The therapeutic effect of silymarin in the treatment of nonalcoholic fatty disease: A meta-analysis (PRISMA) of randomized control trials

Medicine (Baltimore). 2017 Dec;96(49):e9061. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000009061.


Background: Silymarin (SIL) is an active extraction of the silybum marianum, milk thistle, which is an ancient medicinal plant for treatment of various liver diseases for centuries. This study is to assess the therapeutic effect of SIL in the treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease through meta-analysis.

Methods: Published randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were included from electronic databases (PubMed, Embase, Cochrane library, Web of Science, and so forth). Cochrane handbook was applied to evaluate the methodological quality. All statistical analyses were directed by Revman 5.3 software, and statistical significance was defined as P < .05.

Results: Eight RCTs involved 587 patients were included in this study. The results showed that SIL reduced the AST and ALT levels more significantly than the control group (AST UI/L: MD = -6.57; 95% CI, -10.03 to -3.12; P = .0002; ALT UI/L: MD = -9.16; 95% CI, -16.24 to -2.08; P = .01). Compared with other interventions, there were significant differences decreasing AST and ALT levels when SIL was used alone (AST UI/L: MD = -5.44; 95% CI, -8.80 to -2.08; P = .002; ALT UI/L: MD = -5.08; 95% CI, -7.85 to -2.32; P = .0003).

Conclusion: SIL has positive efficacy to reduce transaminases levels in NAFLD patients. SIL can be an encouraging and considerable phytotherapy for NAFLD patients.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / drug therapy*
  • Phytotherapy / methods*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Silymarin / therapeutic use*


  • Antioxidants
  • Silymarin