Difference Between Milk Thistle, Silymarin and Silybin

Jul 15, 2019


The Largest Internal Organ


With the average weight around 1.4kg, the liver is the largest organ in our body that works 24/7 as the primary detoxification system, besides involved in other metabolism processes. In today’s modern lifestyle, many stressors continuously bombarded us, ranging from preservatives in food and drink, environmental pollution, exposure to chemicals (e.g. chemical used in products of skin care, cosmetics, hair dye, pesticides etc), medications etc. All these are being processed and cleaned out by your liver, in which it may get sluggish if constantly overwork. In addition to adopting a healthy lifestyle, a simple, safe, and practical approach to support your liver is through taking natural ingredient.

The Promising Natural Booster
Most people have heard about the use of natural herb – milk thistle and its benefits, specifically on liver performance. This medicinal plant has been used for centuries and is now a daily health supplement. Besides using the name “milk thistle”, some labelling also stating “silymarin” or “silybin”. These are not the same thing! Then, what is the difference between milk thistle, silymarin and silybin?

Milk Thistle
It is the plant’s name which recognized by its reddish-purple flowers, and with fruits that look more like brownish-black husk seeds. Different parts of the plant applied to various health conditions. Among all, the primary focus is on liver and gallbladder dysfunctions, supported by abundant studies with significant positive results on its liver-protecting characteristics. Thus, milk thistle plant is commonly taken as a liver tonic, which assists in liver health improvement and maintenance.

It is a group of components extracted from milk thistle plant – usually from the fruits and seeds containing a higher concentration. Most milk thistle supplements use silymarin as the primary active ingredient. It is good at functioning as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Furthermore, it can also assist in stimulating liver cells regeneration, improve and support liver functions.

Silymarin is a big compound extracted from milk thistle plant. It is a mixture of flavonoid complexes that can be further broken down into many smaller parts, and one of them is named silybin. Among all the parts, silybin has the most potent antioxidant and anti-inflammation power. Furthermore, our body absorbs silybin more readily compared to milk thistle and silymarin. Hence it works with the highest efficacy.

Key Message

Milk Thistle Plant
(to be extracted)


(represent about 1.5% of fruit’s dry weight)

– silybin
(consisting around 50-70% of silymarin extract)
– isosilybin
– silychristin
– isosilychristin
– silydianin
– silimonin


Milk thistle and its extracts are a natural and effective solution for liver health. The active component in milk thistle is used up fast by the liver, hence those with reduced liver health need to consume a high and repeated oral dose for effective improvement. Moreover, they should take note on the silybin concentration of liver supplement. Consuming liver supplement providing high dose with standardized 80% silybin give much potent effects: antioxidant, detoxification and improve liver functions.

Having a healthier liver ensures a healthier you!

  1. 1MD. Why Milk Thistle is Good but Silybin is Better for Liver Health. Retrieved from: https://1md.org/article/milk-thistle-silybin-better-liver
  2. Karimi G et al. 2011. “Silymarin”, a promising pharmacological agent for treatment of diseases. Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences. 14 (4): 308-317.
  3. Bijak M. 2017. Silybin, a Major Bioactive Component of Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum L. Gaernt.) – Chemistry, Bioavailability, and Metabolism. Molecules. 22 (1942).