Silymarin Benefits and Dosage

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum), is a spiny plant native to the Mediterranean. Silymarin is the name of the active component extracted from milk thistle seeds. The active substance in milk thistle, silymarin, is a mixture of flavonolignans, primarily consisting of four isomers; silybin, isosilybin, silychristin, and silydianin. Most supplements are standardized according to their silybin content. Other constituents; quercetin, taxifolin, dihydrokaempferol, kaempferol, apigenin, naringin, eriodictyol, chrysoeriol, palmitic acid, linoleic acid.

Silymarin Benefits

Milk Thistle (silymarin) has been the subject of more than 300 clinical and lab trials. Cirrhosis, fatty liver, liver poisoning alcoholic and viral hepatitis are found to affect positively to milk thistle extracts. A lab study showed that silymarin may increase glutathione content in the liver and intestines by up to 50 %.  Silymarin  increases the activity of SOD in red blood cells (erythrocytes) and white blood cells (lymphocytes) formed in the lymphatic tissue in patients with liver disease. Intravenous silymarin is a life-saving emergency room treatment used throughout Europe in cases of poisoning.

Silymarin is an natural remedy recognized in Germany as a therapy for liver problems. In 1968, German scientists discovered the active flavonoid complex silymarin, which provides milk thistle therapeutic effects. The German Commission E  (an official government agency similar to the US FDA) approved the use of silymarin as a treatment for toxic liver disease and a supportive treatment for chronic inflammatory liver illness and cirrhosis of the liver. Silymarin  may protect the liver from toxic chemicals and have been tested for their potential to make chemotherapy more effective or less toxic as well as to slow or stop the growth of cancer cells.

Milk thistle inhibits the factors responsible for liver damage and stimulates the growth of new liver cells to replace damaged ones. Neutralizes liver cell damage caused by toxins and strengthens the liver cells’ outer membranes to prevent future harm. Stimulates protein synthesis in liver cells by increasing RNA and DNA activity, enhancing the regeneration of liver cells. Milk thistle has been shown to increase the glutathione content of the liver. Specifically, silymarin has been shown to stimulate the glutathione S-transferase pathway and alter the intracellular concentration of glutathione. Glutathione is a metabolic enzyme that works as antioxidant and reduces the effect of some toxic substance.  (For more information Glutathione Foods )


In the 1970’s, two German research group proved through clinical studies that 70 percent of people suffering from chronic liver diseases had a vastly improved chance of recovery when given between 210 – 420 milligrams of silymarin daily over periods ranging from 6 weeks to 2 years. Milk thistle found to affect liver functioning, according to an writing reported in November 2000 in the journal Drug Metabolism and Disposition.   A 2010 Hepatology experiment proved that milk thistle inhibited hepatitis C infection by interfering with viral transmission and viral entry into liver cells.

In a 6-month double-blind study of 36 patients with chronic alcoholic liver illness, the group given silymarin (Legalon) showed normalization of their bilirubin, aspartate transaminase and alanine transaminase serum levels. In different study, 106 patients with mild acute and subacute liver illness characterized by elevated serum transaminase levels were randomized to receive silymarin or placebo. Of the 97 patients who completed the 4-week study, there was a statistically considerable greater decrease in transaminase levels in the silymarin group.

A clinical trial of 16 patients who didn’t respond to ribavirin and interferon therapy, silymarin important reduced the viral load of hepatitis C.  In 7 of the patient  the virus decreased to undetectable levels after 14 days of treatment. The findings of the study, reported in the March 30, 2010 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, show that silymarin inhibit the development of the hepatitis virus by way of their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. In a far-reaching analysis of for liver diseases reported in Pharmaceutical Biology in May 2011, concluded that milk thistle is effective in protecting the liver from damage caused by hepatitis, cirrhosis and other liver ailments.


Some studies indicate silymarin slows the progression of cirrhosis. In a comment of previous clincial studies with human subjects, reported in the  Forschung Komplementmedicine in 2008, the writers concluded that milk thistle is a positive option as a general supportive supplement for the liver and in treatment of cirrhosis.

Liver Damage

Liver-damage, can occur from a number of toxins, including alcohol and drugs such as acetaminophen. A 1998 study found that silymarin may protect the liver from toxicity from taking acetaminophen, phenothiazines and dilantin. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) overdose is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the world. Using acetaminophen with alcohol increases the likelihood of toxicity. Milk thistle (silymarin) enters the liver cells and prevents those cells from absorbing toxins.

Amanita Phalloides Mushroom Poisoning

From of old, milk thistle was used as an antidote for death cap mushroom poisoning. The Amanita phalloides mushroom, named the “death cap,” produces severe nausea, vomiting, and watery diarrhea within 5 to 12 hours of ingestion. A antidote for poisoning by the Amanita phalloides, silymarin prevents the mushrooms toxins from circulating throughout the body. Studies animal-based  have shown that silymarin not only reduces the risk of death if administered within 24 hours, yet all signs of toxicity disappear if given within ten minutes. Silymarin inhibits the binding of the toxins in the mushroom to hepatocytes and interrupts the enterohepatic circulation of the toxins. In a group of 49 patients with Amanita phalloides poisoning, physicians rated the results “spectacular” and  “amazing” after patients were given injections (20 mg/kg daily) of silybin. All of the patients survived, even though they were treated 24 to 36 hours after poisoning, when liver damage had already occurred. The death rate in emergency rooms from Amanita phalloides mushroom poisoning is usually 30 to 40 %.

Anti-Proliferate Property

Silymarin and  silybin exert anti-proliferate property by potentially stopping the growth of cancer cells. Has shown to protect against liver cancer by decreasing the activity of carcinogenic and toxic chemicals as reactive oxygen species. Studies by the “Columbia University Medical Center” indicate that silymarin may limit liver inflammation and damage caused by chemotherapy for cancer. In addition, silymarin was shown to reduce liver toxicity associated with chemotherapy in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity  .

Silymarin Dosage

Milk thistle supplements, are standardized to a concentration of 70-80 percent of flavone lignans including isosilybinin, silybinin, silydianin and silychristin, which are collectively called silymarin. A typical daily dose ranges from 140 to 420 mg of silymarin, usually divided into 2 or 3 doses. Most clinical trials have used daily doses of 420 to 480 mg silymarin, divided into 2 or 3 doses daily. After oral usage, milk thistle is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract with a bioavailability of approximately 23-47%. Various studies show that a phosphatidylcholine-silymarin complex may be absorbed more easily than regular standardized milk thistle. The silymarin-phosphatidylcholine complex should be taken in doses of 100 to 250 mg two times per day. In Europe, the active compound silymarin is given by intravenous infusion as the only effective antidote for A. phalloides.

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