WHAT IS SILYMARIN?
Silymarin is one of the many flavanones that can be found in plant based foods and is part of the phytonutrient family (a group of chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants and have multiple health benefits but are not considered essential to human health). It is actually a combination of 3 separate phytonutrients (silybin, silidianin and silicristin) which are all grouped together under the title of silymarin and can all be found in milk thistle. In this article I will be providing a full overview of silymarin.
WHEN WAS SILYMARIN DISCOVERED?
Silymarin was discovered in 1938 by the Hungarian biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyi as part of the flavonoid family. He initially referred to the flavonoids as vitamin P but it was later discovered that they are not essential to human health and therefore not technically vitamins.
HOW DOES YOUR BODY USE SILYMARIN?
Silymarin is a powerful antioxidant (a substance which protects the body’s cells from oxygen related damage) which promotes good liver health in the body. Additionally, silymarin has been shown to protect against a number of health conditions. The list below highlights the main benefits of silymarin:
– Acting as an antihepatotoxic (a substance which protects the liver from various types of damaging toxins).
– Acting as an antioxidant and protecting your body from dangerous free radicals (harmful by-products of oxygen related reactions).
– Improving insulin sensitivity (which is particularly beneficial for people suffering from diabetes).
– Preventing cancer.
– Preventing inflammation of the liver.
– Preventing kidney damage.
– Preventing pancreatic damage.
– Promoting the growth of certain types of liver cell.
– Reducing blood levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (a type of cholesterol which can cause blockages in the arteries and increase your heart disease risk).
– Treating gall bladder diseases.
– Treating amanita mushroom poisoning (which can destroy the liver if left untreated).
– Treating various types of liver disease.
– Treating skin problems (such as acne and eczema).
HOW MUCH SILYMARIN DO YOU NEED?
Silymarin is not considered essential to human health so has no official recommended daily allowance (RDA). However, most sources suggest consuming between 400 milligrams (mg) and 600mg of milk thistle (which contains approximately 70% silymarin) each day is enough to unlock the health benefits discussed above. Taking up to 800mg of milk thistle each day is believed to be safe for the treatment of liver diseases.
WHICH FOODS CONTAIN SILYMARIN?
Milk thistle is the richest source of silymarin. There is little information available on the exact amounts of silymarin in specific foods but the list below outlines some of the top sources:
– Milk Thistle.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF GETTING TOO MUCH SILYMARIN?
There are currently no reported overdose symptoms associated with silymarin. However, it is still recommended that you consume no more than 800mg of this phytonutrient each day.
Although there are no reported overdose symptoms, certain individuals are allergic to silymarin. The symptoms of silymarin allergy include:
– Closing of the throat.
– Difficulty breathing.
– Hives (a type of skin rash).
– Mild stomach upset.
– Swollen face.
– Swollen lips.
– Swollen tongue.
Eating silymarin can also interfere with oral contraceptives and reduce their effectiveness.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF NOT GETTING ENOUGH SILYMARIN?
Since silymarin is not considered essential to human health there are no reported deficiency symptoms.
Silymarin boosts liver health in multiple ways. It protects this vital organ from damage, treats liver disease and supports the production of new liver cells. So if you suffer from liver problems then perhaps silymarin is a phytonutrient you should consider.
List of Phytochemicals in Food (Wikipedia)
Milk Thistle Silymarin
Vegetables That Contain Silymarin (eHow)
What is Phytochemical? (Juicing For Health)
USDA Database for the Flavonoid Content of Selected Foods