The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

We wish you peace and health!

Milk Thistle

Scientific Names

Holy Thistle

  • Silybum marianum L.
  • Carduus marianus
  • Compositae
  • Composite family

Common Names

  • Holy thistle
  • Marythistle
  • St. Mary’s thistle

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Parts Usually Used

Fruits (contain the highest concentration), seeds and leaves
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Holy Thistle

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.
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Where Found

Found in dry, rocky soils in southern and western Europe and in some parts of the United States. Common in California.
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Medicinal Properties

Cholagogue (stimulates flow of bile), liver tonic, stimulant, demulcent, antidepressant, galactagogue
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Biochemical Information

Active flavonoid silymarin (a unique type of flavonoid with antioxidant ability).
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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.
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Young leaves eaten as a vegetable.

A tonic and anti-depressant. Milk Thistle 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.
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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.
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How Sold

Capsules: take 1 capsule 3 times daily.

Commercial preparations of the seed extracts are manufactured in Europe.
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Resource Links Feverfew & Milk Thistle Does Milk Thistle Improve Sleep? Milk Thistle & Dandelion on an Empty Stomach Milk Thistle & Aloe Vera Combination for the Liver Thistle & Clover How Exactly Does Milk Thistle Work to Protect the Liver? Silymarin & Feverfew Milk Thistle and Antioxidants Thistle Treatment Can Milk Thistle Help Lower Cholesterol? What Are the Benefits of Milk Thistle & Ginger? Silybum Marianum Vs. Milk Thistle Seed Extract

Mayo Clinic: Milk Thistle Milk Thistle

MedLinePlus: Milk Thistle

National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine: Milk Thistle

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Milk Thistle

University of Maryland Medical Center: Milk Thistle Medicinal herbs: answers and advice, part 1. Antimetastatic efficacy of silibinin: molecular mechanisms and therapeutic potential against cancer. Successful HCV eradication and inhibition of HIV replication by intravenous silibinin in an HIV-HCV coinfected patient. Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future. The efficacy of Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn. (silymarin) in the treatment of type II diabetes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial.

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Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Buy It! The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody, Dorling Kindersley, Inc, 232 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, First American Edition, copyright 1993

Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

Buy It!The Magic of Herbs, by David Conway, published by Jonathan Cape, Thirty Bedford Square, London, England. (Out of print)

Buy It! Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible, by Earl Mindell, R.Ph., Ph.D., Simon & Schuster/Fireside, Rockefeller Center 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020

Herbal Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, Cornell Plantations, Matthaei Botanical Gardens of the University of Michigan, University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley., Pantheon Books, Knopf Publishing Group, New York, 1994, first edition

Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

Buy It! Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements, by James F. Balch, M.D. and Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C., Avery Publishing Group, Inc., Garden City Park, NY

Buy It! Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, 15th Edition, F. A. Davis Company, 1915 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Buy It! A Useful Guide to Herbal Health Care, HCBL (Health Center for Better Living).,1414 Rosemary Lane, Naples, FL 34103., Special Sale Catalog, 1996

Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

Buy It! How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts, by Frances Densmore, Dover Publications, Inc., 180 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014, first printed by the United States Government Printing Office, Washington, in 1928, this Dover edition 1974

Buy It! The Healing Plants, by Mannfried Pahlow, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. 250 Wireless Blvd., Hauppauge, NY 11788, 1992

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