Many of the phytochemicals famous for their health benefits, such as green tea, Milk Thistle, and curcumin, belong to a family of molecules called “flavonoids.”
The fruit of the milk thistle plant (Silybum marianum), commonly called silymarin, contains a few flavonoids known for supporting your liver’s ability to neutralize toxins. Silybin (a.k.a. silibin) is the most potent, and most prevalent, of the three.1
It’s tough to get the full benefit of flavonoids, because they are poorly absorbed. (Curcumin is notorious for this, which is why supplement companies constantly tout their version as having “improved absorption.”) Our cell membranes are made of phospholipids, a type of (very good) fat. The flavonoid’s structure makes it difficult for them to get absorbed across the cell membranes in the intestine, unless they are accompanied by a fat molecule. For that reason, researchers often try to improve the absorption of flavonoids by using phytosomes or liposomes.
Phytosomes are flavonoids attached to phosphatidylcholine (PC). PC is the main building block of cell membranes— so it makes an excellent “water taxi” to get flavonoids across the cell walls lining your gut. (Liposomes are slightly different: the PC forms a ball and the flavonoid sits in the center, but is not attached.)
Occasionally a company will develop a phytosome or liposome, prove that it has superior absorption, and patent the formula. Siliphos® is such a product: a patented Silymarin/PC phytosome that has 500% better absorption than silymarin alone.
In the case of silymarin this is a particularly useful combination, because PC on it’s own is also an excellent liver protectant. So, in this case PC isn’t just a carrier for silymarin—PC also synergistically increases silymarin’s liver health benefits.2,3
How Does Silymarin Work?
When you eat any sort of toxin—including artificial preservatives, pesticide residues, even acetaminophen—your liver is the first line of defense. There are two phases to the liver’s detoxification process. The tricky part is, Phase 1 detox actually turns the toxin into a free radical— making it even more toxic, briefly. This is because, by turning the toxin into a free radical, it makes it very easy for glutathione to bind to it. (Phase 1 detox is mediated primarily by the Cytochrome P450 family of genes. If you’ve had genetic testing and been told that you have impaired detoxification genes, they are usually talking about Cytochrome P450 and Phase I detox.)
In Phase II, glutathione quickly binds to the free radical and gets rid of it. If you run out of glutathione, you are unable to get rid of the free radicals that you made in Phase I– and liver cells die.
When someone takes too much acetaminophen, the E.R. doctor gives the popular supplement N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) intravenously, to save the liver. Phase II detox is exactly the reason they do that: the cysteine in NAC is used by your body to make more glutathione.
Like NAC, silymarin also increases glutathione levels in the liver. Although the mechanism is not completely understood, animal studies show it increases liver glutathione levels by about 50%.4
Silymarin/ silibinin also increase levels of the other critical detoxification enzyme: SOD (superoxide dismutase).5 The end result in humans is: when taking silymarin/silibinin in adequate doses, proper liver function is supported, thereby improving your body’s ability to neutralize toxins.2,6
Mitochondrial Energy Production
Silybin has been shown to support normal mitochondrial energy production (oxidative phosphorylation as opposed to glycolysis), via inhibition of hexokinase II 15 as well as inhibition of hypoxia inducible factor 1-alpha.16
A 2017 journal article summarized many of the effects of silymarin; that paper can be viewed at this link. Like the Curos Essential ingredients berberine, tocotrienols, and green tea, silybin provides multi-targeted support of normal, healthy cellular functions including apoptosis,7,12,13 mitochondrial energy production,15,16 and detoxification.2,6 In addition, like berberine, silybin activates AMPK,14 which is thought to slow the aging process. And when complexed with phosphatidylcholine, as Siliphos®, its absorption is dramatically improved—by up to 500%.1,2,8,9,10
Why 600mg per dose?
The dosing of Siliphos® is a bit confusing, because one 200mg capsule actually contains only 60mg of silybin; the rest is phosphatidylcholine.
The minimum effective dose of Siliphos is 535mg, containing 160mg of silybin per day (the rest is phosphatidylcholine); this was determined in a human dose-escalation trial.2,11 Curos Essential contains 600mg Siliphos® per daily dose, which means you’re getting 180mg silybin per day. Any less than that would not be effective.
Note that “regular” silybin is absorbed only 25% as well as Siliphos 2 Fig.5 — therefore you’d need to take about 720mg of “regular” milk thistle extract to get the same benefit as the amount of Siliphos in Curos Essential.