Milk Thistle


Botanical Name:

Silybum marianum

Common Name:

milk thistle, Saint Mary’s Thistle, Scotch Thistle


The milk thistle was originally found only in Europe and Asia, but is now common to most areas of the world.

Only the ripe seeds of the milk thistle are used in medicinal treatments.

Nutritional Value:

Not a significant source of vitamins and minerals. However, milk thistle has been a source of food for hundreds of years before modern times. Up until the 16th century, almost all parts of the milk thistle were consumed including the roots, flowers, and shoots.

Medicinal Value:

Milk thistle seeds contain silymarin, which is the active chemical compound that makes this herb medically useful to people.

Milk thistle extract usually contains around 70% silymarin and 30% fatty acids. Concentrated silymarin has been clinically tested and was observed to improve anti-cancer response to prostate, breast, colon, and lung cancer cells.

Besides cancer-fighting properties, milk thistle extract has been used to counteract the toxic effects of poisonous substances, especially those that attack the liver.

You can buy milk thistle extract containing silymarin over-the-counter.


Cattle and sheep are allergic to milk thistle due to its potassium nitrate content. Potassium nitrate is broken down by bacteria in the animals’ stomachs and turned into nitrate ion. This ion then combines with the oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in the blood, preventing the proper transport of oxygen.

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