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World J Hepatol. Mar 27, 2014; 6(3): 144-149
Published online Mar 27, 2014. doi: 10.4254/wjh.v6.i3.144
Hepatoprotective effect of silymarin
Nancy Vargas-Mendoza, Eduardo Madrigal-Santillán, Ángel Morales-González, Jaime Esquivel-Soto, Cesar Esquivel-Chirino, Manuel García-Luna y González-Rubio, Juan A Gayosso-de-Lucio, José A Morales-González
Nancy Vargas-Mendoza, Juan A Gayosso-de-Lucio, Institute of Health Sciences, Autonomous University of Hidalgo State, Pachuca 42000, México
Eduardo Madrigal-Santillán, José A Morales-González, Laboratorio Medicina de Conservación, Escuela Superior de Medicina, Instituto Politécnico Nacional, México City 11340, México
Ángel Morales-González, Escuela Superior de Cómputo, Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Av. Juan de Dios Bátiz s/n esquina Miguel Othón de Mendizabal, Unidad Profesional Adolfo López Mateos, México City 07738, México
Jaime Esquivel-Soto, Cesar Esquivel-Chirino, Manuel García-Luna y González-Rubio, Faculty of Dentistry, UNAM, México City 07738, México
Author contributions: All of the authors participated equally in the creation of this document.
Supported by Proyecto SIP 20140856, ESM-IPN
Correspondence to: José A Morales-González, MD, PhD, Laboratorio Medicina de Conservación, Escuela Superior de Medicina, Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Plan de San Luis y Díaz Mirón, Col. Casco de Santo Tomás, Del. Miguel Hidalgo, México City 11340, México.
Telephone: +1-55-57296300-62753 Fax: +1-55-53963503
Received: November 3, 2013
Revised: January 27, 2014
Accepted: February 20, 2014
Published online: March 27, 2014

The use of medicinal plants in treating illnesses has been reported since ancestral times. In the case of hepatic diseases, several species such as Silybum marianum, Phyllanthus niruri, and Panus giganteus (Berk.) have been shown to ameliorate hepatic lesions. Silymarin is a natural compound derived from the species Silybum marianum, which is commonly known as Milk thistle. This plant contains at least seven flavoligands and the flavonoid taxifolin. The hepatoprotective and antioxidant activity of silymarin is caused by its ability to inhibit the free radicals that are produced from the metabolism of toxic substances such as ethanol, acetaminophen, and carbon tetrachloride. The generation of free radicals is known to damage cellular membranes and cause lipoperoxidation. Silymarin enhances hepatic glutathione and may contribute to the antioxidant defense of the liver. It has also been shown that silymarin increases protein synthesis in hepatocytes by stimulating RNA polymerase I activity. A previous study on humans reported that silymarin treatment caused a slight increase in the survival of patients with cirrhotic alcoholism compared with untreated controls.

Keywords: Silybum marianum, Hepatoprotector, Lipoperoxidation, Silymarin

Core tip: One of the mechanisms of liver damage caused by alcohol is the generation of free radicals formed by the metabolism of this xenobiotic. Silymarin is an antioxidant that protects the liver from the free radical damage produced by alcohol metabolism. Silymarin is the most used natural compound for the treatment of hepatic diseases worldwide due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fibrotic activities. Silymarin functions by stabilizing biological membranes and increasing protein synthesis.