Simplified procedure of silymarin extraction from Silybum marianum L. Gaertner.J Chromatogr Sci. 2015 Feb; 53(2):366-72.JC
Silymarin, a mixture of flavonolignans exhibiting many pharmacological activities, is obtained from the fruits of milk thistle (Silybum marianum L. Gaertner). Due to the high lipid content in thistle fruits, the European Pharmacopoeia recommends a two-step process of its extraction. First, the fruits are defatted for 6 h, using n-hexane; second, silymarin is extracted with methanol for 5 more hours. The presented data show that this extremely long traditional Soxhlet extraction process can be shortened to a few minutes using pressurized liquid extraction (PLE). PLE also allows to eliminate the defatting stage required in the traditional procedure, thus simplifying the silymarin extraction procedure and preventing silymarin loss caused by defatting. The PLE recoveries obtained under the optimized extraction conditions are clearly better than the ones obtained by the Pharmacopoeia-recommended Soxhlet extraction procedure. The PLE yields of silychristin, silydianin, silybin A, silybin B, isosilybin A and isosilybin B in acetone are 3.3, 6.9, 3.3, 5.1, 2.6 and 1.5 mg/g of the non-defatted fruits, respectively. The 5-h Soxhlet extraction with methanol on defatted fruits gives only ∼72% of the silymarin amount obtained in 10 min PLE at 125°C.