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Silymarin (Milk Thistle Extract) and its Effect on Gastrointestinal Cancer

Milk Thistle: Nature’s Detox Plant

Scientific research is going on to prove the effects of herbs and ancient remedies in cancer treatment. Milk Thistle is one of those old research that is gaining popularity now. More people believe in its healing capacities, especially in liver health and cancer treatments.

Where do we get milk thistle?

Milk thistle is a flowering plant of the Mediterranean region; it is a relative of daisy and dandelion flowers. Some people also call it Mary thistle and holy thistle. Silymarin is a flavonoid obtained from milk thistle dried fruit. These two words mean the same product.

Scientific studies suggest that Silymarin can protect the liver from toxins and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It can help maintain a healthy liver and protect it from medicine like Tylenol, which can cause liver damage when given in high doses. Milk Thistle can also assist the liver in repairing itself, helping with new cell growth.

Today it’s available in the market in the form of Milk Thistle extract or Silymarin as a supplement or medicine. More scientific research suggests its various health benefits, including anticancer properties.

Milk thistle and gastrointestinal cancer

Silymarin and silybin have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The compounds may help repair and prevent cell damage, which is an essential factor in many conditions — including cancer.

Silymarin plays a vital role in preventing cell damage leading to cancer and reducing side effects in healthy cells from cancer treatments.

Apoptosis is a therapeutic target because it is typically disturbed in human cancer. Silymarin exhibits anticancer properties via regulation of apoptosis as well as anti‑inflammatory, antioxidant and hepatoprotective effects. In the present study, the results of silymarin on the inhibition of proliferation and apoptosis were examined in human gastric cancer cells. The viability of AGS human gastric cancer cells was assessed by MTT assay. The migration of AGS cells investigated the wound healing assay. Silymarin significantly decreases the viability and migration of AGS cells in a concentration‑dependent manner.

Silymarin and the AGS tumor

In addition, the number of apoptotic bodies and the rate of apoptosis increased in a In addition, the number of apoptotic bodies and the rate of apoptosis increased dose-dependent as determined by DAPI staining and Annexin V/propidium iodide double staining. The western blotting analysis investigated the changes in the expression of silymarin‑induced apoptosis proteins in human gastric cancer cells. Silymarin increased the expression of Bax, phosphorylated (p)‑JNK and p‑p38, cleaved poly‑ADP ribose polymerase, decreased the levels of Bcl‑2 and p‑ERK1/2 in a concentration‑dependent manner.

Silymarin (100 mg/kg) significantly decreased the AGS tumour volume and increased apoptosis, as assessed by the TUNEL assay, confirming its tumour‑inhibitory effect. Immunohistochemical staining revealed elevated expression of p‑JNK and p‑p38 as well as reduced expression of p‑ERK1/2 associated with silymarin treatment. 

JNK in human gastric cancer cells. These results indicated that silymarin has potential for development as cancer therapeutic due to its growth inhibitory effects and induction of apoptosis in human gastric cancer cells.

Silymarin and Cancer: A dual strategy in both in chemoprevention and chemosensitivity

SilymaSilymarin may play on the system of xenobiotics, metabolizing enzymes (phase I and phase II) to protect normal cells against various toxic molecules or harmful effects of chemotherapeutic agents on normal cells. Furthermore, silymarin and its main bioactive compounds inhibit organic anion transporters (OAT) and ATP-binding cassettes (ABC) transporters, thus counteracting potential chemoresistance.

Silymarin and its derivatives play a double role, namely, limiting the progression of cancer cells through different phases of the cycle—thus forcing them to evolve towards a process of cell death—and accumulating cancer cells in a phase of the cell cycle—thus making it possible to target a more significant number of tumour cells with a specific anti-cancer agent. Silymarin exerts a chemo preventive effect by inducing intrinsic and extrinsic pathways and reactivating cell death pathways by modulation the ratio of proapoptotic/antiapoptotic proteins and synergizing with agonists of death domains receptors. In summary, silymarin may act as a chemo preventive agent and a chemosensitizer through multiple pathways.

How to use milk thistle

Milk Thistle Extract is available on ZenOnco website as Milk Thistle capsules.

To know about how to take it, please connect with anti-cancer experts on ZenOnco.io. They will guide you on how to take this medicine. Alternatively, you can take 2 capsules per day after a meal. Though we strongly recommend you to connect with an expert before taking it.

Alternatively you can make Milk Thistle Tea at home. It’s available for purchase as loose or ground seeds and leaves or in tea bags.

Steep a tea bag or 1 teaspoon of loose tea in 1 cup (237 mL) of hot water for 5–10 minutes. If not using a tea bag, strain the tea before drinking it.

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