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Phytotherapeutic properties of milk thistle seeds: An overview

Sanjib Bhattacharya


Milk thistle (Silybum marianum, Asteraceae) seeds have been used for over 2000 years as remedy for several diseases especially for liver and still widely used. The active constituents of milk thistle seed are three flavonolignans viz. silibinin, silychristin, and silidianin collectively known as silymarin extracted from milk thistle seeds, available commercially as standardized extract. Milk thistle seed extract (silymarin) and its constituents (mainly silibinin) act as antioxidant and hepatoprotective; effective in treating toxin poisoning, hepatitis, cirrhosis, fibrosis of liver; stimulate liver regeneration. However, human studies regarding management of alcoholic cirrhosis and hepatitis are equivocal. Milk thistle seed has anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, lipid and biliary effects. It also has antiviral, antitumor and other therapeutic properties. Milk thistle preparations are safe, well tolerated and cause no serious side effects except mild gastrointestinal and allergic reactions. Milk thistle seed is a very promising herbal drug. More research is warranted to substantiate its broad ranging phytotherapeutic effects.

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