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Milk Thistle

January 2014

Effect of silybin on high-fat-induced fatty liver in rats.

Silybin, a natural antioxidant, has been traditionally used against a variety of liver ailments. To investigate its effect and the underlying mechanisms of action on non-alcoholic fatty liver in rats, we used 60 4-6-week-old male Sprague-Dawley rats to establish fatty liver models by feeding a high-fat diet for 6 weeks. Hepatic enzyme, serum lipid levels, oxidative production, mitochondrial membrane fluidity, homeostasis model assessment-insulin resistance index (HOMA-IR), gene and protein expression of adiponectin, and resistin were evaluated by biochemical, reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and Western blot analysis. Compared with the model group, silybin treatment (26.25 mg·kg(-1)·day(-1), started at the beginning of the protocol) significantly protected against high-fat-induced fatty liver by stabilizing mitochondrial membrane fluidity, reducing serum content of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) from 450 to 304 U/L, decreasing hepatic malondialdehyde (MDA) from 1.24 to 0.93 nmol/mg protein, but increasing superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione (GSH) levels from 8.03 to 9.31 U/mg protein and from 3.65 to 4.52 nmol/mg protein, respectively. Moreover, silybin enhanced the gene and protein expression of adiponectin from 215.95 to 552.40, but inhibited that of resistin from 0.118 to 0.018. Compared to rosiglitazone (0.5 mg·kg(-1)·day(-1), started at the beginning of the protocol), silybin was effective in stabilizing mitochondrial membrane fluidity, reducing SOD as well as ALT, and regulating gene and protein expression of adiponectin (P < 0.05). These results suggest that mitochondrial membrane stabilization, oxidative stress inhibition, as well as improved insulin resistance, may be the essential mechanisms for the hepatoprotective effect of silybin on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in rats. Silybin was more effective than rosiglitazone in terms of maintaining mitochondrial membrane fluidity and reducing oxidative stress.

Braz J Med Biol Res. 2011 Jul;44(7):652-9

Hepatoprotective herbal drug, silymarin from experimental pharmacology to clinical medicine.

Silymarin, a flavonolignan from ‘milk thistle’ (Silybum marianum) plant is used almost exclusively for hepatoprotection and amounts to 180 million US dollars business in Germany alone. In this review we discuss about its safety, efficacy and future uses in liver diseases. The use of silymarin may replace the polyherbal formulations and will avoid the major problems of standardization, quality control and contamination with heavy metals or bacterial toxins. Silymarin consists of four flavonolignan isomers namely—silybin, isosilybin, silydianin and silychristin. Among them, silybin being the most active and commonly used. Silymarin is orally absorbed and is excreted mainly through bile as sulphates and conjugates. Silymarin offers good protection in various toxic models of experimental liver diseases in laboratory animals. It acts by antioxidative, anti-lipid peroxidative, antifibrotic, anti-inflammatory, membrane stabilizing, immunomodulatory and liver regenerating mechanisms. Silymarin has clinical applications in alcoholic liver diseases, liver cirrhosis, Amanita mushroom poisoning, viral hepatitis, toxic and drug induced liver diseases and in diabetic patients. Though silymarin does not have antiviral properties against hepatitis virus, it promotes protein synthesis, helps in regenerating liver tissue, controls inflammation, enhances glucuronidation and protects against glutathione depletion. Silymarin may prove to be a useful drug for hepatoprotection in hepatobiliary diseases and in hepatotoxicity due to drugs. The non-traditional use of silymarin may make a breakthrough as a new approach to protect other organs in addition to liver. As it is having a good safety profile, better patient tolerability and an effective drug at an affordable price, in near future new derivatives or new combinations of this drug may prove to be useful.

Indian J Med Res. 2006 Nov;124(5):491-504

Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future.

Silybum marianum or milk thistle (MT) is the most well-researched plant in the treatment of liver disease. 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. 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.

Phytother Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):1423-32

An assessment of pharmacokinetics and antioxidant activity of free silymarin flavonolignans in healthy volunteers: A dose escalation study.

MMilk thistle (Silybum marianum) extracts, one of the most widely used dietary supplements, contain a mixture of six major flavonolignans (silybin A, silybin B, isosilybin B, isosilybin A, silychristin, and silydianin) and other components. However, the pharmacokinetics of the free individual flavonolignans has only partially been investigated in humans. Further, antioxidant effects of the extract, which may underlie the basis of many therapeutic effects, have not been thoroughly assessed. The present study was to evaluate the pharmacokinetics of the six major flavonolignans in healthy volunteers receiving single doses either one(175 mg), two(350 mg), or three(525 mg) of milk thistle capsule(s) on three separate study visits. Additionally, the steady state pharmacokinetic parameters were determined after the subjects were administered one capsule thrice daily for 28 consecutive days. Our results demonstrated that all six flavonolignans were rapidly absorbed and eliminated. In order of abundance, the exposure to free flavonolignans was greatest for silybin A followed by silybin B, isosilybin B, isosilybin A, silychristin, and silydianin. The systemic exposure to these compounds appeared linear and dose-proportional. The disposition of flavonolignans was stereoselective, as evidenced by the apparent clearance of silybin B, which was significantly greater than silybin A, whereas the apparent clearance of isosilybin B was significantly lower than isosilybin A. The concentrations of urinary 8-epi-prostaglandin F2a, a commonly used biomarker of oxidative status in humans, were considerably decreased in study subjects after a 28-day exposure to the extract (1.3±0.9 versus 0.8±0.9 ng/mg creatinine), but failed to reach statistical significance (P=0.076).

Drug Metab Dispos. 2013 Jul 8

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) for the therapy of liver disease.

Silymarin, derived from the milk thistle plant, Silybum marianum, has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for diseases of the liver and biliary tract. As interest in alternative therapy has emerged in the United States, gastroenterologists have encountered increasing numbers of patients taking silymarin with little understanding of its purported properties. Silymarin and its active constituent, silybin, have been reported to work as antioxidants scavenging free radicals and inhibiting lipid peroxidation. Studies also suggest that they protect against genomic injury, increase hepatocyte protein synthesis, decrease the activity of tumor promoters, stabilize mast cells, chelate iron, and slow calcium metabolism. In this article we review silymarin’s history, pharmacology, and properties, and the clinical trials pertaining to patients with acute and chronic liver disease.

Am J Gastroenterol. 1998 Feb;93(2):139-43

Silymarin suppresses hepatic stellate cell activation in a dietary rat model of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis: analysis of isolated hepatic stellate cells.

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is characterized by hepatocellular injury and initial fibrosis severity has been suggested as an important prognostic factor of NASH. Silymarin was reported to improve carbon tetrachloride-induced liver fibrosis and reduce the activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSC). We investigated whether silymarin could suppress the activation of HSCs in NASH induced by methionine- and choline-deficient (MCD) diet fed to insulin-resistant rats. NASH was induced by feeding MCD diet to obese diabetic Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima Fatty (OLETF) rats. Non-diabetic Long-Evans Tokushima Otsuka (LETO) rats were fed with standard chow and served as the control. OLETF rats were fed on either standard laboratory chow, or MCD diet or MCD diet mixed with silymarin. Histological analysis of the liver showed improved non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) activity score in silymarin-fed MCD-induced NASH. Silymarin reduced the activation of HSCs, evaluated by counting a-smooth muscle actin (SMA)-positive cells and measuring a-SMA mRNA expression in the liver lysates as well as in HSCs isolated from the experimental animals. Although silymarin decreased a(1)-procollagen mRNA expression in isolated HSCs, the anti-fibrogenic effect of silymarin was not prominent so as to show significant difference under histological analysis. Silymarin increased the nuclear translocation of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) and decreased tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-a mRNA expression in the liver. Our study suggested that the possible protective effect of silymarin in diet induced NASH by suppressing the activation of HSCs and disturbing the role of the inflammatory cytokine TNF-a.

Int J Mol Med. 2012 Sep;30(3):473-9

Effects of metformin, pioglitazone, and silymarin treatment on non-alcoholic Fatty liver disease: a randomized controlled pilot study.

BACKGROUND: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the most common reasons of enzyme increase in liver. In About 10 percent of patients with NAFLD, the disease progresses toward Non Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) and about one third of them may progress toward cirrhosis, liver dysfunction, and even hepatocellular carcinoma. OBJECTIVES: According to high prevalence of NAFLD and the fact that there is no consensus on treatment of this disease, the aim of this study was to assess the effects of metformin, pioglitazone, and silymarin on treatment of NAFLD. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Sixty six patients with NAFLD who were presented in the Endocrinology and Metabolism clinic of Boo’ali Hospital, Qazvin, Iran, were assigned randomly into three groups (n = 22). First group was treated by pioglitazone 15 mg/d, second group by metformin 500 mg/d, and third group by silymarin 140 mg/d. All patients underwent clinical and biochemical evaluations including weight, fasting blood sugar (FBS), lipid profiles, body mass index (BMI), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), and serum insulin levels in pre- and post-intervention after eight-week follow up. RESULTS: Before the treatment there was no significant difference between three groups with respect to average age, BMI and gender, FBS, lipid profile, AST, ALT, serum insulin level, and Homeostasis Model Assessment (HOMA) index for insulin resistance. After the intervention, a significant reduction was observed in average amount of FBS, lipid profile, ALT, AST, serum insulin level and HOMA index in three groups (P < 0.01). The most reduction in average FBS, TG, serum insulin level, and HOMA index was observed in pioglitazone group, the most reduction in average amount of cholesterol was seen in metformin group, and the most decrease in average amount of AST and ALT occurred in silymarin group. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that all drugs are beneficial in improving biochemical indices in patients with NAFLD. Changes in AST and ALT in silymarin group were demonstrated more than that in other groups and the average difference between changes was significant between silymarin and metformin groups.

Hepat Mon . 2012 Aug;12(8):e6099

A randomized controlled trial to assess the safety and efficacy of silymarin on symptoms, signs and biomarkers of acute hepatitis.

PURPOSE: Milk thistle or its purified extract, silymarin (Silybum marianum), is widely used in treating acute or chronic hepatitis. Although silymarin is hepatoprotective in animal experiments and some human hepatotoxic exposures, its efficacy in ameliorating the symptoms of acute clinical hepatitis remains inconclusive. In this study, our purpose was to determine whether silymarin improves symptoms, signs and laboratory test results in patients with acute clinical hepatitis, regardless of etiology. METHODS: This is a randomized, placebo-controlled trial in which participants, treating physicians and data management staff were blinded to treatment group. The study was conducted at two fever hospitals in Tanta and Banha, Egypt where patients with symptoms compatible with acute clinical hepatitis and serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels >2.5 times the upper limit of normal were enrolled. The intervention consisted of three times daily ingestion of either a standard recommended dose of 140 mg of silymarin (Legalon, MADAUS GmbH, Cologne, Germany), or a vitamin placebo for four weeks with an additional four-week follow-up. The primary outcomes were symptoms and signs of acute hepatitis and results of liver function tests on days 2, 4 and 7 and weeks 2, 4, and 8. Side-effects and adverse events were ascertained by self-report. RESULTS: From July 2003 through October 2005, 105 eligible patients were enrolled after providing informed consent. No adverse events were noted and both silymarin and placebo were well tolerated. Patients randomized to the silymarin group had quicker resolution of symptoms related to biliary retention: dark urine (p=0.013), jaundice (p=0.02) and scleral icterus (p=0.043). There was a reduction in indirect bilirubin among those assigned to silymarin (p=0.012), but other variables including direct bilirubin, ALT and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) were not significantly reduced. CONCLUSIONS: Patients receiving silymarin had earlier improvement in subjective and clinical markers of biliary excretion. Despite a modest sample size and multiple etiologies for acute clinical hepatitis, our results suggest that standard recommended doses of silymarin are safe and may be potentially effective in improving symptoms of acute clinical hepatitis despite lack of a detectable effect on biomarkers of the underlying hepatocellular inflammatory process.

Phytomedicine . 2009 May;16(5):391-400

Randomized controlled trial of silymarin treatment in patients with cirrhosis of the liver.

Silymarin, the active principle of the milk thistle Silybum marianum, protects experimental animals against various hepatotoxic substances. To determine the effect of silymarin on the outcome of patients with cirrhosis, a double blind, prospective, randomized study was performed in 170 patients with cirrhosis. 87 patients (alcoholic 46, non-alcoholic 41; 61 male, 26 female; Child A, 47; B, 37; C, 3; mean age 57) received 140 mg silymarin three times daily. 83 patients (alcoholic 45, non-alcoholic 38; 62 male, 21 female; Child A, 42; B, 32; C, 9: mean age 58) received a placebo. Non-compliant patients and patients who failed to come to a control were considered as ‘drop outs’ and were withdrawn from the study. All patients received the same treatment until the last patient entered had finished 2-years of treatment. The mean observation period was 41 months. There were 10 drop outs in the placebo group and 14 in the treatment group. In the placebo group, 37 (+2 drop outs) patients had died, and in 31 of these, death was related to liver disease. In the treatment group, 24 (+4 drop outs) had died, and in 18 of these, death was related to liver disease. The 4-year survival rate was 58 +/- 9% (S.E.) in silymarin-treated patients and 39 +/- 9% in the placebo group (P = 0.036). Analysis of subgroups indicated that treatment was effective in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis (P = 0.01) and in patients initially rated ‘Child A’ (P = 0.03). No side effects of drug treatment were observed.

J Hepatol. 1989 Jul;9(1):105-13

Silibinin is a potent antiviral agent in patients with chronic hepatitis C not responding to pegylated interferon/ribavirin therapy.

BACKGROUND & AIMS: Oral Silibinin (SIL) is widely used for treatment of hepatitis C, but its efficacy is unclear. Substantially higher doses can be administered intravenously (IV). METHODS: Pedigreed nonresponders to full-dose pegylated (Peg)-interferon/ribavirin (PegIFN/RBV) were studied. First, 16 patients received 10 mg/kg/day SIL IV (Legalon Sil; Madaus, Köln, Germany) for 7 days. In a subsequent dose-finding study, 20 patients received 5, 10, 15, or 20 mg/kg/day SIL for 14 days. In both protocols, PegIFN alpha-2a/RBV were started on day 8. Viral load was determined daily. RESULTS: Unexpectedly, in the first study, HCV-RNA declined on IV SIL by 1.32 +/- 0.55 log (mean +/- SD), P < .001 but increased again in spite of PegIFN/RBV after the infusion period. The viral load decrease was dose dependent (log drop after 7 days SIL: 0.55 +/- 0.5 [5 mg/kg, n = 3], 1.41 +/- 0.59 [10 mg/kg, n = 19], 2.11 +/- 1.34 [15 mg/kg, n = 5], and 3.02 +/- 1.01 [20 mg/kg, n = 9]; P < .001), decreased further after 7 days combined SIL/PegIFN/RBV (1.63 +/- 0.78 [5 mg/kg, n = 3], 4.16 +/- 1.28 [10 mg/kg, n = 3], 3.69 +/- 1.29 [15 mg/kg, n = 5], and 4.85 +/- 0.89 [20 mg/kg, n = 9]; P < .001), and became undetectable in 7 patients on 15 or 20 mg/kg SIL, at week 12. Beside mild gastrointestinal symptoms, IV SIL monotherapy was well tolerated. CONCLUSIONS: IV SIL is well tolerated and shows a substantial antiviral effect against HCV in nonresponders.

Gastroenterology. 2008 Nov;135(5):1561-7