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Milk Thistle
shopping: all 3 varieties
Silybum marianum

milk thistle

plant overview
the holy thistle

Milk thistle is a Mediterranean plant in the daisy family that is characterized by tufts of purple flower heads surrounded by a halo of protective thorns. Because the plant is associated with the Virgin Mary, who is reputed to have wept over the plant, it is also called Holy Thistle, Blessed Thistle, Mary Thistle and Lady’s Thistle. The plant is harvested for its seed, which contains a significant amount of amino acids, protein and, most notably, a group of chemical compounds referred to as silymarin. Milk thistle seed can be added to salads and other foods, but is most commonly used to produce teas, infusions, tinctures and extracts.

Clicking "learn more" next to each variety will take you to individual product pages for details.
Milk thistle
A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information on milk thistle

Silybum marianum is an annual or biannual plant of the Asteraceae family. This plant can take on impressive proportions: it grows from 1 to 6 1/2 feet in height with its base at times reaching nearly 5 feet in diameter. Milk thistle grows in a conical shape, the stem being grooved and somewhat cottony. In the larger specimens the stem is hollow.

Milk thistle's leaves are oblong to lanceolate— and they are either lobate or pinnate, with spiny edges. The leaves also have milk-white veins, are devoid of hair, and are shiny green.

The red-purple flower heads are 1 1/2 to 4 3/4 inches long and wide. They flower in the summer through autumn (more specifically from June to August in the North and from December to February in the Southern Hemisphere). Like its leaves, milk thistle's bracts are hairless, but have triangular, spine-edged appendages, that are tipped with a stout yellow spine.

The achenes (small, dry, one-seeded fruits) are black, with a simple long white pappus, surrounded by a yellow basal ring.

common names & nomenclature
Legend states that the milk-white veins of the leaves originated in the milk of the Virgin which once fell upon a plant of Thistle, hence it was called Our Lady's Thistle; the Latin name of the species has the same derivation.

Also known as:
Cardus marianus, milk thistle, blessed milk thistle, Marian Thistle, Mary Thistle, Saint Mary's Thistle, Mediterranean milk thistle,variegated thistle, Scotch thistle.
Not to be confused with Centaurea benedicta (aka Cnicus benedictus, aka Blessed Thistle).

Where in the World
habitat and range for milk thistle

Silybum marianum is a native of Southern Europe through to Asia and is now found throughout the world.

Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting milk thistle

Grows in waste places, areas by the sea, and in cultivated garden beds in full sun.

This plant will succeed in any well-drained fertile garden soil, but prefers a calcareous soil.

Sow seeds directly into the garden beds during March or April; the plant will usually flower in the summer and complete its life cycle in one growing season.

Alternatively the seed can be sown from May to August when the plant will normally wait until the following year to flower and thus behave as a biennial.

Seed harvest occurs in 2 steps: cutting and threshing. Harvesting occurs in August, around 2–3 weeks after flowering.

Store dried milk thistle seeds and powdered dried milk thistle seeds in airtight containers in a cool, dry place.

The Rest of the Story
milk thistle history, folklore, literature & more

rescuing your liver with milk thistle
Milk thistle is a plant that’s native to the Mediterranean region of the world, but it’s cultivated all over. It’s long been known for its effect on the liver. In fact, even during the middle ages its medicinal properties were touted as helping to improve depression and improve liver function.

In modern times, scientific research confirms what people believed all along — milk thistle is a good treatment for liver problems. A compound called silymarin is responsible for the effect that milk thistle has on the liver. To understand why it’s so important, it may help to understand how the liver works.

The liver is one of the most important organs in the body. Its job is to clean the toxins from your body. And when it’s working properly, it keeps toxins from building up in the bloodstream. When your liver isn’t working, you don’t have much time left to live before something must be done.

Many things can affect the way the liver functions. Sometimes people have liver problems due to viral infections such as hepatitis. For others, heavy use of alcohol and other drugs can cause liver ailments. It’s also possible to have liver damage because of exposure to pollutants and environmental toxins that the liver must attack.

In the 1960s, German scientists studied milk thistle seed extensively and found that extract from the plant can actually help with liver problems. This is true if the liver problems are caused by viral infections or other damage from lifestyle and environmental factors.

Milk thistle seeds can also be used to treat poisoning from the deathcap mushroom that actually attacks the liver directly.

When it comes to using milk thistle , there’s a standard milk thistle extract available worldwide. You can also use it in the form of a powder or tea. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions when using milk thistle so that you get the best benefit for your liver.

In addition to the help it can give the liver, some research is now being done that shows milk thistle may also fight cancer such as breast, prostate, and cervical cancers. The evidence is not conclusive at this time, but it may be that milk thistle can help to fight these diseases. In addition, milk thistle seed is also shown to lower cholesterol, but it’s not known how at this time.

If you’re suffering from liver disease, you’ll want to make milk thistle a part of your arsenal of treatment.

for educational purposes only

This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

please be advised: 
you should always consult with your doctor
before making any changes to your diet!!
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