Bioavailability and activity of phytosome complexes from botanical polyphenols: the silymarin, curcumin, green tea, and grape seed extracts

Altern Med Rev. 2009 Sep;14(3):226-46.


Plant-derived polyphenols are increasingly receiving attention as dietary supplements for the homeostatic management of inflammation, to support detoxication, and for anticancer, weight loss, and other benefits. Their pro-homeostatic effects on genes, transcription factors, enzymes, and cell signaling pathways are being intensively explored, but the poor bioavailability of some polyphenols likely contributes to poor clinical trial outcomes. This review covers four polyphenol preparations with poor bioavailability and their complexation into phytosomes to bypass this problem. Silybin and the other silymarin flavonolignans from milk thistle conserve tissue glutathione, are liver-protective, and have anticancer potential. Curcumin and its related diphenolic curcuminoids have potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic properties. The green tea flavan-3-ol catechins have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cardio- and neuro-protective effects, and anti-carcinogenic benefits, with fat oxidation effects coupled to weight loss. The complex grape seed proanthocyanidin mix (including catechin and epicatechin monomers and oligomers) counters oxidative stress and protects the circulatory system. For each of these preparations, conversion into phytosomes has improved efficacy without compromising safety. The phytosome technology creates intermolecular bonding between individual polyphenol molecules and one or more molecules of the phospholipid, phosphatidylcholine (PC). Molecular imaging suggests that PC molecule(s) enwrap each polyphenol; upon oral intake the amphipathic PC molecules likely usher the polyphenol through the intestinal epithelial cell outer membrane, subsequently accessing the bloodstream. PC itself has proven clinical efficacy that contributes to phytosome in vivo actions. As a molecular delivery vehicle, phytosome technology substantially improves the clinical applicabilities of polyphenols and other poorly absorbed plant medicinals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antioxidants / pharmacokinetics
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Biological Availability
  • Chemoprevention / methods
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Curcumin / pharmacokinetics*
  • Curcumin / therapeutic use
  • Free Radical Scavengers / pharmacokinetics
  • Free Radical Scavengers / therapeutic use
  • Grape Seed Extract / pharmacokinetics*
  • Grape Seed Extract / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Phytotherapy / methods*
  • Protective Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Protective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Silybum marianum
  • Silymarin / pharmacokinetics*
  • Silymarin / therapeutic use
  • Tea*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Grape Seed Extract
  • Protective Agents
  • Silymarin
  • Tea
  • Curcumin