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Milk Thistle

Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD

Scientific Name:

Sylibum marianum

Other Common Name:

Marian thistle, Cardo mariano, Cardo lechoso.

Parts of the plant used:

The dried fruits or “seeds”.

How is it used?

Milk thistle can be ingested as tea or, more commonly, as capsules, extracts or tinctures. Intravenous application of milk thistle compounds is applied by physicians in Germany to treat intoxications caused by certain species of mushrooms. The therapeutic compounds are not readily soluble in water, which is why the tea is of lesser medicinal value, compared to a standardized extract.

What is it used for?

This plant contains a group of compounds (silybin, silydianin and silychristin) which are collectively known by the name of Silymarin. These compounds are used to treat gastrointestinal problems, especially those related to the liver, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis and the effects of certain mushroom (Amanita) toxins. Milk thistle is sometimes combined with other herbs with similar properties, such as artichoke and mallow, for example. Extracts seem to possess a greater medicinal value than teas or capsules, but this may vary. Seek professional advice on this matter. Milk thistle may be beneficial in protecting the liver against toxicity shown by some types of medications, but more research is necessary in order to validate this.


Safety / Precautions


  • This herb is considered to be safe, although there are no long term studies related to its use in pregnancy and lactation. Check with a health professional before taking this herb.
  • In the event of mushroom poisoning, call your poison control center immediately. Intravenous application of milk thistle compounds to treat this type of intoxication should be done promptly and only by a physician.
  • Currently, there are no known interactions with conventional medications.
  • Mild gastrointestinal discomfort may occur in rare cases in people taking this herb.

Before you decide to take any medicinal herb or herbal supplement, be sure to consult with your health care professional first. Avoid self-diagnosis and self-medication: Always be on the safe side!