parts used: seeds
collection: The mature seed heads are ready for harvesting at the end of the summer. Store them in a warm place and after a few days tap the heads to release the seeds.
cultivation: This large thistle is easy to grow from seed. Sow the seed into open ground in spring and water well. It produces very spiky foliage and flowers so
beware when handling the plant as it can be prickly.
constituents: Silymarin, silychristin, silybin, silydianin, essential oil, bitter principle, mucilage.
actions: Bitter tonic, cholagogue, galactagogue, demulcent, antioxidant, antidepressant, detoxifier, antiviral, liver and gall bladder protector.
Milk thistle is well known as a herb for preventing and treating hangovers. It helps to protect the liver from toxins and can be used to prevent cell damage and cirrhosis caused by alcohol, mushroom poisons and environmental toxins. It can also be used to treat the side effects of alcohol and drug addiction, primarily the associated depression and melancholy. It can also assist where there is poor digestion of fats.
The action milk thistle has on the liver improves its function and, as it improves the liver is more able to break down and expel excess hormones thereby relieving pre-menstrual tension caused by hormonal imbalance. Pre-menstrual tension, however, has many causes and associated factors, so it is worth using it in conjunction with other herbs to treat this condition effectively. The tea can also be used to increase breast milk in nursing mothers.
contraindications: None known.
preparations and dosage: decoction half a teaspoon per cup, boil for 15 minutes and drink three times daily. Tincture can be made up to 1 part herb to 1 part 45% alcohol. Take 1–2 ml in water three times daily.
combinations: To treat poor liver and gall bladder function use with Dandelion root as a decoction. For pre-menstrual tension use as a tincture and blend with Rose, Chamomile or Lemon balm.