milk thistle may help diabetes

Doug Skrecky (
Fri, 6 Nov 1998 12:22:23 -0800 (PST)

von Schonfeld J. Weisbrod B. Muller MK. Institution
Department of Gastroenterology, Medical Clinic, Essen, Germany. Title
Silibinin, a plant extract
with antioxidant and membrane stabilizing properties, protects exocrine pancreas from cyclosporin A toxicity.
Cellular & Molecular Life Sciences. 53(11-12):917-20, 1997 Dec. Abstract
Silymarin can be extracted from the milk thistle, and silibinin is the main component of the plant extract. Possibly due to their antioxidant and membrane-stabilizing properties, the compounds have been shown to protect different organs and cells against a number of insults. Thus liver, kidney, erythrocytes and platelets have been protected from the toxic effects of ethanol, carbon tetrachloride, cold ischemia and drugs, respectively. The effect of silibinin on endocrine and exocrine pancreas, however, has not been studied. We therefore investigated whether silibinin treatment attenuates cyclosporin A (CiA) toxicity on rat endocrine and exocrine pancreas. Groups of 15 male Wistar rats were treated for 8 days with CiA and/or silibinin. On day 9, endocrine and exocrine pancreatic functions were tested in vitro. At the end of the treatment period, blood glucose levels in vivo were significantly higher in rats treated with CiA while silibinin did not affect glucose levels. In vitro, insulin secretion was inhibited after treatment with silibinin, but amylase secretion was not affected. After treatment with CiA both insulin and amylase secretion were reduced. Silibinin and CiA had an additive inhibitory effect on insulin secretion, but silibinin attenuated CiA-induced inhibition of amylase secretion. Despite CiA treatment, amylase secretion was in fact restored to normal with the highest dose of silibinin. Thus silibinin inhibits glucose-stimulated insulin release in vitro, while not affecting blood glucose concentration in vivo. This combination of effects could be useful in the treatment of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Furthermore, silibinin protects the exocrine pancreas from CiA toxicity. As this inhibitory effect is probably unspecific, silibinin may also protect the exocrine pancreas against other insult principles, such as alcohol.