Milk Thistle Research

Milk_Thistle_and_bud 200Research has uncovered a host of antihepatotoxic (liver protectant) compounds commonly referred to as silymarin, in Milk Thistle.

Silymarin has been shown to consist of a large number of flavonolignans, including silybin, isosilybin, dehydrosilybin, silydianin and silychristin. Animal studies have shown that silymarin exerts a liver protective effect against a variety of toxins, including the phallo toxins of the deadly Amanita phalloides mushroom.

Amanita phalloides is one of the most poisonous mushrooms in the world, containing toxins that are particularly destructive to the liver. Ingestion of this mushroom can lead to severe liver damage and death if untreated. The active ingredient of the herb is the bioflavonoid mixture, silymarin, the principal component of which is silybin. In animal
experiments, when silymarin was given before poisoning by the Amanita phalloides mushroom, it was found to be 100 percent effective in preventing liver damage.

Silymarin was also found to be completely effective if given to animals within ten minutes of exposure to the poison. When given within twenty-four hours it still prevented death and greatly reduced the amount of liver damage.

Silymarin protects against liver damage from dangerous solvents such as carbon tetrachloride and ethanol (alcohol).

Silymarin has been used in the treatment of hepatic disorders in humans, and a German medical study found that liver function in patients with chronic hepatitis improved after three months of therapy with silymarin.

A later study reported on the use of 420 milligrams of silymarin daily in patients with cirrhosis of the liver. Of twenty people followed for six to thirty-six months, ten were definitely improved and four had deteriorated.

The results of numerous studies suggest that silymarin not only protects liver cells by preventing the actions of toxic substances but that it also stimulates protein synthesis to accelerate the regeneration and production of liver cells.

Silymarin, and its component silybin, function as antioxidants, protecting cell membranes from free-radical-mediated oxidative damage. This type of
damage is known as lipid peroxidation. Most liver toxins produce their damaging effects by free radical mechanisms.

Both silymarin and silybin protect red blood cell membranes against lipid peroxidation and hemolysis (breaking down of the red blood cells) caused by certain red blood cell poisons.

liver fibrosis 225Other Research

Effects of silymarin on the resolution of liver fibrosis – Published April, 2008, Journal of Viral  Hepatitis – Results showed restoration from liver fibrosis in the therapeutic group was significantly increased as compared to that in the model group.


Flavonoid, silibinin, inhibits proliferation and promotes cell-cycle arrest of human colon cancer. Published November, 2007, Journal of Surgical Research – CONCLUSION: Silibinin significantly inhibits proliferation. . .

oncology 175Clinical applications of Silybum marianum in oncology. Published June, 2007, Integrative Cancer Therapies – Milk thistle is increasingly used in oncology research and treatment. Possible indications during cancer treatment include cleansing and detoxification after chemotherapy, preventing hepatotoxicity during chemotherapy, treating hepatotoxicity after chemotherapy, and potentiating chemotherapy and radiation therapy as an adjunctive treatment. Milk thistle may also have applications in ameliorating long-term hepatic and cardiovascular effects of cancer treatment.

Advances in the use of milk thistle (Silybum marianum). Published June, 2007, Integrative Cancer Therapies – Silymarin, a mixture of flavanoid complexes, is the active component that protects liver and kidney cells from toxic effects of drugs, including chemotherapy. Although milk thistle has not significantly altered the course of chronic liver disease, it has reduced liver enzyme levels and demonstrated anti-inflammatory and T cell-modulating effects.

Silymarin, the antioxidant component of Silybum marianum, protects against burn-induced oxidative skin injury. Published November, 2007, Burns – Journal of the International Society for Burn Injuries –

BACKGROUND: severe burn is one of the most common problems faced in the emergency room. Major thermal injury induces the activation of an inflammatory cascade resulting in local tissue damage, to contribute to the development of subsequent damage of multiple organs distant from the original burn wound.

CONCLUSION: Results indicate that both systemic and local administration of silymarin was effective against burn-induced oxidative damage and morphological alterations in rat skin. Therefore, silymarin merits consideration as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of burns.

Protective effect of silibinin against isoproterenol- induced injury to cardiac myocytes and its mechanism Published March, 2007, in China – Silibinin protects cardiac myocytes against isoproterenol-induced injury through resuming mitochondrial function and regulating the expression of SIRT1 and Bcl-2 family members.

Use of Silybum marianum fruit extract in broiler chicken nutrition: influence on performance and meat quality. Published June, 2007, Journal of Animal
Physiology and Animal Nutrition – Treatments reduced lipid content of both breast and thigh and increased muscles resistance to oxidative stress.

Phyto-Female Complex for the relief of hot flushes, night sweats and quality of sleep: randomized, controlled, double-blind pilot study. Published February, 2007, Gynecological Endocrinology –

OBJECTIVE: To determine the efficacy and safety of the herbal formula Phyto-Female Complex (ingredients: standardized extracts of black cohosh, dong quai, milk thistle, red clover, American ginseng, chaste-tree berry) for the  relief of menopausal symptoms.

RESULTS: The women receiving Phyto-Female Complex reported a significantly superior mean reduction in menopausal symptoms than the placebo group. The effect of
treatment improvements in menopausal symptoms increased over time; by 3 months there was a 73% decrease in hot flushes and a 69% reduction of night sweats, accompanied by a decrease in their intensity and a significant benefit in terms of sleep quality. Hot flushes ceased completely in 47% of women in the study group compared with only 19% in the placebo group.

cancer protection 175Silybin and silymarin–new and emerging applications in medicine. Published 2007, Current Medicinal Chemistry – Silybin and silymarin from milk thistle, used so far mostly as hepatoprotectants, were shown to have other interesting activities, e.g. anticancer and canceroprotective and also hypocholesterolemic activity. These effects were demonstrated in a large variety of illnesses of different organs, e.g. prostate, lungs, CNS, kidneys, pancreas and also in skin protection. Important findings bring silymarin preparations closer to respective application in the cancer treatment.

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