With its large purple flower heads, milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a member of the sunflower family. It has milky white veins, which are said to have originated from a falling drop of the milk of the Virgin Mary, which may explain why it is sometimes referred to as St Mary’s thistle or Our Lady’s thistle.
Native to the Mediterranean, it now grows wild in many other parts of Europe including the UK where it likes a sunny but sheltered spot. The herb blooms from June to August and the shiny black seeds, which are used medicinally, are collected at the end of summer when they are at their ripest and easiest to harvest.
History of Use
Milk thistle has a long tradition and solid reputation for helping liver problems, which is confirmed in many scientific papers published on the plant. The Greek physician Dioscorides (40-90 AD) mentions milk thistle’s healing properties. Hildegard von Bingen, the first woman to write a herbal in 1152, includes milk thistle and describes its uses, while the great 18th century herbalist Culpepper noted that it can be used ‘to open the obstructions of the liver and spleen, and thereby is good against the jaundice.’
Meanwhile, in his 1597 Anatomie of Plants John Gerard says milk thistle is ‘ the best remedy against melancholy diseases’. In the middle ages the leaves and stalks of the milk thistle were used in salads, soups and pies, with the leaves said to surpass the finest cabbage. The heads were also eaten, in most cases they were boiled and treated like those of the Artichoke.
These days research continues to support milk thistle’s healing powers, especially for treating liver and blood problems as well as for intestinal cleaning.
Since April 2014, all herbal medicines for sale in the UK and Europe must be approved by the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) having been rigorously checked for safety and quality. They must also display the Traditional Herbal Registration ‘THR’ logo on their pack.
Registered herbal medicines containing milk thistle are used today to relieve the symptoms associated with occasional over indulgence of drink and food such as indigestion and upset stomach based on traditional use only.
The following products contain Milk thistle
Herbal Store Milk Thistle Tablets
A traditional herbal medicinal product used to relieve the symptoms associated with occasional over indulgence of food and drink such as indigestion and upset stomach based on traditional use only. Read more
HRI Milk Thistle
HRI Milk Thistle is a traditional herbal medicinal product used to relieve the symptoms associated with occasional over indulgence of food and drink such as indigestion and upset stomach. Based on traditional use only. Read more