Milk thistle dietary supplements that contain silymarin are widely marketed and used in the USA and other countries for liver enhancement and recovery. More recently, silymarin has also been identified as a possible antiviral for the treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. To assess different brands of commercially sold silymarin, 45 products were collected from local stores and analyzed for their silymarin content, antioxidant activities, and antiviral activity against HCV. Antioxidant activity was measured as radical scavenging activity using DPPH and by estimating their antioxidant capacity as trolox equivalent. Anti-HCV activity was measured in an HCV genotype 1b replication inhibition assay. Samples were found to vary widely in their silymarin content, with some samples having none or very low concentrations while silymarin represented higher than 80% of other samples. Both antioxidant and anti-HCV activity correlated with the overall level of silymarin.
Keywords: Silybum marianum; food supplement; hepatitis C virus; over the counter drugs; radical scavenger.