Milk Thistle - Mary Thistle
Silybum Marianum also known as Carduus Marianus
Milk Thistle is native to the Mediterranean counties. It now grows wild through Europe.
Milk thistle is a hardy plant that willingly self-seeds. It grows well in open areas. The plant can grow to be quite tall; up to 1.5 meters (4-5 feet).
The purple flowers bloom in summer and then are followed by the important black seeds which are covered with tufts of white hair.
The flowers are picked in early summer; the seeds are gathered in late summer.
Milk thistle likes well drained soil in a sunny spot. Unfortunately slugs and snails seem to enjoy the leaves.
Milk Thistle got its name because of the white veins on the leaves that resemble spilt milk. It is also known by the name “Mary Thistle” as a legend tells a story that the Virgin Mary spilt a few drops of her milk on the plant.
Milk thistle has the extraordinary ability to protect the liver from the damage alcohol and other toxics cause.
As a remedy for liver damage the milk thistle seeds are used. The seeds contain the antioxidants called silymarin. The silymarin found in milk thistle seeds decreases free radical damage in the liver.
Milk thistle is also believed to renew the cells of the liver.
Milk thistle is used to reduce the side effects from cancer chemotherapy.
Milk thistle has been used as a remedy to reduce and often prevent poisoning from for example mushrooms if taken within 48 hours. Milk thistle is also used to treat animals that may have eaten poisonous plants.
Milk thistle is used in herbal medicine for improving the appetite and digestion for people with liver problems.
It is told that milk thistle leaves will stimulate milk production in nursing mothers.
Milk thistle has been used as an antidepressant for centuries. John Gerard wrote in the following in his book Herball in 1597: “My opinion is that milk thistle is the best remedy that grows against all melancholy diseases.”
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Milk thistle used to be grown as a vegetable plant. Now a day’s milk thistle is primarily used as an herbal medicine and ornamental plant.
The young leaves of the milk thistle are edible. Remove the spines and use the young leaves in the same manner as spinach, eat them either raw or cooked. The flower buds may be eaten the same way you would eat artichokes. The roots are eaten boiled or roasted. The seeds are of course edible also.
Warning: Never treat yourself if you suspect you have a serious disease, always consult your doctor. If you are allergic to daisies, chrysanthemums and chamomile you may very well be allergic to milk thistle as well. This is also the case if you are allergic to kiwi and artichokes. Always seek the advice of your physician if you have concerns.
Whenever possible always buy organically grown milk thistle. They are often sold as dried herbs in capsules. Always respect the recommended dosage found on the package.