Silymarin is also known as Flavobion and Legalon. The most important function of silymarin is that of an antioxidant. An antioxidant neutralises and removes free radicals from the body. An excessive amount of free radicals can be a cause of many illnesses. Research and studies on animal have shown that silymarin has a lot of beneficial effects on the liver. In some countries, silymarin is sold as a liver supplement taking as a precautionary medicine.
Although it may be helpful in liver protection, it has been noted that in advanced cases of liver disease like cirrhosis or cancer, silymarin has little or no significant effect. But they are used as anti-cancer medications even though their role is not completely proven. A recent clinical trial showed that silymarin combined with Vitamin E showed a lot of improvement in patients suffering from Hepatitis C and fatty liver. Silymarin helped to reduce the concentration of Hep C virus in these patients. In patients with fatty liver, it has shown to cause a reduction in liver enzymes. It provides supportive treatment for inflammatory diseases of the liver. It is also, a liver decongestant that stimulates the flow of bile. Glutathione is a compound that is present in the liver which in charge of detoxification of chemicals, hormones and drugs. Intake of silymarin increases the glutathione level by 35% in clinical trials. Silymarin has the property to stimulate protein synthesis which in turn leads to the production of new liver cells. Leukotrienes are advocates of inflammation; silymarin has inhibitory properties towards leukotrienes. Silymarin aids in increasing the level of the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. One of the liver function is to break down excess oestrogen. Sometimes due to unhealthy liver function, oestrogen is not given out leading to a hormonal imbalance in women. Excess oestrogen causes severe PMS symptoms and also an outbreak of acne. Silymarin helps the liver to regain its normal function which in turn breaks down excess oestrogen resulting in a better period. Silymarin reduces the uncontrolled multiplication of skin cells and also aids in the reduction of inflammation. This compound is used for weight control and detox in addition to alleviating symptoms of PMS. And it is also used to help one cope with hangovers. The extract works by helping in hydrating the body and also liver detox.
Sources of Silymarin
The richest source of silymarin is Milk thistle or Silybum marianum. Silybum marianum extracts is commonly called milk thistle extract because almost 3/4th of the seeds of milk thistle is silymarin. The highest concentration of silymarin is found in the seeds, but it is also present in stems, flowers and roots. Extraction is mainly done from the seeds. All parts of the herb, Silybum are used for medicinal purposes like the roots, stems, leaves, fruit and seed. These used to grow mainly in Southern Europe and Asia, but now they are found all over the world. Since they grow without much care, these plants are sometimes considered as weeds too.