Photos of Silybum marianum, Milk Thistle, St. Marys Thistle (syn. Carduus marianus)

Silybum marianum, Milk thistle is native to the Mediterranean region, and has been cultivated for centuries as a food, medicinal, or ornamental plant. All parts of milk thistle are edible and used as food. For over 2,000 years one form or another, various milk thistle seed preparations, have been used for the treatment of liver disease. Historical references on its use are particularly abundant in the herbal literature of the Middle Ages, especially German herbals. Well-defined milk thistle seed preparations are used for the supportive treatment of chronic inflammatory liver disorders and fatty infiltration of the liver by alcohol and other chemicals. Further studies show that pretreatment with silymarin inhibits alcohol–induced liver damage, suggesting that it is useful in both a preventative and curative sense.

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