An herb entry from the Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs book by James K. Sayre, Copyright, 2001. All rights reserved.


Milk Thistle - Silybum marianum - (Carduus marinanus) - family: Asteraceae (Compositae) (Sunflower Family) (Composite Family).

This biennial plant grows to about five feet high. It has spiny tough crinkled dark green leaves with characteristic white midribs. In the spring and summer it has the spine-guarded reddish-purple flower heads with pink or white flowers. The flowers are followed by tufted dark seeds. The leaves, flower stalks and roots have traditionally been used in Europe as raw greens and as cooked greens. It is reputed to enhance liver function; it contains the active ingredient Silymarin, which is a mixture of flavanoliganans. Traditional Mediterranean area folk use of seeds as a remedy for liver problems, gall bladder problems and depression. Modern American folk use of seeds as a remedy for age spots, eczema and psoriasis. Approved by the German Commission E as a remedy for gall bladder problems, indigestion and liver problems. In the sense of protecting the liver against the toxicity of alcohol, Milk Thistle might be construed as a remedy for the alcoholic hangover, although it would probably have no direct effect on the symptoms felt. Native to the Mediterranean area and Asia. Naturalized in North America. Naturalized in California. Cultivated as an herb and as an ornamental in North America.


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Web page last updated on 22 May 2003.