Herb of the Week ~ Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle Silybum marianum

Folk Names: blessed milk-thistle, holy thistle, lady’s thistle, Mary thistle, St Mary’s milk thistle, St. Mary’s thistle, variegated thistle.

Planet: Mars
Element: Fire
Deities: Thor, Minerva

It is a stout annual or biennial plant with purple, thistle-like flower heads in summer, followed by black seeds with tufts of white hairs.

The leaves are used, although the fruit, consisting of ripe seed, is more effective.

It is bitter, diuretic herb, with a regenerative tonic effect on the liver cells, stimulating bile flow, increasing lactation and relaxing spasms.

The fruits contain proteins and lipids, flavonolignans, known as silymarin, which contain silybinin, isosilybinin, silychristin and silydianin.

Although milk thistle was originally used to stimulate lactation in nursing mothers, it is used internally for liver and gall bladder diseases, dyspeptic complaints, jaundice, hepatitis, liver damage, and cirrhosis, as well as poisoning.
It is also beneficial in minimizing the side effects of cancer chemotherapy.
It is one of the most effective herbs to help with toxic liver damage, and for chronic liver inflammatory disease, as well as hepatic cirrhosis.
The silymarin not only blocks the liver toxins from entering the liver, but also stimulates regeneration and formation of new liver cells.
In mushroom poisoning, it reactivates the protein synthesis in the liver which is blocked by amanitin and other mushroom toxins.

Milk thistle has been used in traditional herbal medicine for a long time, with references dating back to the first century. Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder (AD. 23-79), wrote about the plant’s juice and it’s virtues of “carrying of bile”, which in his time referred to a general description of any internal fluid.  Dioscorides, the Roman army Doctor used the seeds of Milk thistle as a remedy for infants and those bitten by serpents. Culpepper, the famous British herbalist  used the name Our Lady’s thistle instead of Milk thistle.  He recommended its use in the treatment of disorders affecting the liver and spleen, the kidney’s in provoking the flow of urine, to break and expel stones and also to treat dropsy. The Milk thistle was also used by the Saxons as a remedy to ward snakes.  The seeds were used by the Saxons as a remedy to cure the infectious disease contracted by a man who was bitten by a rabid animal known nowadays as hydrophobia. More recently, studies on the Milk thistle have shown that it has a role of protection regarding the liver.  Scientists in Germany, where most of the research has been done, noticed that it seemed to protect the livers of animals from poisoning with highly toxic carbon tetrachloride.  The particular active ingredient that protects the liver was isolated and its chemical constitution established, a previously unknown flavonol, that was given the name silymarin.  No other plant principle has been as extensively investigated in recent years as silmarin, with further studies showing that it is effective in the treatment of a number of disorders affecting the liver. Cirrhosis, deathcap mushroom poisoning, all types of hepatitis, gallstones, occupational toxic chemical exposure and skin disease all showing positive results under tests.

Magickal Powers: Strength, Protection, Healing, Hex-breaking, Exorcism

A bowl of thistles placed in a room strengthens the atomosphere and renews the vitality of all within it. Carry a thistle (or part of) for energy and strength. Thistle is used in healing spells and drives away depression when worn or carried. It wards off evil and is used for purification purposes.


Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magickal Herbs
A Druid’s Herbal for the Sacred Year by Ellen Evert Hopman


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