Life Extension Magazine®


Scientifically reviewed by Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in August 2023. Written by: Life Extension Editorial Staff.

Active-oxygen scavenging activity of traditional nourishing-tonic herbal medicines and active constituents of Rhodiola sacra.

The active-oxygen scavenging activity of 70 traditional herbal medicines used in China and Japan as nourishing tonics were evaluated by electron spin resonance (ESR) technique, in order to evaluate their effectiveness for anti-aging and to search for new active-oxygen scavengers from natural resources. Most of the 70 herbal medicines showed scavenging activity with various intensities. Areca catechu (methanol extract), Dendrobium plicatile (methanol extract), Juglans regia (water extract), Paeonia lactiflora (methanol extract), Psychotria serpens (water and methanol extracts), Rhodiola sacra (water and methanol extracts) and Uncaria rhynchophylla (water extract) especially showed strong scavenging activity against superoxide anion radical (*O2-), while J. regia (water and methanol extracts), Morus alba (water extract) and Schisandra chinensis (water extract) revealed strong scavenging activity against hydroxyl radical (HO*). In addition, the active-oxygen scavenging activities of 19 compounds isolated from R. sacra were also examined, and hydroquinone (1), caffeic acid (3), protocatechuic acid (6), gallic acid (7), (-)-epigallocatechin 3-O-gallate (8), 3-O-galloylepigallocatechin-(4beta-->8)-epigallocatechin+ ++ 3-O-gallate (10), heterodendrin (17) and gallic acid 4-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside (19) were found to show mild or strong inhibitory activity against superoxide anion radical (*O2-), while 4-hydroxybenzoic acid (2), 3, 4-hydroxycinnamic acid (4), 6-8 and 19 inhibited hydroxyl radical (OH*). These active-oxygen scavengers may contribute, to different extents, to their anti-aging action.

J Ethnopharmacol. 1999 Oct;67(1):111-9

Rhodiola: a promising anti-aging Chinese herb.

Using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, we investigated the effects of Rhodiola on life-span. Rhodiola is a plant root used in traditional Chinese medicine that may increase an organism’s resistance to stress. It has been proposed that Rhodiola can extend longevity and improve health span by alleviating oxidative stress. Rhodiola supplied every other day at 30 mg/mL significantly increased the lifespan of Drosophila melanogaster. When comparing the distribution of deaths between Rhodiola-supplemented and control flies, Rhodiola-fed flies exhibited decelerated aging. Although the observed extension in lifespan was associated with statistically insignificant reductions in fecundity, correcting for a possible dietary restriction effect still did not eliminate the difference between supplemented and control flies, nor does the effect of Rhodiola depend on dietary manipulation, strongly suggesting that Rhodiola is not a mere dietary restriction mimetic. Although this study does not reveal the causal mechanism behind the effect of Rhodiola, it does suggest that the supplement is worthy of continued investigation, unlike the other Chinese herbals, Lu Duo Wei (LDW), Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (BZYQT), San Zhi Pian (SZP, Three Imperial Mushrooms), Hong Jing Tian (Rhodiola) that were evaluated in this study.

Rejuvenation Res. 2007 Dec;10(4):587-602

The cardioprotective and antiadrenergic activity of an extract of Rhodiola rosea in stress.

The course of administration of Rhodiola rosea extract was studied for effects on the pattern of stress-induced cardiac damage which was assessed by 99mTc-pyrophosphate accumulation in the heart. Rhodiola rosea was found to prevent stress-induced cardiac damage. Simultaneously, myocardial catecholamines and cAMP levels were measured. Rhodiola rosea was ascertained to prevent both stress-induced catecholamine release and higher cAMP levels in the myocardium. Moreover, the adaptogen prevented lower adrenal catecholamines during stress. The findings suggest that the antistressor and cardioprotective effects of Rhodiola rosea are associated with limited adrenergic effect on the heart.

Eksp Klin Farmakol. 1994 Nov-Dec;57(6):61-3

Cardioprotective and antiarrhythmic properties of Rhodiolae roseae preparations.

It is established that the chronic administration of Rhodiola rosea extract (RRE) in a single daily dose of 1 ml/kg (p.o.) during 8 days increased the resistance of myocardium with respect to the cardiotoxic action of isoproterenol and the arrhythmogenic action of epinephrine in rats. Pretreatment with RRE prevented the stressor cardiac damages, as measured by 99mTc-pyrophosphate accumulation in the heart. The cardioprotective action of RRE was maximum after 5-day administration. The antiarrhythmic effect of the adaptogen was maximum after 8-day administration. It was found that p-tyrosol also exhibited antiarrhythmic and cardioprotective properties. Pretreatment with RRE decreased the infarction size/risk area ratio during the coronary artery occlusion and reperfusion in vivo. The chronic administration of RRE increased th e tolerance of the isolated perfused rat heart to the pathogenic action of global ischemia and reperfusion. Pretreatment with RRE not only prevented the occurrence of arrhythmias, but also abolished cardiac electrical instability in rats with postinfarction cardiac sclerosis. It has been found that the chronic administration of RRE (1 ml/kg, p.o., over 8 days) increased the level beta-endorphin in rat blood plasma and the content of leu-enkephalin in myocardial tissue. Naloxone (2 mg/kg) abolished cardioprotective and antiarrhythmic effect of the adaptogen. It was suggested that both RRE effects depend on the occupancy of opioid receptors by endogenous opioid peptides. It has been found that the sympathetic nervous system is involved in the development of antiarrhythmic effect of RRE, while HSP-70 is not involved in the cardioprotective and antiarrhythmic effect of adaptogen. It is concluded that the mechanism of cardioprotective and antiarrhythmic action of RRE needs further investigation.

Eksp Klin Farmakol. 2007 Sep-Oct;70(5):59-67

Bioactive constituents from Chinese natural medicines. XXVI. Chemical structures and hepatoprotective effects of constituents from roots of Rhodiola sachalinensis.

The methanolic extract from the roots of Rhodiola sachalinensis was found to show a protective effect on D-galactosamine-induced cytotoxicity in primary cultured mouse hepatocytes. From the methanolic extract, five new glycosides, two monoterpene glycosides, two flavonol bisdesmosides, and a cyanogenic glycoside, were isolated together with 34 known compounds. The structures of new constituents were elucidated on the basis of chemical and physicochemical evidence. In addition, the principal constituents, sachalosides III and IV, rhodiosin, and trans-caffeic acid, displayed hepatoprotective effects.

Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2007 Oct;55(10):1505-11

Hepatoprotective phenolic constituents of Rhodiola sachalinensis on tacrine-induced cytotoxicity in Hep G2 cells.

Two hepatoprotective phenolic compounds, kaempferol (2) and salidroside (4), were isolated from the roots of Rhodiola sachalinensis together with two inactive compounds cinnamyl alcohol (1) and daucosterol (3) based on the hepatoprotective activity against tacrine-induced cytotoxicity in human liver-derived Hep G2 cells. The EC(50) values of compounds 2 and 4 were 33.5 and 51.3 micro m, respectively. Silybin as a positive control showed an EC(50) value of 68.4 micro m.

Phytother Res. 2003 May;17(5):563-5

Anti-inflammatory activity of Rhodiola rosea—”a second-generation adaptogen”.

Rhodiola rosea (golden root), a unique phytoadaptogen grown in high-altitude regions has gained attention for its various therapeutic properties. In India, this plant is found in the Himalayan belt and has not been completely explored for its beneficial health effects. The present study was undertaken to evaluate the anti-inflammatory efficacy of the tincture extract of Rhodiola rosea roots (RTE). The anti-inflammatory activity was determined through carrageenan-induced paw oedema, formaldehyde-induced arthritis and nystatin-induced paw oedema in rat model. The tincture extract exhibited inhibitory effect against acute and subacute inflammation at a dose of 250 mg/kg body weight. Inhibition of nystatin-induced oedema was also observed in a dose-dependent manner. The in vitro inhibitory effects of the tincture extract from R. rosea roots was evaluated against the enzymes relating to inflammation. The enzymes include cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1), cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and Phospholipase A2 (PLA2). The extract showed varying inhibitory activities against these enzymes depending on the concentrations. A potent inhibition was observed against Cox-2 and PLA2. Inhibition of nystatin induced oedema and phospholipase A2 suggested that membrane stabilization could be the most probable mechanism of action of RTE in anti-inflammation. The findings in this study may provide the use of R. rosea root extract in the treatment of inflammatory conditions.

Phytother Res. 2009 Aug;23(8):1099-102

Aqueous extract of Rhodiola imbricata rhizome stimulates proinflammatory mediators via phosphorylated IkappaB and transcription factor nuclear factor-kappaB.

Modulation of immune response to alleviate diseases has long since been of interest. Plant extracts have been widely investigated for their possible immunomodulatory properties. We have evaluated the immunomodulatory activity of aqueous extract of Rhodiola rhizome in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and mouse macrophage cell line RAW 264.7. The Rhodiola extract was found to stimulate production of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) in human PBMCs as well as RAW 264.7 cell line. It also increased production of nitric oxide synergistically in combination with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in RAW 264.7. Rhodiola at 250 microg/ml increased the p-IkappaB expression in human PBMCs. Aqueous extract of Rhodiola (250 microg/ml) also activated the nuclear translocation of NF-kappaB in human PBMCs, which is comparable to the positive stimulant LPS. Thus, our present study suggests that Rhodiola most likely activates proinflammatory mediators via phosphorylated inhibitory kB and transcription factor NF-kB. Our study demonstrates immunostimulatory potential of aqueous extract of Rhodiola rhizome, that can be used for upregulation of immune response in patients with inadequate functioning of the immune system.

Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2006;28(2):201-12

Adjuvant effect of aqueous extract of Rhodiola imbricata rhizome on the immune responses to tetanus toxoid and ovalbumin in rats.

In the present study we have evaluated the immunopotentiating activity of Rhodiola aqueous extract (RAE) in rats. The efficacy of RAE was determined by using strong antigen tetanus toxoid (TT) and weak antigen Ovalbumin (OVA). The dynamic changes in humoral and cell-mediated immune response were measured. The results indicated that the TT specific immunoglobulin levels were significantly enhanced by RAE and were at par with complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA). The level of OVA induced antibody response was also enhanced by RAE. It was observed that TT and OVA in combination with CFA or RAE could evoke a significant delayed type hypersensitivity (DTH) response, confirming its potential to generate strong cell-mediated immunity (CMI). The anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressive effect of RAE was evaluated in adjuvant-induced arthritis model (AIA). RAE could not suppress the swelling response. Therefore, this study suggests that RAE has adjuvant/immunopotentiating activity in terms of humoral as well as cell-mediated immune response against strong antigen like TT and weak antigen like OVA.

Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2010 Mar;32(1):141-6

The in vitro and in vivo antiviral effects of salidroside from Rhodiola rosea L. against coxsackievirus B3.

The aim of this study was to investigate the antiviral effects of salidroside, a major component of Rhodiola rosea L. First, the antiviral effects of salidroside against coxsackievirus B3 (CVB3) were determined in vitro and in vivo. Then, the effect of salidroside on the mRNA expression of some important cytokines was measured in hearts of infected BALB/c mice by RT-PCR. Salidroside exhibited obvious antiviral effects both in in vitro and in vivo experiments. Salidroside was found to modulate the mRNA expression of interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma), interleukin-10 (IL-10), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), and interleukin-2 (IL-2). In conclusion, salidroside possesses antiviral activities against CVB3 and it may represent a potential therapeutic agent for viral myocarditis.

Phytomedicine. 2009 Mar;16(2-3):146-55.

Neuraminidase inhibitory activities of flavonols isolated from Rhodiola rosea roots and their in vitro anti-influenza viral activities.

Five flavonols (3, 5, and 9-11) were isolated from Rhodiola rosea, and compared with commercially available flavonoids (1, 2, 4, 6-8, and 12-14) to facilitate analysis of their structure-activity relationship (SAR). All compounds (1-14) showed neuraminidase inhibitory activities with IC(50) values ranging from 0.8 to 56.9 microM. The in vitro anti-influenza virus activities of flavonoids 1-6, 8-12, and 14 were evaluated using two influenza viral strains, H1N1 (A/PR/8/34) and H9N2 (A/Chicken/Korea/MS96/96), testing their ability to reduce virus-induced cytopathic effect (CPE) in MDCK cells. We found that the activity of these compounds ranged from 30.2 to 99.1 microM against H1N1- and 18.5 to 133.6 microM against H9N2-induced CPE. Of compounds 1-14, gossypetin (6) exhibited the most potent inhibitory activity, with IC(50) values of 0.8 and 2.6 microM on neuraminidases from Clostridium perfringens and recombinant influenza virus A (rvH1N1), respectively. In contrast, kaempferol (3) exhibited the highest activity against two influenza viruses, H1N1 and H9N2 with EC(50) values of 30.2 and 18.5 microM, respectively. Activity depended on the position and number of hydroxy groups on the flavonoids backbone. In kinetic studies, all isolated compounds behaved as noncompetitive inhibitors.

Bioorg Med Chem. 2009 Oct 1;17(19):6816-23

Activity of compounds from Chinese herbal medicine Rhodiola kirilowii (Regel) Maxim against HCV NS3 serine protease.

Treatment of the chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is an unmet medical need, and the HCV NS3 serine protease (NS3-SP) has been used as an attractive target of antiviral screening against HCV. To find naturally chemical entities as lead compounds from which novel anti-HCV agents could be developed, bioassay-guided fractionation and isolation were performed on a crude ethanol extract from rhizomes of the Chinese medicinal herb Rhodiola kirilowii (Regel) Maxim using column chromatography (CC) techniques and in vitro inhibitory activity against HCV NS3-SP. The partition of the extract between water and different organic solvents led to the isolation and identification of 12 compounds in the ethyl acetate part which proved to be the most active. These compounds were tested for in vitro activity against HCV NS3-SP, among which four (-)-Epicatechin derivatives: 3,3’-Digalloylproprodelphinidin B2 (Rhodisin, 1); 3,3’-Digalloylprocyanidin B2 (2); (-)-Epigallocatechin-3-O-gallate (EGCG, 3); and (-)-Epicatechin-3-O-gallate (4, ECG) represented the most potent ones with IC(50) of 0.77, 0.91, 8.51, and 18.55 microM, respectively. Salidroside, the commonly known compounds, together with the other compounds showed no activity up to 100.0 microM. Methylation and acylation of the hydroxyl groups of 1-4 caused a decrease of activity. Cell viability and secreted alkaline phosphatase (SEAP) activity assays with 1-4 revealed little if any toxicity. These nonpeptide inhibitors of HCV NS3-SP might serve as potential candidate anti-HCV agents.

Antiviral Res. 2007 Oct;76(1):86-92

Chemical constituents and anti-tuberculosis activity of root of Rhodiola kirilowii.

The chemical constituents of Rhodiola kirilowii were separated and purified by repeated column chromatography on silica gel, RP - 18, Sephadex LH -20 and semi-preparative HPLC. Each compound was characterized by spectroscopic and physical data. Twelve compounds have been purified and identified to be beta-sitosterol (1), tyrosol (2), trans-hydroxycinnamic acid (3), geranyl beta-glucopyranoside (4), neryl beta-glucopyranoside (5), hexyl beta-glucopyranoside (6), gallic acid (7), (-) -epigallocatechin gallate (8), rhodiolgin (9), isolariciresinol-9-O-beta-glucopyranoside (10), rhodiooctanoside (11), and sacranoside B (12). Among them, compounds 3, 6, 9-12 were isolated from Rhodiola kirilowii for the first time; Compounds 4 and 5 were obtained for the first time from the genus Rhodiola. The in vitro activities against Macobacterium tuberculosis (ATCC 27294) of its extracts and pure components were evaluated by testing their MIC (minimal inhibitory concentration) and MBC (minimal bactericidal concentration). The 80% (a. q.) EtOH extract, EtOAc-soluble extract, compounds 7 and 8 exhibited in-vitro inhibitory and bactericidal activities against Macobacterium tuberculosis in different extent.

Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2008 Jul;33(13):1561-5

Bioactive compounds from Rhodiola rosea (Crassulaceae).

The methanol extract of the underground part of Rhodiola rosea was found to show inhibitory activity against Staphylococcus aureus. Bioactivity-guided fractionation of a 95% ethanol extract from the stems of R. rosea led to the isolation of five compounds: gossypetin-7-O-L-rhamnopyranoside (1), rhodioflavonoside (2), gallic acid (3), trans-p-hydroxycinnamic acid (4) and p-tyrosol (5). Their structures were elucidated by UV, IR, MS and NMR data, as well as by comparison with those of the literature. Compounds 1 and 2 were evaluated for their antibacterial and antiprostate cancer cell activities. Compounds 1 and 2 exhibited activity against Staphylococcus aureus with minimum inhibitory concentrations of 50 microg/mL and 100 microg/mL, respectively. Cytotoxicity studies of 1 and 2 also displayed activity against the prostate cancer cell line with IC(50) values of 50 microg/mL and 80 microg/mL, respectively.

Phytother Res. 2005 Sep;19(9):740-3

Neuroprotective effects of constituents of the oriental crude drugs, Rhodiola sacra, R. sachalinensis and Tokaku-joki-to, against beta-amyloid toxicity, oxidative stress and apoptosis.

We tested the constituents of two Rhodiola plants, Rhodiola sacra S. H. Fu and R. sachalinensis A. BOR, and an Oriental crude drug, Tokaku-joki-to, for their neuroprotective effects. Of the 58 compounds tested, six had considerable protective effects against beta-amyloid-induced death of B103 neuronal cells in vitro. These six compounds also showed protective effects against staurosporine-induced cell death, and two of the six compounds protected neurons from H2O2-induced cell death. These results suggest that some of the tested compounds protect neurons from beta-amyloid toxicity based on antiapoptotic and antioxidative activity.

Biol Pharm Bull. 2002 Aug;25(8):1101-4

The efficacy of Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn. (silymarin) in the treatment of type II diabetes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial.

Oxidative stresses are increasingly implicated in the pathogenesis of diabetic complications which may either cause direct pancreatic beta-cell damage or lead to metabolic abnormalities that can induce or aggravate diabetes. The valuable effect of antioxidant nutrients on the glycemic control of diabetic patients has been reported in experimental and clinical studies. The present study was designed to investigate the effects of the herbal medicine, Silybum marianum seed extract (silymarin), which is known to have antioxidant properties on the glycemic profile in diabetic patients. A 4-month randomized double-blind clinical trial was conducted in 51 type II diabetic patients in two well-matched groups. The first group (n = 25) received a silymarin (200 mg) tablet 3 times a day plus conventional therapy. The second group (n = 26) received the same therapy but a placebo tablet instead of silymarin. The patients were visited monthly and glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA(1)c), fasting blood glucose (FBS), insulin, total cholesterol, LDL and HDL, triglyceride, SGOT and SGPT levels were determined at the beginning and the end of the study. The results showed a significant decrease in HbA(1)c, FBS, total cholesterol, LDL, triglyceride SGOT and SGPT levels in silymarin treated patients compared with placebo as well as with values at the beginning of the study in each group. In conclusion, silymarin treatment in type II diabetic patients for 4 months has a beneficial effect on improving the glycemic profile.

Phytother Res. 2006 Dec;20(12):1036-9

The safety and efficacy of a silymarin and selenium combination in men after radical prostatectomy - a six month placebo-controlled double-blind clinical trial.

Silymarin, a milk thistle flavonolignan mixture, has anti-proliferative and anti-angiogenic activities in xenografts of human prostate cancer (PCa). Low dietary selenium on the other hand has been associated with increased incidence of PCa. The purpose of the current trial was to determine whether a daily administration of a silymarin and selenium (SM-Se) combination for 6 months would alter basic clinical chemistry and oxidative stress markers, and improve the quality of life score (QoL) in men after radical prostatectomy (RP). Thirty seven participants, 2-3 months after RP, were randomly assigned to receive 570 mg of silymarin and 240 µg of selenium as selenomethionine (n = 19, SM-Se group) or placebo (n = 18, Placebo group) daily for six months. Both groups had similar clinical and demographic characteristics. Physical examination, QoL score, haematology, basic clinical chemistry and oxidative stress markers, selenium and testosterone levels, antioxidant status were evaluated at baseline, at 3 and 6 months. The six months administration of silymarin and selenium improved the QoL score, decreased low density lipoproteins (LDL) and total cholesterol and, increased serum selenium levels. The combination had no effect on blood antioxidant status and no influence on testosterone level. No adverse events were recorded. No improvement was found in the placebo group. The selected combination of silymarin and selenium significantly reduced two markers of lipid metabolism known to be associated with PCa progression, LDL and total cholesterol in the blood of men after RP. This suggests that this combination may be effective in reducing PCa progression.

Biomed Pap Med Fac Univ Palacky Olomouc Czech Repub. 2010 Sep;154(3):239-44

Multitargeted therapy of cancer by silymarin.

Silymarin, a flavonolignan from milk thistle (Silybum marianum) plant, is used for the protection against various liver conditions in both clinical settings and experimental models. In this review, we summarize the recent investigations and mechanistic studies regarding possible molecular targets of silymarin for cancer prevention. Number of studies has established the cancer chemopreventive role of silymarin in both in vivo and in vitro models. Silymarin modulates imbalance between cell survival and apoptosis through interference with the expressions of cell cycle regulators and proteins involved in apoptosis. In addition, silymarin also showed anti-inflammatory as well as anti-metastatic activity. Further, the protective effects of silymarin and its major active constituent, silibinin, studied in various tissues, suggest a clinical application in cancer patients as an adjunct to established therapies, to prevent or reduce chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy-induced toxicity. This review focuses on the chemistry and analogues of silymarin, multiple possible molecular mechanisms, in vitro as well as in vivo anti-cancer activities, and studies on human clinical trials.

Cancer Lett. 2008 Oct 8;269(2):352-62.

Silymarin attenuated the amyloid plaque burden and improved behavioral abnormalities in an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is characterized by progressive cognitive impairment and the formation of senile plaques. Silymarin, an extract of milk thistle, has long been used as a medicinal herb for liver diseases. Here we report marked suppression of amyloid β-protein (Aβ) fibril formation and neurotoxicity in PC12 cells after silymarin treatment in vitro. In vivo studies had indicated a significant reduction in brain Aβ deposition and improvement in behavioral abnormalities in amyloid precursor protein (APP) transgenic mice that had been preventively treated with a powdered diet containing 0.1% silymarin for 6 months. The silymarin-treated APP mice also showed less anxiety than the vehicle-treated APP mice. These behavioral changes were associated with a decline in Aβ oligomer production induced by silymarin intake. These results suggest that silymarin is a promising agent for the prevention of AD.

Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2010 Nov 23;74(11):2299-306

Silymarin retards the progression of alcohol-induced hepatic fibrosis in baboons.

GOAL/BACKGROUND: Hepatoprotective effects of silymarin in patients with alcoholic liver disease are controversial. For strict control, this was assessed in non-human

primates. STUDY Twelve baboons were fed alcohol with or without silymarin for 3 years with a nutritionally adequate diet. RESULTS: Silymarin opposed the alcohol-induced oxidative stress (assessed by plasma 4-hydroxynonenal) and the rise in liver lipids and circulating ALT. Alcohol also increased hepatic collagen type I by 50% over the 3 years with a significant rise in mRNA for alpha1 (I) procollagen, both prevented by silymarin. There were corresponding morphologic changes: at 36 months, 2 of 6 animals fed alcohol had cirrhosis and 2 septal fibrosis, with perivenular fibrosis in 2, whereas with alcohol + silymarin, there was only 1 cirrhosis and 1 septal fibrosis, with perivenular fibrosis in 2, and virtually no lesions in the remaining 2. CONCLUSIONS: Silymarin retards the development of alcohol-induced hepatic fibrosis in baboons, consistent with several positive clinical trials. The negative outcome observed in other trials possibly reflects poor compliance resulting in irregular or low silymarin intake. Thus, in view of the innocuity of silymarin, it might be advisable in future clinical studies to insure the controlled administration of sufficient amounts of silymarin.

J Clin Gastroenterol. 2003 Oct;37(4):336-9

Silymarin protects liver against toxic effects of anti-tuberculosis drugs in experimental animals.

The first line anti-tuberculosis drugs isoniazid (INH), rifampicin (RIF) and pyrazinamide (PZA) continues to be the effective drugs in the treatment of tuberculosis, however, the use of these drugs is associated with toxic reactions in tissues, particularly in the liver, leading to hepatitis. Silymarin, a standard plant extract with strong antioxidant activity obtained from S. marianum, is known to be an effective agent for liver protection and liver regeneration. The aim of this study was to investigate the protective actions of silymarin against hepatotoxicity caused by different combinations of anti-tuberculosis drugs. Male Wistar albino rats weighing 250-300 g were used to form 6 study groups, each group consisting of 10 rats. Animals were treated with intra-peritoneal injection of isoniazid (50 mg/kg) and rifampicin (100 mg/kg); and intra-gastric administration of pyrazinamid (350 mg/kg) and silymarin (200 mg/kg). Hepatotoxicity was induced by a combination of drugs with INH+RIF and INH+RIF+PZA. Hepatoprotective effect of silymarin was investigated by co-administration of silymarin together with the drugs. Serum biochemical tests for liver functions and histopathological examination of livers were carried out to demonstrate the protection of liver against anti-tuberculosis drugs by silymarin. Treatment of rats with INH+RIF or INH+RIF+PZA induced hepatotoxicity as evidenced by biochemical measurements: serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activities and the levels of total bilirubin were elevated, and the levels of albumin and total protein were decreased in drugs-treated animals. Histopathological changes were also observed in livers of animals that received drugs. Simultaneous administration of silymarin significantly decreased the biochemical and histological changes induced by the drugs. The active components of silymarin had protective effects against hepatotoxic actions of drugs used in the chemotherapy of tuberculosis in animal models. Since no significant toxicity of silymarin is reported in human studies, this plant extract can be used as a dietary supplement by patients taking anti-tuberculosis medications.

Nutr Metab (Lond). 2008 Jul 5;5:18

An updated systematic review with meta-analysis for the clinical evidence of silymarin.

The potential benefit of silymarin (special extract from the fruits of Silybum marianum) in the treatment of liver diseases remains a controversial issue. For this systematic review electronic databases identified 65 papers for the search terms silymarin, silibinin, silicristin or milk thistle and clinical trial. Only 19 complied with the criteria ’double-’ or ‘single-blind’. These publications were analysed from a clinical point of view and meta-analytic calculations were performed. The clinical evidence of a therapeutic effect of silymarin in toxic liver diseases is scarce. There is no evidence of a favourable influence on the evolution of viral hepatitis, particularly hepatitis C. In alcoholic liver disease, comparing with placebo, aspartate aminotransferase was reduced in the silymarin-treated groups (p = 0.01) while alkaline phosphatase was not. In liver cirrhosis, mostly alcoholic, total mortality was 16.1% with silymarin vs. 20.5% with placebo (n.s.); liver-related mortality was 10.0% with silymarin vs. 17.3% with placebo(p = 0.01). Based on the available clinical evidence it can be concluded - concerning possible risks /probable benefits - that it is reasonable to employ silymarin as a supportive element in the therapy of Amanita phalloides poisoning but also (alcoholic and grade Child ‘A’) liver cirrhosis. A consistent research programme, consolidating existing evidence and exploring new potential uses,would be very welcome.

Forsch Komplementmed. 2008 Feb;15(1):9-20

The use of silymarin in the treatment of liver diseases.

The high prevalence of liver diseases such as chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis underscores the need for efficient and cost-effective treatments. The potential benefit of silymarin (extracted from the seeds of Silybum marianum or milk thistle) in the treatment of liver diseases remains a controversial issue. Therefore, the objective of this review is to assess the clinical efficacy and safety of silymarin by application of systematic approach. 525 references were found in the databases, of which 84 papers were retained for closer examination and 36 were deemed suitable for detailed analysis. Silymarin has metabolic and cell-regulating effects at concentrations found in clinical conditions, namely carrier-mediated regulation of cell membrane permeability, inhibition of the 5-lipoxygenase pathway, scavenging of reactive oxygen species (ROS) of the R-OH type and action on DNA-expression, for example, via suppression of nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB. Pooled data from case record studies involving 452 patients with Amanita phalloides poisoning show a highly significant difference in mortality in favour of silibinin [the main isomer contained in silymarin] (mortality 9.8% vs 18.3% with standard treatment; p < 0.01). The available trials in patients with toxic (e.g. solvents) or iatrogenic (e.g. antispychotic or tacrine) liver diseases, which are mostly outdated and underpowered, do not enable any valid conclusions to be drawn on the value of silymarin. The exception is an improved clinical tolerance of tacrine. In spite of some positive results in patients with acute viral hepatitis, no formally valid conclusion can be drawn regarding the value of silymarin in the treatment of these infections. Although there were no clinical end-points in the four trials considered in patients with alcoholic liver disease, histological findings were reported as improved in two out of two trials, improvement of prothrombin time was significant (two trials pooled) and liver transaminase levels were consistently lower in the silymarin-treated groups. Therefore, silymarin may be of use as an adjuvant in the therapy of alcoholic liver disease. Analysis was performed on five trials with a total of 602 patients with liver cirrhosis. The evidence shows that, compared with placebo, silymarin produces a nonsignificant reduction of total mortality by -4.2% [odds ratio (OR) 0.75 (0.5 - 1.1)]; but that, on the other hand, the use of silymarin leads to a significant reduction in liver-related mortality of-7% [OR: 0.54 (0.3 - 0.9); p < 0.01]. An individual trial reported a reduction in the number of patients with encephalopathy of -8.7% (p = 0.06). In one study of patients with cirrhosis-related diabetes mellitus, the insulin requirement was reduced by -25% (p < 0.01). We conclude that available evidence suggests that silymarin may play a role in the therapy of (alcoholic) liver cirrhosis. Silymarin has a good safety record and only rare case reports of gastrointestinal disturbances and allergic skin rashes have been published. This review does not aim to replace future prospective trials aiming to provide the ‘final’ evidence of the efficacy of silymarin.

Drugs. 2001;61(14):2035-63

Silymarin in the Prevention and Treatment of Liver Diseases and Primary Liver Cancer.

In chronic liver diseases caused by oxidative stress (alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases, drug- and chemical-induced hepatic toxicity), the antioxidant medicines such as silymarin can have beneficial effect. Liver cirrhosis, non-alcoholic fatty liver and steatohepatitis are risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Insulin resistance and oxidative stress are the major pathogenetic mechanisms leading the hepatic cell injury in these patients. The silymarin exerts membrane-stabilizing and antioxidant activity, it promotes hepatocyte regeneration; furthermore it reduces the inflammatory reaction, and inhibits the fibrogenesis in the liver. These results have been established by experimental and clinical trials. According to open studies the long-term administration of silymarin significantly increased survival time of patients with alcohol induced liver cirrhosis. Based on the results of studies using methods of molecular biology, silymarin can significantly reduce tumor cell proliferation, angiogenesis as well as insulin resistance. Furthermore, it exerts an anti-atherosclerotic effect, and suppresses tumor necrosis factor-alpha-induced protein production and mRNA expression due to adhesion molecules. The chemopreventive effect of silymarin on HCC has been established in several studies using in vitro and in vivo methods; it can exert a beneficial effect on the balance of cell survival and apoptosis by interfering cytokines. In addition to this, anti-inflammatory activity and inhibitory effect of silymarin on the development of metastases have also been detected. In some neoplastic diseases silymarin can be administered as adjuvant therapy as well.

Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2011 Apr 5

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

Silymarin treatment of viral hepatitis: a systematic review.

Silymarin from the milk thistle herb (Silybum marianum) is used by many patients with chronic viral hepatitis, but its efficacy remains unknown. We performed a systematic review of silymarin for the treatment of chronic viral hepatitis B and C. An exhaustive search strategy identified 148 papers that studied silymarin compounds in liver disease. Of these, four trials included patients with hepatitis C, one included hepatitis B patients, and two, unspecified chronic viral hepatitis. However, only one trial exclusively studied patients with hepatitis C, and none involved patients with only hepatitis B. Silymarin treatment resulted in a decrease in serum transaminases compared with baseline in four studies, and compared with placebo in only one study. There is no evidence that silymarin affects viral load or improves liver histology in hepatitis B or C. No studies were found that investigated the use of silymarin concomitantly with interferon, nucleoside analogues, or other conventional treatments for hepatitis B or C. In conclusion, silymarin compounds likely decrease serum transaminases in patients with chronic viral hepatitis, but do not appear to affect viral load or liver histology. Nevertheless it may be worthwhile to determine its effects in conjunction with standard antiviral treatment.

J Viral Hepat. 2005 Nov;12(6):559-67

Randomized double-blinded trial evaluating silymarin for chronic hepatitis C in an Egyptian village: study description and 12-month results.

A double-blinded trial evaluating silymarin, an herbal supplement for liver disease, to prevent complications of chronic hepatitis C virus infection has not been done. One hundred and seventy-seven consenting residents of an Egyptian village with chronic hepatitis C virus were randomly assigned to receive either silymarin or multivitamin supplements. Participants had baseline and follow-up clinical, ultrasound, blood tests and quality-of-life assessments. Community nurses visited weekly to ascertain compliance, distribute supplements and record adverse effects. At 12 months almost all of 141 remaining subjects reported feeling better, although symptoms and quality-of-life scores did not differ between the silymarin and multivitamin groups. Both the silymarin and vitamins were tolerated equally well; and >95% of supplements were taken by >95% of subjects. One in each group had no detectable hepatitis C virus antibodies while two in the silymarin group and three receiving multivitamins had undetectable hepatitis C virus RNA. Serum alanine aminotransferase elevations did not differ between groups. Serum hepatic fibrosis marker, hyaluronic acid and YKL-40, and abdominal ultrasound results were similar in both groups and may have progressed slightly at 12 months. The recommended dose of silymarin can be safely taken for 1 year and improves symptoms and general well-being, but has no effect upon hepatitis C virus viremia, serum ALT, or serum and ultrasound markers for hepatic fibrosis. More prolonged evaluation and a higher dose may be required to ascertain whether milk thistle supplements prevent complications of chronic hepatitis C virus.

Dig Liver Dis. 2004 Nov;36(11):752-9

Identification of hepatoprotective flavonolignans from silymarin.

Silymarin, also known as milk thistle extract, inhibits hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and also displays antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory actions that contribute to its hepatoprotective effects. In the current study, we evaluated the hepatoprotective actions of the seven major flavonolignans and one flavonoid that comprise silymarin. Activities tested included inhibition of: HCV cell culture infection, NS5B polymerase activity, TNF-alpha-induced NF-kappaB transcription, virus-induced oxidative stress, and T-cell proliferation. All compounds were well tolerated by Huh7 human hepatoma cells up to 80 muM, except for isosilybin B, which was toxic to cells above 10 muM. Select compounds had stronger hepatoprotective functions than silymarin in all assays tested except in T cell proliferation. Pure compounds inhibited JFH-1 NS5B polymerase but only at concentrations above 300 muM. Silymarin suppressed TNF-alpha activation of NF-kappaB dependent transcription, which involved partial inhibition of IkappaB and RelA/p65 serine phosphorylation, and p50 and p65 nuclear translocation, without affecting binding of p50 and p65 to DNA. All compounds blocked JFH-1 virus-induced oxidative stress, including compounds that lacked antiviral activity. The most potent compounds across multiple assays were taxifolin, isosilybin A, silybin A, silybin B, and silibinin, a mixture of silybin A and silybin B. The data suggest that silymarin- and silymarin-derived compounds may influence HCV disease course in some patients. Studies where standardized silymarin is dosed to identify specific clinical endpoints are urgently needed.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Mar 30;107(13):5995-9

Two flavonolignans from milk thistle (Silybum marianum) inhibit CYP2C9-mediated warfarin metabolism at clinically achievable concentrations.

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a popular herbal product used for hepatoprotection and chemoprevention. Two commercially available formulations are the crude extract, silymarin, and the semipurified product, silibinin. Silymarin consists of at least seven flavonolignans, of which the most prevalent are the diastereoisomers silybin A and silybin B; silibinin consists only of silybin A and silybin B. Based on a recent clinical study showing an interaction between a silymarin product and the CYP2C9 substrate losartan, the CYP2C9 inhibition properties of silybin A and silybin B and corresponding regioisomers, isosilybin A and isosilybin B, were evaluated using human liver microsomes (HLMs), recombinant CYP2C9 (rCYP2C9) enzymes, and the clinically relevant probe, (S)-warfarin. Silybin B was the most potent inhibitor in HLMs, followed by silybin A, isosilybin B, and isosilybin A (IC(50) of 8.2, 18, 74, and >100 microM, respectively). Next, silybin A and silybin B were selected for further characterization. As with HLMs, silybin B was more potent than silybin A toward rCYP2C9 1 (6.7 versus 12 microM), rCYP2C9 2 (9.3 versus 19 microM), and rCYP2C9 3 (2.4 versus 9.3 microM). Using a matrix of five substrate (1-15 microM) and six inhibitor (1-80 microM) concentrations and HLMs, both diastereoisomers inhibited (S)-warfarin 7-hydroxylation in a manner described best by a mixed-type inhibition model (K(i) values of 4.8 and 10 microM for silybin B and silybin A, respectively). These observations, combined with the high systemic silibinin concentrations (>5-75 microM) achieved in a phase I study involving prostate cancer patients, prompt clinical evaluation of a potential warfarin-milk thistle interaction.

J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2010 Mar;332(3):1081-7

Silymarin protects spinal cord and cortical cells against oxidative stress and lipopolysaccharide stimulation.

Contusive spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating event which leads to a loss of neurological function below the level of injury. A secondary degenerative process is initiated following acute SCI. This secondary cascade provides opportunities for the delivery of therapeutic interventions. Silymarin, a widely used “liver herb”, is frequently used for the protection against various hepatobiliary problems. However, the effectiveness of silymarin in central nervous system (CNS), especially in spinal cord, is not firmly established. The present work evaluates the effects of silymarin and its major constituent, silybin, on oxidative stress and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulation in primary neuronal/glial cell cultures and in vivo. Silymarin or silybin inhibited glial cell proliferation in a concentration-dependent manner. Furthermore, it protected glial cells against peroxide-induced reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation, ATP depletion, and cell damage. Interestingly, the inhibition of peroxide-induced ROS by silybin could be partially attenuated by inhibitors of NFB or protein kinase C (PKC), suggesting an involvement of NFB and PKC signaling pathways. In mixed neuronal/glial cell cultures from cerebral cortex or spinal cord, silymarin or silybin effectively attenuated peroxide-induced ROS formation, with silymarin being more effective than silybin, implicating other constituents of silymarin that may be involved. Consistently, silymarin reduced LPS-induced injures in spinal neuronal/glial cell cultures. In vivo, intrathecal administration of silymarin immediately after eliciting contusive SCI effectively improved hindlimb locomotor behavior in the rats. Taken together, silymarin or silybin shows promise in protecting the CNS cells from toxin- or injury-induced damages and might be used to treat head- or spinal cord-injuries related to free radical assault.

Neurochem Int. 2010 Dec;57(8):867-75