Silymarin protects neurons from oxidative stress associated damages in focal cerebral ischemia: a behavioral, biochemical and immunohistological study in Wistar rats

J Neurol Sci. 2011 Oct 15;309(1-2):45-54. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2011.07.035. Epub 2011 Aug 15.


Cerebral stroke is the third largest cause of death and the severe leading cause of disability, thus have astronomical financial and social burden worldwide. Accumulated evidence suggests that ROS can be scavenged through utilizing natural antioxidant compounds present in foods and medicinal plants. In this study, we examined whether silymarin, an antioxidant, present in the milk of thistle can prevent or slowdown neuronal injury in focal cerebral ischemia. Male Wistar rats were pre-treated with silymarin (200mg/kg body weight, dissolved in 0.3 % sodium carboxymethyl cellulose, once orally) for 15 days. On day 16, they underwent a transient 2h suture-occlusion of the middle cerebral artery followed by 22 h of reperfusion. Rats were tested for neurobehavioral activity after 22 h reperfusion. Silymarin was found to be successful in upregulating the antioxidant status and lowering the apoptotic responses, and functional recovery returned close to the baseline. This study revealed that silymarin, a naturally occurring flavone from the milk thistle (Silybum marianum), may be helpful in slowing down the progression of neurodegeneration in focal cerebral ischemia. These results suggest that the neuroprotective potential of silymarin is mediated through its anti-oxidative and anti-apoptotic properties.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / immunology
  • Brain Ischemia / immunology*
  • Brain Ischemia / pathology
  • Brain Ischemia / prevention & control*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Motor Activity / immunology
  • Neurons / immunology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Oxidative Stress / immunology*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Silymarin / pharmacology
  • Silymarin / therapeutic use*


  • Antioxidants
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Plant Extracts
  • Silymarin