Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) has been used for 2,000 years as an herbal remedy for a variety of ailments, particularly liver, kidney, and gall bladder problems. Milk thistle is native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the asteraceae family, which also includes sunflowers and daisies. It is now found throughout the world.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum), also called holy thistle and lady’s thistle, is a common weed in many places and grows throughout the world in climate zones 5 through 9. The plant has purple to red flowers and can be up to 10 feet tall.
Milk thistle was one of the most popular liver herb “alteratives” used in European herbalism and folklore, mentioned in books and documented in herbals throughout the age.
Milk Thistle is a potent detoxifying herb that can help to aid liver function, manage cholesterol, prevent cancer, and lower blood glucose levels.
Milk Thistle has been shown to help fight against hepatitis C as well inhibit cancer cell growth for breast, cervical, and prostate cancers. It has also been shown to benefit gall bladder disorders, cirrhosis, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, jaundice, obsessive-compulsive disorder, headaches, PMS, and rosacea.
Milk Thistle is also highly effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis and other autoimmune conditions such as fibromyalgia, bursitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and eczema. ‘
Milk Thistle is esteemed for its ability to help restore and protect the liver from chemicals, environmental toxins, and alcohol and is excellent for helping to strengthen the digestive tract and aid in the healing of irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, and chron’s disease.
Milk Thistle is a rich source of zinc, selenium, iron, antioxidants, and flavonoids.
All parts of the plant can be used, but the milk thistle seeds are considered to be the most medicinally potent for therapeutic use.
Other parts of this wild plant, beside the seeds, are also edible. The leaves can be steamed or eaten raw (after removing the thorns) as a wild edible green. According to the Modern Herbal, “The heads of this thistle formerly were eaten, boiled, treated like those of the artichoke.”
Milk thistle can be taken as a tea, capsule, tincture, or extract form and is found online or at your local health food store.
Silymarin is the active compound in Milk thistle seeds that contains most of the healing properties.
Milk thistle should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women. People with a history of hormone-related cancers, including breast, uterine, and prostate cancer, should not take milk thistle.
Do not take milk thistle if you are allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, chamomile, yarrow, or daisies. Always consult your health practitioner as this herb can interfere with many medications.
Milk thistle reproduces by its own seed. From seed, milk thistle will take around three weeks to germinate.
Cut off flower heads when white pappus tuft begins to develop as the flower dries at the end of the growing season.
Seeds can be harvested for a few weeks.
Let the cut flower heads dry in a sunny, warm place for 5 to 7 days or in a brown paper bag in a dry, warm place.
After dried, place in a burlap sack and chop at the flower heads to remove seeds. Winnow the seeds in the open air, or using a fan.
Each milk thistle flower can produce about 190 seeds, with an average of 6,350 seeds per plant, with over 90% being viable for growth and use.
It is the seeds that are most often used for medicinal purposes. Approximately 1 /4 pound of seed will be yielded per plant. Can be dried and stored as any herb or spice in an air-tight container.
Milk thistle makes a lovely group showing in a mixed herb garden.