Silibinin: a toxicologist’s herbal medicine?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Silymarin is an herbal remedy, commonly called milk thistle, or St. Mary’s Thistle, and has been used for over 2000 years. It has been available as a capsule of the plant extract in Europe since 1974 to treat hepatic disorders. To date toxicologists have relied on animal studies, human case series, or retrospective reviews to decide on its use. In the U.S. the ability to use IV silibinin, its pharmacologically active purified flavonolignan, is hindered by its lack of availability as a Food and Drug Administration approved pharmaceutical preparation. This commentary reviews the in vitro studies, animal studies, and human retrospective analyses which form the basis for its clinical use. Despite the numerous publications, summarized in this issue in a systematic review, the mortality rate from Amanita mushroom ingestion remains stubbornly the same over four decades of use, and hovers around 10%. Although in the retrospective systematic review the use of silibinin, or penicillin, compared to routine care is statistically significantly superior when the primary outcome is fatality. Despite this there is no quality randomized trial to definitively demonstrate its utility. While, intravenous silibinin has a low toxicity, unanswered is whether it is useful in protecting the liver in cases of amanitin-containing mushrooms toxicity, and whether earlier administration would likely improve outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1194-1197
Number of pages4
JournalClinical Toxicology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2022


  • Silibinin
  • amanitin
  • hepatotoxicity
  • liver
  • silymarin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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