Silibinin is the major active constituent of silymarin, a standardized extract of the milk thistle seeds, containing a mixture of flavonolignans consisting of silibinin, isosilibinin, silicristin, silidianin and others. Silibinin itself is mixture of two diastereomers, silybin A and silybin B, in approximately equimolar ratio. Both in vitro and animal research suggest that silibinin has hepatoprotective (antihepatotoxic) properties that protect liver cells against toxins. Silibinin has also demonstrated in vitro anti-cancer effects against human prostate adenocarcinoma cells, estrogen-dependent and -independent human breast carcinoma cells, human ectocervical carcinoma cells, human colon cancer cells, and both small and nonsmall human lung carcinoma cells.
Currently being tested as a treatment of severe intoxications with hepatotoxic substances, such as death cap (Amanita phalloides) poisoning.