- Milk thistle (Silybum
marianum) is a unique liver protectant. It is one of the few herbs that
has no equal in the world of conventional medicine.
- Milk thistle is
sometimes called silymarin, which is actually a mixture of the
herb's active components, including silybinin (also called silibinin or
- Milk thistle is native
to the Mediterranean, but is now widespread throughout the world. This
stout thistle usually grows in dry, sunny areas. The stem branches at
the top, and reaches a height of 4 to 10 feet. The leaves are wide, with
white blotches or veins. The flowers are red-purple. The small,
hard-skinned fruit is brown, spotted, and shiny. Milk thistle is easy to
grow, and it matures quickly, in less than a year.
- Milk thistle has long
been used in Europe as a food. De-spined leaves were used in salads,
while stalks, roots and flowers were cooked. Seeds were used as coffee
substitute. It has been used as a medicine for over 2,000 years as milk
stimulant, for liver, kidney and spleen problems, for jaundice, gall
stones, and menstrual pain.
- In 1997, milk thistle
ranked 12th among the top selling herb supplements in the U.S. mass
market, with sales of over US$3 million. Prices in 1997 ranged from
US$2.50 to $5.00/lb.
- Milk thistle is not
bothered by many pests, and no diseases have been noted. Milk thistle is
very drought resistant and should not require irrigation unless severe
- Milk thistle is native
to western and central Europe and northern India, but has become
naturalized by escaping from cultivation in southern Europe, Africa,
India, China, Australia, South America, and in many parts
North America. Much of the current commercial seed production for
European market comes from Argentina, while cultivation in
Texas supplies some of the U.S. market.
- Milk thistle is very
drought tolerant and prefers dry well drained soil in full sun. It is
found along roadsides, in fields and waste places. Milk thistle
seeds historically has been used for mild digestive complaints,
especially those centered on liver function.
- Depending on the
intended use of a milk thistle product, one consumer may choose to use a
well manufactured, but not standardized, tincture as a digestive aid,
whereas anyone with a diagnosed liver disease would prefer a
standardized product concentrated to 80% silymarin.
- The seed is used as
supportive treatment in Germany for many forms of chronic inflammatory
liver disorders that vary from hepatitis to severe Amanita mushroom
poisoning. Milk thistle products vary in their claimed “standardized”
marker content from 30 to 80 percent silymarin or silybin.
- One of the special
qualities of Milk Thistle is that it cleanses and detoxifies an
overburdened and stagnant liver while also being able to strengthen and
tonify a weak liver.
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