Silymarin Increases Telomerase Activity

Silymarin is an extract from the seeds of the Milk Thistle plant.

Milk Thistle is also known as Silybum marianum and has other common names that include cardus marianus, blessed milk thistle, Marian thistle, Mary thistle, Saint Mary’s thistle, Mediterranean milk thistle, variegated thistle and Scotch thistle.

Milk thistle seeds contain approximately 4–6% silymarin, whereas a milk thistle extract consists of about 65–80% silymarin and 20–35% fatty acids, including linoleic acid.  

Silymarin is a complex mixture of polyphenolic molecules consisting of 7 flavonolignans and 1 flavonoid:

  • flavonolignans
    • silybin A
    • silybin B
    • isosilybin A
    • isosilybin B
    • silychristin
    • isosilychristin
    • silydianin
  • flavonoid
    • Taxifolin


Silymarin molecule

Silymarin has been extensively studied for its varied health benefits.  Some of the more common benefits include:

  • Silymarin acts as a strong antioxidant.  1 
  • Silymarin increase glutathione in the liver by more than 30%.  2
  • Silymarin increases the level superoxide dismutase in cell cultures.  3
  • Silymarin increases the production of new liver cells, replacing damaged cells.  4

In addition to the many benefits of Silymarin, it has also been demonstrated that Silymarin has the ability to increase telomerase activity 3-fold according to a study published in the December 2010 edition of the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology.

The study “examined whether silymarin, a complex of flavonolignans with hepatoprotective and antioxidative properties, can protect EPCs against rapamycin-induced senescence. Mononuclear cells were isolated from peripheral blood of healthy volunteers. EPCs were cultured in endothelial cell growth medium-2 in the presence or absence of rapamycin (0.1 ng/mL) and/or silymarin (12.5–50 μg/mL).”

The result of the study stated that “Silymarin increased telomerase activity 3-fold, reduced the number of senescent cells, and increased EPC proliferative activity (up to 64%) in comparison with cells cultured with rapamycin alone. Moreover, silymarin partially prevented impairment of tubular-like structure formation in Matrigel by rapamycin.”

The conclusion of the study stated that “These findings suggest that silymarin counteracts the inhibitory effects of rapamycin in EPCs. Silymarin may protect EPCs against the antiproliferative effects of rapamycin and restore their reconstructive ability.”  5


Swanson Health Products – Silymarin

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