Milk Thistle Overview

wpid-Photo-Sep-3-2013-707-AM.jpgStrikingly beautiful, the milk thistle (sylibum marianum), has a long history in healing and magical traditions.

Photo by Herb Profiles

Official Name: Silybum marianum

Other Names: milk thistle

Associations: Blessed Mother, Great Goddess

Properties: liver healing, protection and regeneration, restore vitality

Magical Properties: Protection, healing, vitality, breaking spells

Culinary Uses: Leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked as any other greens. Seeds can be added to any recipe.

Legends: One legend says that as Mary, the mother of Jesus, fled to Egypt, three drops of her breast milk fell upon a milk thistle leaf and trickled over its glossy surface. Ever since, the leaves of the milk thistle have carried their distinctive white veins in tribute.

Medical Uses: Milk thistle is well-known for its protective effect on the liver. It has been used to treat cirrhosis, jaundice, gallbladder problems and hepatitis. Some studies suggest that milk thistle may reduce cholesterol levels, and may be beneficial to people who have both cirrhosis and diabetes. Other studies suggest that milk thistle may inhibit the growth of prostate, breast and cervical cancers. Doctors have found that milk thistle can improve insulin resistance, and seems to improve blood sugar levels. It is also frequently used as an antidote to poisonous aminita mushrooms.

Cautions: Milk thistle has few side effects, and they are generally mild. Some people who take milk thistle extracts report mild nausea and diarrhea, but the incidence is rare. Milk thistle is a member of the ragweed family, though, so if you are allergic to ragweed, you should be cautious about using milk thistle. While some medical experts caution against milk thistle use by pregnant and lactating women, milk thistle tea was traditionally given to nursing mothers to support milk production.

Because milk thistle’s active constituent, sylimarin, acts on the liver, it may affect the metabolism of many medications. Because of this, you should always let your doctor know before you start using milk thistle supplements or extracts on a regular basis.


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Posted in Learn by Deb Powers on September 3rd, 2013 at 12:00 pm.

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