Policosanol composition, antioxidant and anti-arthritic activities of milk thistle (Silybium marianum L.) oil at different seed maturity stages

Lipids Health Dis. 2018 Apr 16;17(1):82. doi: 10.1186/s12944-018-0682-z.


Background: Several anti-arthritic drugs and synthetic antioxidants have wide pharmaceutical uses and are often associated with various side effects on the human health. Dietary seed oils and their minor components like policosanol may offer an effective alternative treatment for arthritic and oxidative-stress related diseases. The biological effects of seed oils were affected by different parameters such as the stage of seed maturity. Hence, this study seeks to determine the policosanol content, antioxidant and anti-arthritic activities of milk thistle (Silybium marianum L.) oil extracted at various stages of seed maturation.

Methods: Milk thistle oil samples were extracted from seeds collected at three maturation stages (immature, intermediate, and mature). The 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) and 2,2'-azino-bis (3-ethyl-benzthiazoline-6-sulfonic acid) (ABTS) radical scavenging assays were used to determine the antioxidant activity of the extracted oils. The anti-arthritic activity of oil samples was evaluated with bovine serum protein denaturation and egg albumin denaturation methods. Gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (GC-MS) was employed to determine the policosanol profile.

Results: Policosanol profile, antioxidant and anti-arthritic activities of milk thistle oil were influenced by the seed maturity stages. The oil extracted from the immature seeds had the highest total policosanol content (987.68 mg/kg of oil) and displayed the maximum antiradical activity (96.42% and 90.35% for DPPH test and ABTS assay, respectively). Nine aliphatic alcohols were identified in the milk thistle oil. The dominant poliosanol in the mature seed oil was octacosanol (75.44%), while triacontanol was the major compound (40.25%) in the immature seed oil. Additionally, the maximum inhibition of bovine serum protein denaturation (92.53%) and egg albumin denaturation (86.36%) were observed in immature seed oil as compared to mature seed oil. A high correlation was found between the total policosanol content, anti-arthritic activity and antioxidant capacity of oil.

Conclusions: The milk thistle oil exhibited a potential anti-arthritic and antioxidant activities and that it might contribute to the protection of humans from a variety of diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Also, it could serve as natural antioxidant and anti-arthritic agents for application in the food industries and pharmaceutic. Policosanol level in the seed oils might contribute to their anti-arthritic and antioxidant activities.

Keywords: Anti-arthritic activity; Antioxidant capacity; Maturity stage; Milk thistle; Oil; Policosanol.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Arthritis / drug therapy*
  • Cattle
  • Chickens
  • Fatty Alcohols / analysis*
  • Fatty Alcohols / pharmacology*
  • Milk Thistle / chemistry*
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology*
  • Protein Denaturation / drug effects
  • Seeds / growth & development*
  • Serum Albumin, Bovine / drug effects
  • Serum Albumin, Bovine / metabolism


  • Antioxidants
  • Fatty Alcohols
  • Plant Oils
  • policosanol
  • Serum Albumin, Bovine