St. Mary's Thistle
- Silybum marianum L.
- Carduus marianus
- Composite family
Parts Usually Used
Fruits (contain the highest concentration), seeds and leaves
Description of Plant(s) and Culture
A stout, annual or biennial plant, grows to 6 feet in height; the
branched, shining-brown stem grows 1-3 feet high and bears large,
alternate, dark green, shiny leaves with spiny, scalloped edges and
white spots along the veins. The upper leaves clasp the stem. The
small, composite, solitary, spherical, reddish-purple flower heads
at the ends of the stalks, subtended by spiny bracts with a silky
crown of hair, which is soon shed, appear from June to August.
Found in dry, rocky soils in southern and western Europe and in some
parts of the United States. Common in California.
Cholagogue (stimulates flow of bile), liver tonic, stimulant, demulcent,
Active flavonoid silymarin (a unique type of flavonoid with antioxidant
Legends, Myths and Stories
Milk thistle helps regenerate liver cells and helps cleanse the liver
of dangerous toxins. In several European studies performed in the
1970's on rats, animals who had their livers partially removed experienced
a regeneration of liver cells after receiving milk thistle extract.
This herb is extremely popular in Europe as a tonic for the liver,
the body's second largest organ. This herb contains a flavonoid called
silymarin that has been shown to have a direct effect on liver cells.
Known as vitamin P, flavonoids are substances found in plants that
often work in conjunction with vitamin C and offer many other health
benefits. Often referred to as the body's "chemical factory," the
liver plays a critical role in maintaining good health. It produces
bile, which is necessary for the break-down of fats. It detoxifies
poisons that enter our bloodstream, such as nicotine, alcohol, and
pollutants such as carbon monoxide. It breaks them down from potentially
lethal substances into those that are less destructive to our bodies.
The liver is also the site where vitamins A, D, E, and K are stored.
Numerous European studies sow that this herb enhances overall liver
function, as well as stimulates the production of new liver cells.
The herb is beneficial for those suffering from hepatitis, inflammation
of the liver, or cirrhosis of the liver (a condition often caused
by excessive alcohol intake). This herb is also recommended for all
smokers or anyone exposed to pollutants in the workplace.
Young leaves eaten as a vegetable.
A tonic and anti-depressant.
Has a tonic effect on the heart, brain, and kidneys. It is said to
restore a memory impaired by old age or sickness. Used for all liver
disorders such as jaundice,
liver disorders, and hepatitis. Stimulates the production of new liver
cells and prevents formation of damaging leukotrienes. Protects the
kidneys and is beneficial in cases of psoriasis.
Good for gallstone colic.
Use the leaves for common stomach
problems like lack of
appetite, and dyspepsia.
Clinical trials have found it especially useful in the treatment
of Amanita mushroom poisoning; it is credited with saving a number
of lives in Europe.
Research suggests seed extracts may have therapeutic possibilities
in liver cirrhosis.
Formulas or Dosages
Infusion: 1 1/2 oz. leaves and chopped stalk, add to 1/2 pint
water. Take a wineglassful every day.
Also; infusion: steep 1 tsp. powdered seeds with water, take
4-5 times per day.
Tincture: take 15 to 25 drops, 4 or 5 times per day.
Capsules: take 1 capsule 3 times daily.
Commercial preparations of the seed extracts are manufactured in