Popularly known as Milk Thistle is an annual or biennial plant of the Asteraceae family. It has red to purple flowers and shiny pale green leaves with white veins.
The common name, milk thistle, is derived from the milky-white veins on the leaves, which, when broken open, yield a milky sap. Numerous scientific studies have explored Milk Thistle and a group of its constituents called silymarins.
The primary constituent of silymarin called silibinin helps to support healthy liver function, encouraging healthy cholesterol synthesis by the liver.
The active complex of is a lipophilic extract from the seeds of the plant and is composed of three isomer flavonolignans (silybin, silydianin, and silychristine), collectively known as silymarin. Silybin is the component with the greatest degree of biological activity and makes up 50–70% of silymarin.
It acts as an antioxidant by reducing free radical production and lipid peroxidation. Silymarin has been used to treat alcoholic liver disease, viral hepatitis, and toxin-induced liver diseases.