Neuroprotective potential of silymarin against CNS disorders: insight into the pathways and molecular mechanisms of action

CNS Neurosci Ther. 2013 Nov;19(11):847-53. doi: 10.1111/cns.12175. Epub 2013 Oct 14.


Silymarin, a C25 containing flavonoid from the plant Silybum marianum, has been the gold standard drug to treat liver disorders associated with alcohol consumption, acute and chronic viral hepatitis, and toxin-induced hepatic failures since its discovery in 1960. Apart from the hepatoprotective nature, which is mainly due to its antioxidant and tissue regenerative properties, Silymarin has recently been reported to be a putative neuroprotective agent against many neurologic diseases including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, and cerebral ischemia. Although the underlying neuroprotective mechanism of Silymarin is believed to be due to its capacity to inhibit oxidative stress in the brain, it also confers additional advantages by influencing pathways such as β-amyloid aggregation, inflammatory mechanisms, cellular apoptotic machinery, and estrogenic receptor mediation. In this review, we have elucidated the possible neuroprotective effects of Silymarin and the underlying molecular events, and suggested future courses of action for its acceptance as a CNS drug for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

Keywords: Amyloid-β aggregation; Antioxidant action; Astrogliosis; Estrogen receptor-β binding; Neuroinflammation; Oxidative and nitrosative stresses; Silymarin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Alzheimer Disease / prevention & control
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / pathology
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology
  • Parkinson Disease / prevention & control
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Silymarin / metabolism
  • Silymarin / pharmacology
  • Silymarin / therapeutic use*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Silymarin