Milk thistle

Silybum marianum, Compositae. The seeds are the part of the plant used.

The mature seed heads are cut and stored in a warm place. After a few days the seed heads can be tapped and the seeds collected. Be careful of the spines and it is advisable to wear thick gloves.

Functions of milk thistle

As the name suggest this is an excellent promoter of milk production and is safe to be used by nursing mothers. Milk thistle:

  • can also be used to increase the secretion and flow of bile from the liver and gall bladder. This makes it useful with recovery from hepatitis and whenever alcohol, drug, or dietary abuse or exposure to chemical pollution threatens normal liver function.


Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoonful of the herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. A cup of this tea should be drunk in the morning and evening, or when needed.

Tincture: take 1-2 ml of the tincture three times per day.

For the gardener

The milk thistle is a relative of the artichoke. If it is left untended it has the tendency to become a weed. Both the leaves and the flowers have nasty spines

It can be an annual or biennial depending on where it is grown. Some seeds germinate in the autumn. If you dig up the seedlings in the spring to transplant them elsewhere be careful not to disturb the tap root.


Duke, J. A. 2000, Anti-aging Prescriptions. Rodale.

Hoffmann, D. 2000, The New Holistic Herbal. Element Pub.

Hoffmann, F. and Manning M. 2002, Herbal Medicine and Botanical Medical Fads. The Haworth Press.

Mills, S. Y. 1989, The A-Z of Modern Herbalism: A Comprehensive Guide to Practical Herbal Therapy. Thorson.




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