• Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) seeds have been used for over 2000 years as a natural remedy for the treatment of several diseases, especially those of the liver, and are still widely used for the same.
• The active constituents of milk thistle seed are three isomeric flavonolignans (silibinin or silybin, silychristin, and silidianin), collectively known as silymarin, which is extracted from the milk thistle seeds and available commercially as a standardized extract.
• Milk thistle seed extract (silymarin) and its constituents (mainly silibinin) are antioxidant and hepatoprotective, and effective in treating toxin poisoning, hepatitis, cirrhosis, and fibrosis of the liver; they also stimulate liver regeneration. However, human studies regarding the management of alcoholic cirrhosis and hepatitis are equivocal.
• Milk thistle seed demonstrates anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, lipid, and biliary effects. It also has antiviral, antitumor, and other health-beneficiary properties.
• Milk thistle seed preparations are safe, well tolerated, and cause no serious side effects in humans, although there may be mild gastrointestinal and allergic reactions.
• Milk thistle seed is a very promising natural drug. More research is warranted to validate its wide range of health-promoting effects.
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