:

Bordoni, L., Fedeli, D., Nasuti, C., Maggi, F., Papa, F., Wabitsch, M., De Caterina, R., and Gabbianelli, R. (2019). Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Nigella sativa Oil in Human Pre-Adipocytes. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland). Vol. 8(2). Pp. 51. DOI:

Burits, M., and Bucar, F. (2000). Antioxidant activity of Nigella sativa essential oil. Phytother. Res.. Vol. 14. Pp. 323-328. DOI:<323::AID-PTR621>3.0.CO;2-Q

Chevallier, A. (2016). Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Third Edition. DK Publishing. New York, New York. ISBN 978-1-4654-4981-8

Farhangi, M.A., Dehghan, P. and Tajmiri, S. (2018). Powdered black cumin seeds strongly improves serum lipids, atherogenic index of plasma and modulates anthropometric features in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Lipids Health Dis. Vol. 17. Pp. 59. DOI:

Kaatabi, H., Bamosa, A. O., Lebda, F. M., Al Elq, A. H., & Al-Sultan, A. I. (2012). Favorable impact of Nigella sativa seeds on lipid profile in type 2 diabetic patients. Journal of family & community medicine. Vol. 19(3). Pp. 155–161. DOI:

Koshak, A., Wei, L., Koshak, E., Wali, S., Alamoudi, O., Demerdash, A., Qutub, M., Pushparaj, P. N., & Heinrich, M. (2017). Nigella sativa Supplementation Improves Asthma Control and Biomarkers: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Phytotherapy research : PTR, 31(3), 403–409.

Orr, S. (2014). The New American Herbal. Clarkson Potter Publishers. New York, New York. ISBN 978-0-449-81993-7

Shakeri, F., Gholamnezhad, Z., Mégarbane, B., Rezaee, R., and Boskabady, M. H. (2016). Gastrointestinal effects of Nigella sativa and its main constituent, thymoquinone: a review. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine. Vol. 6(1). Pp. 9–20. PMID: 27247918

Tavakkoli, A., Mahdian, V., Razavi, B. M., & Hosseinzadeh, H. (2017). Review on Clinical Trials of Black Seed (Nigella sativa ) and Its Active Constituent, Thymoquinone. Journal of pharmacopuncture, 20(3), 179–193.

The Nootropics Library: Milk Thistle

Everything You Need to Know About Milk Thistle

General Information

Scientific Name: Silybum marianum (of the Asteraceae family)

Any Other Names: Mary thistle, Silymarin, Wild Artichoke

Primary Constituents: Bitter Principles, Flavonligans / Flavonoid (silymarin), Polyacetylenes

Country or Region of Origin: Native to the Mediterranean Region, Europe, and California

Known Uses: Depression, “Hangover Cure,” Liver Protectant & Liver Infection Treatment, Jaundice Treatment Anti-Allergenic, Hay Fever, and Increases Breast Milk Production


General History & Introduction

Milk Thistle is a spiny plant growing up to 5 feet tall with distinguishable white vein leaves and sprouting purple flowers (Chevallier, 2016). It is very prominent in open areas throughout the wild but is also cultivated ornamentally. The plant requires a lot of sun, though it is still a weed-like species, requiring little affection. The flower heads are typically in full bloom by mid-summer and the seeds are usually harvested before autumn. It has been used throughout Europe for its many health benefits for thousands of years. Most modern research (at least from the 1970s onward) has been focused on plant’s seeds and its constituent, silymarin (2016).

Nootropic Benefits of Milk Thistle


Europe was one of the first places Milk Thistle has been recorded for use as a treatment for depression (Chevallier, 2016).  This herbal remedy has spread in modern times to the rest of the world, as clinical trials and studies back its traditional use. One very promising study proved that silymarin can have antidepressant effects, citing its antioxidant-capabilities as one of the leading contributing factors (Ashraf et al., 2019).  This same study also credited the flavonoid’s depression-reducing power on its anti-inflammatory properties. Silymarin is also well known to increase neurogenesis in the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, activities which are well-outlined treatments for depression (2019).

“Hangover Cure” and Liver Protectant*

Milk Thistle has been long revered for its potential to alleviate the symptoms of a hangover (Chevallier, 2016).  Mostly this is because the herb exhibits pro-liver capabilities.  In specific, the seeds contain a high content of silymarin, which is known for its liver protective properties (2016). There are cultures throughout Europe and Asia which have used Milk Thistle for its positive effects on the liver and hangover for thousands of years (Rainone, 2005).


There are some studies which have suggested that silymarin might be able to detox the body in regards to some compounds absorbed from alcohol (Vargas-Mendoza et al., 2014).  There is also some research which inconclusively purport the herb might be able to disable inflammatory signals which are triggered by alcohol (Federico et al., 2017).  Still, many sources believe the herb could have positive impact potential on liver damage (Achufusi & Patel, 2020). It has even been suggested that the herb has the potential to protect the liver from toxicity and to promote restorative action in liver function (Chevallier, 2016).  It has even purportedly been used to treat hepatitis and liver cirrhosis (2016). Part of this magic can be traced to the herb’s ability to prevent free radical damage and stimulate fresh, new liver cells (Balch, 2010).  One recent study certified a reduction in liver-related symptoms in patients suffering from a liver disease (2010).

*It is important to remember that the jury is still out on Milk Thistle’s ability to cure the hangover, and that empirical data is still being collected to firmly outline its potential as a liver protectant.

Possible Regulation of Hay Fever and Allergies

Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, can be a result of oxidative stress (Bakhshaee et al., 2011).  Milk Thistle provides natural antioxidant effects which can greatly reduce the symptoms of hay fever and seasonal allergies (2011).  It is also worth mentioning that the herb can still have an allergen effect on some individuals (Wojas et al., 2020). Though the connection is still unproven, the herb’s known use for hay fever may relate to its innate anti-inflammatory properties (Achufusi & Patel, 2020).

Other Uses


Milk Thistle is traditionally famous for its ability to replenish individuals who have been suffering a vegetable deficit (Chevallier, 2016).  It is also wonderful for women seeking to increase their breast milk production (although it is still recommended to approach a doctor before adding any supplement to a daily regimen, especially when pregnant or nursing).  There are accounts of Milk Thistle having positive effects in treating jaundice (2016). One study showed the herb’s positive effects on the kidneys and gallbladder (Balch, 2010). The same study outlined Milk Thistle’s potential treatment capabilities for adrenal disorders, inflammatory bowel disorders, prostate cancer, and breast cancer (2010).

Dosing and Usage Information

The flower heads and fruits are used as a tonic in many recipes. And while they were traditionally boiled and consumed like artichokes, modern times have offered advanced extraction techniques (Chevallier, 2016). The seeds are usually used for their silymarin content, which as previously mentioned aids the liver. Sometimes decoctions or tinctures of the seeds are crafted, however, mostly Milk Thistle is used as a dietary supplement (2016).  Milk Thistle supplements may contain extracts from the flower heads, the seeds, or both.  Dietary supplements typically list a daily serving size of 400 to 1000 mg of Milk Thistle extract.

Side Effects

Milk Thistle is generally considered safe within established daily values.  Although rare, there are some minor adverse effects for some individuals (Mulrow et al., 2000). These side effects may include allergies, bloating, diarrhea, flatulence, headache, insomnia, nausea, or skin irritation (2000).

Other Important Information

Although not constituted, Milk Thistle has been called the “best remedy that grows against all melancholy diseases” (Chevallier, 2016). Despite its ability to (in some cases) reduce inflammation or treat allergies, it is known to produce allergies in some rare cases, and an allergy for Milk Thistle should always be determined before introducing the herb into any diet or supplement stack (2016).  The plant lacks water solubility, and thus makes for poor tea concoctions (Balch, 2010). This is the reason Milk Thistle is typically only consumed in capsule (extract) or food form.



Milk Thistle may not be the most exciting herb, but it is helpful and has been a part of holistic traditions for thousands of years. Some of the uses are supported with convincing empirical data, while some are not.  Still, more research on Milk Thistle is always pouring in, and it is arguable to say that the herb holds some sort of medicinal value for sure and that it can be easily administered as a dietary extract.  Besides offering purported liver protection, the herb also provides aid to depression, metabolism issues, and allergies (Chevallier, 2016).  Milk Thistle is certainly worth further investigation, as well as celebrating for the profound benefits it does offer.

A Note from NooFiles

This article is intended to be used for information only.  We want to remind you that consulting your physician is recommended before adding any dietary supplement of any kind to your daily regimen.


Achufusi, T., and Patel, R. (2020). Milk Thistle. StatPearls. Treasure Island, Florida. StatPearls Publishing. Retrieved from:

Ashraf, A., Mahmoud, P., Reda, H., Mansour, S., Helal, M., Michel, H., and Nasr, M. (2019). Silymarin and silymarin nanoparticles guard against chronic unpredictable mild stress induced depressive-like behavior in mice: involvement of neurogenesis and NLRP3 inflammasome. Journal of Psychopharmacology. Vol. 33(5). Pp. 615–631. DOI:

Bakhshaee, M., et al. (2011). Effect of Silymarin in the Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis. Otolaryngology–head and neck surgery : official journal of American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. 145(9). Pp. 904. DOI: 10.1177/0194599811423504

Balch, P. (2010). Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Fifth Edition. Avery Publishing. New York, New York. ISBN 978-1-58333-400-3

Chevallier, A. (2016). Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Third Edition. DK Publishing. New York, New York. ISBN 978-1-4654-4981-8

Federico, A., Dallio, M., and Loguercio, C. (2017). Silymarin/Silybin and Chronic Liver Disease: A Marriage of Many Years. Molecules. Basel, Switzerland. Vol. 22(2). Pp. 191. DOI:

Mulrow, C., Lawrence, V., Jacobs, B., et al., (2000). Milk Thistle: Effects on Liver Disease and Cirrhosis and Clinical Adverse Effects: Summary. AHRQ Evidence Report Summaries. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US). Vol. 21. Retrieved from:

Rainone, F. (2005). Milk thistle. Am Fam Physician. Vol. 72(7). Pp. 1285-8. PMID: 16225032.

Vargas-Mendoza, N., Madrigal-Santillán, E., Morales-González, A., Esquivel-Soto, J., Esquivel-Chirino, C., García-Luna Y González-Rubio, M., Gayosso-de-Lucio, J. A., and Morales-González, J. A. (2014). Hepatoprotective effect of silymarin. World journal of hepatology. Vol. 6(3). Pp. 144–149. DOI:

Wojas, O., et al. (2020). A case of allergy to Silybum marianum (milk thistle) and Eragrostis tef (teff). Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology. Vol. 16(23). DOI: 10.1186/s13223-020-00421-5