Silymarin, Milk Thistle's Active Compound, Proven Useful for Treating Vitiligo

By Fiorella M. | Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Silymarin, Milk Thistle's Active Compound, Proven Useful for Treating Vitiligo
General Information
  • 02 Apr 2019
  • Iran
  • Dermatology Clinic of Shahid Faghihi Hospital
  • Jowkar, F. et al
  • Randomized controlled clinical trial
  • 34 patients
  • 3 months

Milk thistle is arguably the most popular herb for supporting liver function; however, silymarin, its main active compound with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, has been identified by several studies as potentially helpful in the recovery of wounds and other skin problems.

Vitiligo is a chronic skin disorder that reduces the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for the natural color of eyes, hair, and skin. Its deficiency causes lighter patches in different parts of the body. The origin of vitiligo hasn't been identified, but it has been proven that this condition is not contagious or life-threatening, and while there is no cure at sight, it can be controlled. The present study aimed to explore the effectiveness of silymarine for skin conditions, particularly as a potential coadjutant in the treatment of vitiligo.

The Study

This double-blind randomized controlled clinical trial was carried in the Dermatology Clinic of Shahid Faghihi Hospital in Shiraz, Iran. The participants – 34 patients with vitiligo – were separated into two groups. The first one received a Narrowband UVB treatment (a type of phototherapy used for the treatment of skin diseases), along with the supplementation of oral silymarin; whereas, the second group was given the same phototherapy, but supplemented with a placebo. Before and after the clinical trial, all volunteers were evaluated with the Vitiligo Area Severity Index (VASI), which calculates the loss of pigmentation on the total surface of the body. 

The Results

After the clinical trial, both groups experienced a reduction of vitiligo symptoms due to the phototherapy treatment. However, the group that was supplemented with silymarin for vitiligo treatment showed further improvements on skin repigmentation and a noticeable reduction of the total area covered by vitiligo.

What Does this Mean?

Although the study sample was small and more research is required to corroborate the efficacy of silymarin for vitiligo treatment, these results are promising and clearly show potential benefits of using milk thistle for skin problems, particularly as a coadjutant for the treatment of this chronic skin disease. 


  • American Academy of Dermatology, Vitiligo
  • Journal of Dermatological Treatment, Can we consider silymarin as a treatment option for vitiligo? A double-blind controlled randomized clinical trial of phototherapy plus oral Silybum marianum product versus phototherapy alone, 2019
  • Medlineplus, Vitiligo
  • Pharmaceutical Biology, The effect of silymarin (Silybum marianum) on human skin fibroblasts in an in vitro wound healing model, 2013