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Megha S. Shah*, Kamthe Shraddha, Gunde Dashrath, Satoskar Sneha and Dr. Rajesh J. Oswal


This review provides a systematic and in-depth overview of the promise and potential of milk thistle (Silybum marianum) as an interesting alternative nutraceutical preparation for pharmaceutical and medicinal applications. It is the well researched plant in the treatment of liver disease. In this review, we summarized the accomplished investigations on aspects of medicinal, cultivation, biology and chemistry of milk thistle. About 200 derivatives of silymarin have been prepared in more than 50 years since the discovery of silymarin and some derivative of silymarin is now clinically used. The active complex of MT is a lipophilic extract from the seeds of the plant and is composed of three isomer flavonolignans (silybin, silydianin, and silychristin) collectively known as silymarin. The silymarin content in fruits depends on milk thistle variety and geographic and climatic condition. Silybin is a component with the greatest degree of biological activity and makes up 50% to 70% of silymarin. Silymarin is found in the entire plant but it is concentrated in the fruit and seeds. Silymarin acts as an antioxidant by reducing free radical production and lipid peroxidation, has antifibrotic activity and may act as a toxin blockade agent by inhibiting binding of toxins to the hepatocyte cell membrane receptors. In animals, silymarin reduces liver injury caused by acetaminophen, carbon tetrachloride, radiation, iron overload, phenylhydrazine, alcohol, cold ischaemia and Amanita phalloides. Silymarin has been used to treat alcoholic liver disease, acute and chronic viral hepatitis and toxin-induced liver diseases. Precise mechanisms of silymarin action still needs investigations and molecular/genetic background of silymarin synthesis is crucial to be elucidated for reinforcement of the therapeutical potential of the plant by breeding.

Keywords: Silybum marianum, silymarin, flavonolignans, pharmacological properties, Hepatoprotective.

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