The active components in milk thistle extracts are a group of chemical compounds collectively known as silymarin. Silybin is considered one of the most active constituents of silymarin.
Silymarin and silybin are antioxidants, in other words, they protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are toxic by-products of oxygen metabolism in living cells. These free radicals can cause significant damage to living tissues when produced in quantities that exceed the body’s neutralising mechanisms. Stress, medicines, injury, alcohol consumption, and infections can all lead to increased generation of free radicals.
Due to its antioxidant properties, silymarin helps to protect cell membranes from damage induced by free radicals. Silymarin also stabilises liver cell membranes and prevents binding and penetration of toxins, such as ethanol, paracetamol, Amanita phalloides from poisonous mushrooms, and others. In addition, silymarin may help the liver to generate new cells and proteins to recover from injury. Apart from its benefits as antioxidant, silymarin also has anti-inflammatory properties. It may reduce the damaging effects of inflammation and prevent scar tissue formation.
In summary, silymarin:
• Is a free radical scavenger that protects cell membranes from damage caused by toxins and oxidative stress
• Increases total antioxidant capacity by increasing the levels of intracellular antioxidants, namely glutathione and superoxide dismutase (SOD)
• Helps the liver to recover from injury
• Has anti-inflammatory properties
• Protects against scar tissue formation