Silymarin

Last Updated: August 21, 2023

Silymarin is a complex mixture of plant-derived compounds extracted from milk thistle. It mostly contains flavonolignans and flavonoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Silymarin is most often used for

What is silymarin?

Silymarin is a complex extracted from the dried seeds and fruits of the plant Silybum marianum (milk thistle). Silymarin contains a mixture of flavonolignans (silybin, isosilibinin, silichristin, and silidianin) and a flavonoid (taxifolin). Silybin is recognized as the primary bioactive component, constituting 50–70% of the extract, and commercial supplements are often standardized based on its content.[1][2][3][4]

What are silymarin’s main benefits?

Silymarin has a historical application in treating several liver disorders (e.g., alcoholic liver disease, hepatotoxicity, cirrhosis, viral hepatitis). However, findings from clinical (human) studies are often conflicting.

Supplementation with silymarin may be beneficial for individuals affected by nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). One meta-analysis found that supplementation with silymarin reduced the levels of two liver enzyme biomarkers, alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartame transaminase (AST), high levels of which can be indicative of liver damage.[3]

Additionally, positive preliminary results have been observed in individuals with liver cirrhosis and liver disease, showing a decrease in AST levels following supplementation with silymarin.[5]

Conversely, in individuals with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, silymarin did not lead to a decrease in ALT levels compared to placebo, and it did not significantly impact HCV RNA levels (the concentration of HCV in the bloodstream). Although there was an improvement in some symptoms (mean physical functioning and bodily pain), these results suggest that silymarin may not be an effective treatment for chronic HCV infection.[6]

What are silymarin’s main drawbacks?

Silymarin is generally considered a safe and well-tolerated supplement.

Some reported side effects include dry mouth, mild gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., nausea, irregular stools, dyspepsia, diarrhea), headaches, and allergic reactions. However, the frequency of occurrence of such adverse events remains unclear, and a direct attribution to silymarin has not yet been confirmed.[7][8][5]

Additionally, in studies on cancer patients, asymptomatic mild liver toxicity has been observed at very high dosages of silymarin (between 10 and 20 grams per day).[8]

However,the safety of silymarin during pregnancy and breastfeeding has not been established; more research is needed, and its use is therefore not recommended during pregancy and breastfeeding.[7]

Finally, although in vitro studies have suggested potential interactions between silymarin and medications metabolized by some enzymes in the cytochrome P450 family, particularly CYP3A4 and CYP2C9 (the latter of which is involved in warfarin’s metabolism, for example), clinical trials have not yet confirmed these findings.[5]

How does silymarin work?

In vitro and animal studies have shown that silymarin’s hepatoprotective effects may be attributed to its antioxidant properties and its ability to inhibit the formation of free radicals, particularly those derived from toxic substances like alcohol. Silymarin acts by binding to free radical species, preventing them from damaging organs and tissues. Silymarin also regulates cell membrane permeability by interfering with lipid peroxidation. Additionally, silymarin may act as an iron chelator (i.e., a substance that binds tightly to iron ions, inactivating them), and it appears to increase the activity of superoxide dismutase, as well as levels of glutathione and glutathione peroxidase, all crucial in reducing oxidative stress.[8][9]

Furthermore, silymarin interferes with the inflammatory system. It regulates levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines while increasing levels of the anti-inflammatory interleukin 10 (IL-10). Studies have also shown its ability to inhibit the activation of nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB) and the expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), both key components in the inflammatory cascade.[8][10]

Finally, some studies have shown that silymarin may prevent the deposition of collagen fibers by decreasing the synthesis of platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) induced DNA in cells. Moreover, silymarin was associated with a reduction in serum TGF-B (TGF-β) levels, which plays an important role in the pathogenesis of liver fibrosis.[8]

Examine Database: Silymarin
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Update History
2023-08-21 00:30:03

New studies added to the database

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We added some extra studies related to liver enzymes to this database

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References
  1. ^Milk Thistle \(Aug 2020)
  2. ^Karimi G, Vahabzadeh M, Lari P, Rashedinia M, Moshiri M"Silymarin", a promising pharmacological agent for treatment of diseases.Iran J Basic Med Sci.(2011-Jul)
  3. ^Zhong S, Fan Y, Yan Q, Fan X, Wu B, Han Y, Zhang Y, Chen Y, Zhang H, Niu JThe therapeutic effect of silymarin in the treatment of nonalcoholic fatty disease: A meta-analysis (PRISMA) of randomized control trialsMedicine (Baltimore).(2017 Dec)
  4. ^Post-White J, Ladas EJ, Kelly KMAdvances in the use of milk thistle (Silybum marianum).Integr Cancer Ther.(2007-Jun)
  5. ^Saller R, Brignoli R, Melzer J, Meier RAn updated systematic review with meta-analysis for the clinical evidence of silymarin.Forsch Komplementmed.(2008-Feb)
  6. ^Yang Z, Zhuang L, Lu Y, Xu Q, Chen XEffects and tolerance of silymarin (milk thistle) in chronic hepatitis C virus infection patients: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.Biomed Res Int.(2014)
  7. ^European Union herbal monograph on Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn., fructus. European Medicines Agency(2018)
  8. ^Loguercio C, Festi DSilybin and the liver: from basic research to clinical practice.World J Gastroenterol.(2011-May-14)
  9. ^Jacobs BP, Dennehy C, Ramirez G, Sapp J, Lawrence VAMilk thistle for the treatment of liver disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis.Am J Med.(2002-Oct-15)
  10. ^Achufusi TGO, Patel RKMilk ThistleStatPearls.(2024-01)
  11. ^Verster et alUnknown safety and efficacy of alcohol hangover treatments puts consumers at riskAddictive Behaviors.(2021-11-01)
  12. ^Huseini HF, Larijani B, Heshmat R, Fakhrzadeh H, Radjabipour B, Toliat T, Raza MThe efficacy of Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn. (silymarin) in the treatment of type II diabetes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial.Phytother Res.(2006-Dec)
  13. ^Velussi et alSilymarin reduces hyperinsulinemia, malondialdehyde levels, and daily insulin need in cirrhotic diabetic patientsCurrent Therapeutic Research.(1993-05-01)
Examine Database References
  1. Liver Enzymes - Georgios Kalopitas, Christina Antza, Ioannis Doundoulakis, Antonis Siargkas, Elias Kouroumalis, Georgios Germanidis, Myrto Samara, Michail ChourdakisImpact of Silymarin in individuals with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: A systematic review and meta-analysisNutrition.(2021 Mar)
  2. Liver Enzymes - Zhong S, Fan Y, Yan Q, Fan X, Wu B, Han Y, Zhang Y, Chen Y, Zhang H, Niu JThe therapeutic effect of silymarin in the treatment of nonalcoholic fatty disease: A meta-analysis (PRISMA) of randomized control trialsMedicine (Baltimore).(2017 Dec)
  3. Liver Enzymes - Kailin Yang, Junpeng Chen, Tianqing Zhang, Xiao Yuan, Anqi Ge, Shanshan Wang, Hao Xu, Liuting Zeng, Jinwen GeEfficacy and safety of dietary polyphenol supplementation in the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: A systematic review and meta-analysisFront Immunol.(2022 Sep 9)
  4. Liver Enzymes - Fakhri M, Fakheri H, Azadbakht M, Moosazadeh M, Yousefi SSEffect of Medicinal Plants and Natural Products on Liver Enzymes in Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Patients in Iran: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.Int J Prev Med.(2022)
  5. Liver Enzymes - de Avelar CR, Pereira EM, de Farias Costa PR, de Jesus RP, de Oliveira LPMEffect of silymarin on biochemical indicators in patients with liver disease: Systematic review with meta-analysis.World J Gastroenterol.(2017-Jul-21)
  6. Liver Enzymes - Saller R, Brignoli R, Melzer J, Meier RAn updated systematic review with meta-analysis for the clinical evidence of silymarin.Forsch Komplementmed.(2008-Feb)
  7. Liver Enzymes - Yang Z, Zhuang L, Lu Y, Xu Q, Chen XEffects and tolerance of silymarin (milk thistle) in chronic hepatitis C virus infection patients: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.Biomed Res Int.(2014)