Milk thistle extract, also known as silymarin come from the plant species Silybum marianum. The health benefits of this herb have been realized for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians utilized the medicinal properties of milk thistle, and there is historical biblical writing referencing the plant. In the 1st century AD, it was used to treat snake bites and depression which were thought to be related to the liver. In the Middle Ages (5th-15th century AD), the recognition of the medicinal properties of milk thistle for liver pathologies increased even more [Federico et al. 2017].
Modern pharmacological studies identify silybin as the major (~70%) active ingredient in milk thistle extract. Its other active compounds include silibinin, isosilibinin, silychristin, isosilychristin, silydianin, and taxifolin. Toxicity studies verify the safety of this extract, making it a valuable herbal remedy [Federico et al. 2017].
Silybin from milk thistle is categorized as an antioxidant due to its free radical scavenging and anti-inflammatory capabilities. Additionally, its apoptotic property helps with regulating abnormal cell growth. It’s been administered as a powerful detoxifier for various chemical poisoning, and its demonstrated therapeutic potentials towards rheumatoid arthritis, neuroinflammation, and diabetes. A review of the scientific literature on milk thistle demonstrate that this herbal remedy is effective against liver disorders [Federico et al. 2017].